The Roundup -

Summertime Fun In The MonDak


Families enjoying the water at Gartside Reservoir.

Families on a budget this summer can still have lots of affordable fun at many of the free camping, fishing and swimming locations available in the MonDak. From Richland and Dawson Counties in Montana, to Williams and McKenzie Counties in North Dakota, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of public outdoor locations that offer access to water and wildlife for free or little charge.

For those in the Richland County area, free camping can be found at Seven Sisters Wildlife Management Area. Comprised of 560 acres along the Yellowstone River near the town of Crane just south of Sidney, the area offers river access to swimmers, anglers and boaters. A popular hunting area in the fall, the summer months make the destination popular among those wanting a peaceful and more secluded camping environment. Campers need to beware, however, that the site offers no restroom facilities or power. Not far from Seven Sisters, also south of Sidney, is Gartside Reservoir, a popular fishing access site. Along with fishing and swimming, the site allows camping for up to seven days. There is a toilet facility for campers, although there is no electricity available and non-motorized boats only are allowed on the water.

North of Sidney in Richland County is Richland Park, located down County Road 128, 2 miles east of MT State Highway 200. The free park has boat access to the Yellowstone River, camping spots, pavilions, and relatively new playground equipment, including a "zip cruise" for children. There are eight primitive campsites and also a wood-fired BBQ and smoker that can feed between 50 and 100 people, free for use to the public.

In Dawson County there are two locations that are particularly popular in the pursuit of budget-minded recreation. Hollecker Lake is managed by Dawson County Public Works and is available in the daytime only. Toilets are available, however, and it is open all season. There is also a picnic area available that hosts a life-size triceratops. Makoshika State Park is the other popular destination, and although inexpensive, is not free. The park hosts opportunities for archery, hiking, picnic spots and 16 camping spots (which are available for an additional fee). Using the park for the day is $5 dollars for resident vehicles.

Near Williston, North Dakota, residents can enjoy Spring Lake Park, which is built around a fishing and swimming pond that is about 15 acres in size. Located on Highway 2 North, the site boasts a beach for fishing and swimming, volleyball courts, a dog park and keelboat rental. Not far from Williston in the town of Trenton, families can enjoy the wooded Trenton Lake Recreational Area, which is centered alongside the lake that is 662 acres large and is known for its northern pike, walleye and white crappie fishing. This location has a boat dock, and its camping spots have electricity. RV spots are also available, along with shower and restroom facilities. The campground has a basketball court, volleyball court, miniature golf, and horseshoe pits. Parking has a small fee, and camping is an additional, but reasonable, addition.

Also near Williston is Blacktail Dam, a park with 5 pavilions, 32 camping sites, a boat ramp, and swim beach. Camping at this location is affordable, at $10 dollars per site, and an additional $15 for power.

In McKenzie County, North Dakota, free recreation and water access can be found at Sather Dam. The lake itself is 37 acres in size and carries fish like bluegill, brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and an occasional rainbow trout. The pet-friendly site has camping available for $6 per night, with more than 20 campsites offered. Toilet facilities are also available. Use of fishing docks is free, and the site is handicap accessible.

Other sites in McKenzie County also offer excellent fishing for low or no price. Arnegard Dam, located just 9.8 miles from Watford City, is 23 acres in size, and local residents have reported good Northern Pike fishing at the location so far this year. There is a gravel boat ramp at the site. For those inside Watford City, they might want to try the Watford City Park Pond to spend some time near the water. Because of its shallow water, however, almost all fish are lost to winterkill each year, but it is restocked during warmer months with adult channel catfish and rainbow trout. There is a fishing pier but no ramp at that facility. These sites are free to the public.

Seven miles from Beach, North Dakota, lies Odland Dam, which has 6.4 miles of shoreline and 116 acres of surface area. It is known for its bluegill, yellow perch, northern pike and walleye. This pet-friendly site offers primitive camping for free, boating access, and fishing.

Regardless of your location in the region, there is a spot nearby to enjoy affordable outdoor camping and water recreation. For more information, consult the official North Dakota and Montana state websites for information regarding free or inexpensive camping and recreation nearby.


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