Fort Peck Lake & Fort Peck Dam
Fort Peck Lake, created by the building of Fort Peck Dam that was finished in 1940, is the largest lake in Montana. The dam itself is the largest earth-filled dam in the world, and measures 21,026 feet in length with a maximum height of 250.5 feet. Fort Peck Lake is 134 miles long, has 1520 miles of shoreline, and a maximum depth of 220 feet. The entire lake also lies within the massive Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge.
Fort Peck Dam is located in the small town of Fort Peck, Montana. Fort Peck Dam was authorized in 1933, as part of the public building boom that occurred during the Great Depression years. During the construction phase, the town of Fort Peck was a bona fide boomtown, as thousands of workers were involved in creating the dam. Additionally, not only did they build this huge dam, they also built a recreation area around the dam. This recreation area consists of several nice campgrounds, some smaller ponds, day use areas, and interpretative sites.
Fort Peck Lake is located in one of the remotest area of Montana. Glasgow is the nearest major town to Fort Peck Dam and the small town of Fort Peck. But beyond the dam itself, huge expanses of the shoreline of Fort Peck Lake is located in, quite simply, the absolute middle of no-where. Yet, at the same time, that isolation on Fort Peck Lake is what makes it such a neat place to visit. Numerous back roads head off into the wilds of the area, allowing the truly adventurous travelers to see some remote and seldom visited areas of Montana.
Trees are in very short supply around Fort Peck Lake. Indeed, except for a very tiny part of the lakes shoreline (one of my "secret" camp sites that shall remain nameless), the lake itself virtually is treeless once you step away from the town of Fort Peck and the various developments around the dam. Instead of trees, the terrain consists of grassy hills, bluffs and buttes.
Fort Peck Lake is known throughout Montana for its walleye fishing. Each year the Governor’s Cup is held at Fort Peck Lake, which attracts anglers from all over the place in search of large walleye. To fish Fort Peck Lake really requires a boat, preferably once with a powerful motor. A powerful motor, and stable boat, is needed on the lake not only because the lake is so large but also because the lake can be, at times, very windy. The wind can create some very sizable waves on the lake that are large enough to capsize smaller boats.Hunting is also a very popular activity around Fort Peck Lake. The Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge has excellent hunting for deer, elk and upland birds. Other activities that are popular around Fort Peck Lake include hiking, horseback riding, riding ATV’s and just general exploring.
If you do plan to explore the Fort Peck area, be sure to have a 4x4 vehicle. This is especially so if it rains. When the roads in the Fort Peck area get wet due to rain, the roads get incredibly slick and sticky all at the same time. A normal passenger car will have great difficulty navigating these roads when wet. And since the nearest town of any size can easily be more than 50 miles away, getting stuck out here can lead to more than a few problems! Indeed, to be honest, if it rains it is generally a good idea to stay off the back roads entirely. Even 4x4’s can easily be stuck in some of the worse condition roads that happen in this area.
Overall, a trip to Fort Peck Lake and Fort Peck Dam should be a mandatory twenty mile side-trip off the Montana Hi-Line. The dam itself is impressive to see and the lake can be quite beautiful at times - at least when the Corps of Engineers hasn't drained the water out of it. Additionally, the dam is rich in history.
See more pictures of Fort Peck Lake and Dam.
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