Smith River State Park

This week’s focus Smith River State Park is brought to you by Central Montana!

The Smith River is mostly known as wonderful 59 mile long river full of natural beauty with great boating and fishing opportunities. Permits to float the river are highly sought after and distributed through a lottery system similar to hunting licenses for certain big game species in Montana. Smith River State Park is so much more than just a float and you don’t need a permit to enjoy some of the great amenities the park has to offer.

If you weren’t lucky enough to win a permit during the annual lottery system, you can still enjoy the Smith River by visiting Camp Baker west of White Sulphur Springs or Eden Bridge 59 miles downriver and just short drive south of Great Falls.  

At Camp Baker, you’ll find a campground with primitive campsites, latrine facilities, and a busy boat ramp for  the lucky folks who won launch permits.  After the floating parties have launched for the day Camp Baker becomes quiet for a few hours and visitors will enjoy great access for fishing, birdwatching, and even swimming in the summer months.  

At the other end of the park is Eden Bridge, the normal take out for Smith River float trips.  Eden Bridge is a minimally developed day use site with latrine facilities, a boat ramp, and day use access to the river.  While there are few amenities at Eden Bridge, it does make for a nice day trip destination from Great Falls where visitors have a chance to spend time on the banks of one of Montana’s most iconic waterways.  

Many find Smith River State Park a place of peace because a permit is required to float the Smith River. This permit requirement means visitors can expect to have a quality, multi-day float with relative solitude and excellent trout fishing opportunities. Of course you don’t need a permit to access the campground and enjoy all the natural slender of the area.

Logan State Park

This week’s focus Logan State Park is brought to you by Western Montana’s Glacier Country!

Just off Highway 2 between Libby and Kalispell, you’ll find Logan State Park, a local hotspot. 

Located in the middle of the 3,000-acre Thompson Chain of Lakes, Logan is heavily forested with Western Larch, Douglas-Fir and Ponderosa Pine making for a beautiful view of the tree covered, mountainous area.

Things to do:

✅ Take a dip in the lake and go swimming

✅ Go for a boat ride and find some peace.

✅ You and your friends or family can even play a game of horseshoes!

✅ Take a chance and go water skiing!

✅ More of a fisher? You’ll find loads of salmon, trout, perch, pike, bass!

✅ Plus so much more!

Logan has 37 campsites, but no tent-only sites. RVs and trailers are more than welcome as long as they are no longer than 40 feet. The RV dump station closes in early October.

You’ll even find a playset for the kids and a short nature trail here.

Did you know?

The Thompson Chain of Lakes includes 18 lakes and stretches 20 miles!

Logan
State Park
Quick Facts

Location
77518 US HWY 2

Libby, MT 59923

Park

Open Year-Round
7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Campground

Open Year-Round

Additional Information

Water & Showers Available
Until September 30
Boat Slips Available:
Mid-May to September 30

17 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Flush)

  • Water

  • RV Dump Station

  • Showers

  • Boat Launch

  • Firewood for Sale

  • Picnic Shelter

Medicine Rocks State Park

This week’s focus Medicine Rocks State Park is brought to you by the Miles city Chamber of Commerce!

The Medicine Rocks are a series of natural rock formations considered sacred by local Native American tribes. They are covered in Native Rock Art or Pictographs.

A scenic drive on Montana Highway 7 through rolling hills and prairie, visitors will be amazed by the incredible beauty of Medicine Rocks State Park. As you approach the park you’ll see sandstone pillars, caves archways and towers rising out of the plains with small batches of pine forest in some areas.

 

But how did these formations come to be?

Around 60-million years ago, the Great Plains were covered by an immense sea. The edges of this sea were swamp-like and forested with a shallow river that cut through carrying sediment from the forming Rocky Mountains. Portions of this sediment were deposited along the path of the river creating sandbars.

Over the years, these sandbars turned to sandstone where wind, water and temperature extremes took their toll. The stronger materials stayed while the less resistant material was eroded away. The rock that was able to withstand millions of years of erosion now makes up the odd formations found at Medicine Rocks State Park.

Things to do:

✅ Hike through the prairie and forest or even climb into caves!

✅ Take incredible pictures of the rock formations!

✅ Enjoy a picnic and enjoy the ever-changing landscape!

✅ Keep your eyes open for wildlife including mule deer, antelope, Woodhouse’s toads and sharp-tailed grouse!

✅ Camp at one of the 12 rustic campsites!

✅ Stargaze on a clear night or plan a visit during a meteor shower!
 

✅ Plus so many more!

Once you’re in the park, a road twists and turns through rock outcroppings taking visitors to the camping and picnic areas. Many of the formations can be viewed from your vehicle, but exploring the park by foot allows visitors to get up close and personal with these rock formations.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Medicine Rocks is also an important cultural site for Native Americans, once used as a vision quest location, meeting place and lookout for bison or enemies.

Did you know?

Many early settlers and cattle drivers carved their names or initials along with the dates they visited into the rocks. You can still find many of these and a complete list of these names can be found in the nearby Carter County Museum!

Those looking to enjoy the park overnight will find 12 campsites nestled among the Swiss cheese-like rock formations. But be sure to arrive early as all of these sites are first-come, first served.

Did you know?

Theodore Roosevelt visited the area in 1883 and called it “as fantastically beautiful a place as I have ever seen.”

Medicine Rocks
State Park

Location:
1141 Hwy 7

Ekalaka, MT

Park:

Open Year-Round

7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Campground:

Open Year-Round

Additional Information:

Water Available Year-Round

330 Acres

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Water

  • Maps

Tower Rock State Park

This week’s focus Tower Rock State Park is brought to you by Central Montana!

Tower Rock, a 424-foot high rock formation which marks the entrance to the Missouri River Canyon in the Adel Mountains Volcanic Field.

Located where the plains and mountains meet you’ll find Tower Rock State Park.

This park’s namesake is an over 400-foot high rock formation along the Missouri River. The tower is made of igneous rock chunks blasted skyward from the Adel Mountain volcano 68 to 75 million years ago and then cemented together by volcanic ash.
 

Things to do at Tower Rock State Park:

✅ Hiking

✅ Photography

✅ Picnicking

✅ Plus so many more!

Visitors can learn about geology and history through five interpretive panels located at the trailhead. The trail to the base of the saddle is maintained for a quarter-mile and if you plan to hike this short trail, be sure to keep your eyes open and listen for rattlesnakes!

Did you know?

This day use only park was once used by Native American tribes to mark the entrance to and exit of the buffalo hunting grounds in north central Montana.

Tower Rock
State Park
Quick Facts

Location:
2325 Old US HWY 91
Cascade, MT 59421

Park Open Year-Round

140 Acres

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Maps

Frenchtown Pond State Park

This week’s focus takes us ten miles northwest of Missoula to Frenchtown Pond State Park in Frenchtown, Montana.

The 41-acre day-use state park offers fishing, swimming, and non-motorized boating on a small, spring-fed lake that is up to 18 feet deep in some places. 

Located just off of I-90 in Frenchtown you’ll find Frenchtown Pond State Park, a great day-use park for the whole family.

Be sure to leave your four-legged friends at home though, dogs are not allowed in the park at any time.

Named after the pond it encompasses, Frenchtown Pond State Park is a 40-acre park that holds the 22-acre pond.

The pond itself is spring-fed and has a maximum depth of 18 feet. 

Did you know?

The Garden City Triathalon is held at Frenchtown Pond State Park every year!

Activities at Frenchtown Pond State Park include: 

✅ Boating

✅ Fishing

✅ Ice Skating

✅ Picnicking

✅ Swimming

✅ Wildlife Viewing

✅ Plus so many more!

You’ll find great fishing at Frenchtown with a healthy fish population that includes sunfish, bass and bullhead. 

To help improve the bass habitat, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has sunk trees to the bottom of the pond. 

You may even see SCUBA divers! The local SCUBA club uses Frenchtown Pond as a practice area and cleans up the bottom of the pond while they’re at it. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Due to the water’s depth, warmth and clarity, Frenchtown Pond State Park is a favorite place to practice boardsailing, kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling.

Frenchtown Pond
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
May 1 to September 30
9 am to 9 pm

October 1 to April 30
6 am to 7 pm

Location
18401 Frenchtown Frontage Road
Frenchtown, MT 59834

Open Year Round 

  • 41 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Toilets (Flush & Vault)

  • Water

  • Picnic Shelter

  • Grills/Fire Rings

Beaverhead Rock State Park

This week’s focus takes us to the 14 miles northeast of Dillon, MT on Montana 41 to Beaverhead Rock State Park, as known as the Point of Rocks by locals.

Beaverhead Rock State Park was the geographic landmark that Sacagawea noted while leading the Corps of Discovery further west. She shared with Lewis that she recognized it as the location where her people, the Shoshones, had been when she was kidnapped as a child several years earlier and would be where her tribe would most likely be found during that time of year.

And in his words: “she says her nation calls the beaver’s head from a conceived re[se]mblance of it’s figure to the head of that animal…”

In addition to proving to be a critical part of the Lewis and Clark journey, it was also critical to Sacagawea herself, as she recognized the Shoshone Chief, Chief Cameahwait, as her brother and “instantly jumped up, and ran and embraced him, throwing over him her blanket and weeping profusely.” 

While on their travels west, Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery were led here by Sacajawea who recognized the landmark as being part of her native homelands. 

Coming across Beaverhead Rock was a great relief for the Corps of Discovery as winter was drawing near and they were eager to acquire the horses they would need to cross the mountains from Native Americans. 

The trail running past the rock has been used for centuries and later became the route for the first cattle drives and then brought settlers and prospectors to the area. 

Did you know?

Beaverhead Rock is on the National Register of Historic Places

Add it to your itinerary today. 

Activities at Beaverhead Rock include:

✅ Cultural

✅ Heritage

✅ History

✅ Photography

✅ Wildlife Viewing

✅ Plus so much more!

Beaverhead Rock can be viewed and photographed from a distance, but cannot be directly accessed. There are two great locations to best see the rock formation, though.

The first is 14 miles south of Twin Bridges on Highway 41 where a pull-off has informational signs and an interesting bird sculpture.

The second location is from another Montana State Park, Clark’s Lookout State Park in Dillon.

Beaverhead Rock
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
Open Year-Round

Location
62 Beaverhead Rock Road
Twin Bridges, MT 59754

Open Year Round 

  • 30 Acres

  • Pack-in/Pack-out

Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park

This week’s focus takes us to the old mining town of Anaconda, MT right off   
I-90 24 miles from Butte, MT to the Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park. 

Situated on top on a hillside of the Anaconda Pintler Mountain Range foothills, you can see this state park from miles around.

As a monument to the nation’s period of industrialism, particularly when viewed in conjunction with Butte’s Berkely Pit, it immortalizes the scale of the mining that once dominated and influenced this part of Montana.

Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is an excellent place for day use.

With the first brick of the chimney set by smelter manager Frederick Laist on  May 24, 1918,  construction was completed on November 30, 1918.

The old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack is 585 feet tall and clocks in as one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world. The inside of the stack is 75 feet wide at the bottom and 60 feet wide at the top. 

Did you know?

The Anaconda Smoke Stack is taller than the Washington Monument by 30 feet. In fact, the Washington Monument would easily fit inside this smoke stack.

Things to do:

✅ Exhibit

✅ Heritage

✅ History

✅ Photography

✅ Plus so many more!

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the smelter closed in 1980.  In 1983, the stack, the smelter, and the other buildings nearby were listed as a Superfund cleanup site.  Efforts to clean up contaminated soils, structures and other mine debris began in the 1980s and are ongoing.  In order to protect the public and limit their liability, the Atlantic Richfield Company closed the area around the stack and public visitation is allowed only during officially organized tours or events.

Much like the smelter and other buildings that used to be located on Smelter Hill nearby, the smokestack was likely to be demolished as part of the Superfund cleanup efforts.  A group of longtime Anaconda residents formed the “Anacondans To Preserve The Stack” committee.  Their efforts led to the preservation of the big stack and they continue to work to find ways to preserve the stack and make it accessible to the public.  Today visitors can view and photograph the stack from a distance.

Interpretive signs describing the history of the stack are located in the viewing site near Goodman Park. 

Montana Public Radio produced a great story about the Anaconda Smoke Stack for it’s 100th anniversary in August of 2018. You can listen to and read that story here.

DID YOU KNOW?

In the fall of 2018, the smokestack celebrated its 100th-anniversary!

Anaconda Smoke Stack
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
Open Year-Round
Daylight Hours Only

Location
100 Smelter Road
Anaconda, MT 59711

Les Mason State Park

This week’s focus takes us to Whitefish, MT to the peaceful day-use park located on the east shore of Whitefish Lake.

Boasting 585 feet of sand and gravel lakeshore, this park provides excellent swimming opportunities, for both humans and your four-legged friend.

You’ll enjoy cool, clear waters along a smooth cobble beach on Whitefish Lake with shaded picnic tables, great swimming and a spot to launch your canoe or kayak.

Located on the east shore of Whitefish Lake, Les Mason State Park is a great day use spot! With 585 feet of sand and gravel lakeshore, Les Mason is perfect for swimming. 

Did you know?

Looking to bring your canine friend along? There is a designated dog swimming area for your furry friend to enjoy!

Add it to your itinerary today. 

Looking for activities at Les Mason? You can go: 

✅ Bird Watching

✅ Fishing

✅ Boating

✅ Picnicking

✅ Cross-country skiing 

✅ Plus so many more!

Although there is only a non-motorized boat launch at Les Mason, you can still get out on the water!

Open June 15 to Labor Day, Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours, Inc offers stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and pedal boats for rent.

DID YOU KNOW?

Be sure to stick around for sunset! The park is in a perfect position to catch great views as the sun sinks into the mountains across the lake.

Les Mason
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
Open Year-Round
Gates Open Until November 30
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Gates Closed, Walk-In Only
December 1 – April 26

Location
2650 E. Lake Shore Drive
Whitefish, MT 59937

Open Year Round 

  • 7 Acres

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Boat Rental

  • Parking

Pictograph State Park

This week’s focus takes us just outside of Billings, MT to an area of three caves that are preserved and protected in the 23-acre Pictograph Cave State Park. 

Along the rimrocks, you’ll find where Pictograph Cave has drawn human beings for over 3,000 years and was home to generations of prehistoric hunters. With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile river valley provided an ideal campsite for travelers.

Inside the three caves, you can find over 2,100-year-old pictographs from some of Montana’s first inhabitants. The when and the how they arrived is still a mystery and the pictographs they left behind are still subject to great debate. 

This week’s State Parks park showcase is brought to you by Visit Billings.

Located only five miles from Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park may seem small at only 23 acres, but is full to bursting with history.

Did you know?

Due to its archeological significance, Pictograph Cave State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Thousands of years ago, prehistoric hunters who camped in the Pictograph Cave left behind artifacts and over 100 pictographs. 

The three main caves in the park – Pictograph, Middle and Ghost – were created from the Eagle sandstone cliff by water and wind erosion. The deepest of the caves, Pictograph Cave, is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep. 

In 1936 the first artifacts and paintings were discovered in the caves. And the next year became one of the first archeologic excavations in Montana.

Roughly 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site including, stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments. These artifacts helped researchers to understand which native people used the caves and when. In addition to tools and animal bones, the excavations also turned up jewelry, pendants, bracelets, and beads crafted of sea shells acquired from Pacific Coast Indians, and in one excavation, discovered barbed harpoon points of the Eskimo culture, made of caribou horn. 

You’ll find pictographs depicting animals, warriors and even rifles! The different colors used in the pictographs allowed researchers to identify when people inhabited the region and gave an inside look into their lifestyle. 

Although you won’t be able to camp in Pictograph Cave State Park you can: 

✅ Transport yourself back in time by exploring the caves.

✅ Check out the Visitor Center and learn more about the history of the caves.

✅ Eat your picnic while gazing out at incredible views.

✅ Don’t forget to pick up a memento from the gift shop!

✅ See if you can spot any wildlife near the caves.

✅ Plus so much more!

The best time to see the pictographs is after rain or a snow melt! The moisture causes the drawings to become more prominent. And you’ll to give yourself about an hour to walk the trail with extra time for a picnic and bird watching.

DID YOU KNOW?
The oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old and from some of the very first humans on the plains.

Today, the park has a quarter-mile loop trail that leads to the caves. Along the trail you can find interpretive displays that identify and explain the natural features, pictographs and vegetation found near the caves. 

If you’re planning to visit, be sure to bring your binoculars to get the best view of the rock art and be sure to check out the new Visitor’s Center which includes interpretive displays and a gift shop. 

Despite its close proximity to Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park has an abundance of wildlife.

Depending on the season you can see mountain lions, black bears, turkeys, coyotes, porcupines, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, northern harriers, bobcats, mountain cottontails, rock doves, turkey vultures, mule deer, canyon wrens, magpies, ravens, crows, and chickadees. 

Pictograph
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
Off Season (Third Monday in September – Third Thursday in May)
Open
Wednesday – Sunday 
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Peak Season (Third Friday in May – Third Sunday in September)
Park Open Daily
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Visitor Center
Off Season
Open Wednesday – Sunday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Peak Season
Open Daily
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Additional Information
Park and Visitor Center Closed:
Thanksgiving, December 24, 25 & 31 and January 1

Location
3401 Coburn Road
Billings, MT 59101

Open Year Round 

  • Open Year-Round

  • 23 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Flush & Vault)

  • Water

  • Maps

  • Gift Shop

  • Interpretive Display

Tongue River Reservoir State Park

This week’s focus takes us to the southeast border of Montana and 10 minutes outside of Decker, MT to Tongue River Reservoir State Park. 

Tongue River Reservoir is on the Tongue River, a tributary of the Yellowstone River, approximately 265 miles long, that runs through Montana and Wyoming. The park provides a 12-mile long reservoir set in the truly scenic prairie land of southeastern Montana featuring red shale and juniper canyons.

Due to the rareness of large bodies of water like this in prairie country, the park can see up to 50,000 visitors a year.

Camping? Tongue River Reservoir has 81 reservable campsites with electric hookups, and 27 of those are double occupancy with two electric hook-ups.

There are also 80 non-reservable, non-electric sites! Most sites also have a fire ring and picnic table.

There is an RV dump station and water faucets available during peak season. During the offseason there are 11 sites with electricity, these are first-come, first-served. 

Did you know?

Although there are no hiking opportunities at Tongue River, there is hiking available nearby at Rosebud Battlefield State Park or Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.

Things to do:

✅ Take the boat out on the water! There are two boat ramps with docks, one at Campers Point and one at Pee Wee North. 

✅ Go for a swim! Sand Point has a small beach area for swimming.

✅ Keep your eyes open for wildlife! You may just see osprey, blue herons, deer, antelope or bald eagles. 

✅ Bring your picnic! The designated day-use area has picnic tables at Campers Point and Sand Point. 

✅ Plus so many more!

At 12 miles long, the reservoir makes for excellent fishing any time of year! You’ll find crappie, walleye, bass and northern pike here. You can also fly fish below the dam and there is a fish cleaning station located within the park. 

Forgot anything or just need additional supplies? The marina at Campers Point has firewood, ice, fishing and boating supplies, boat rentals, boat and RV storage, bait, groceries, snacks, drinks, gasoline, souvenirs, fishing, and hunting licenses, and non-resident park passes. 

While summertime may be the most popular time to visit the park, Tongue River Reservoir State Park also features amazing ice fishing and year-round campsites that support just that.

DID YOU KNOW?

Four state record fish have been pulled from Tongue River Reservoir State Park, including a 37 pound Northern Pike?

Tongue River Reservoir
State Park
Quick Facts

Park
Open Year-Round

Campground
Open Year-Round
11 campsites have electricity year round

Location
290 Campers Point
Decker, MT 59025

Open Year Round 

  • 642 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Water

  • Electricity

  • RV Dump Station

  • Boat Launch