After leaving Bozeman we headed east toward Billings. We try to drive no more than 2.5 – 3 hours between stops – both for our sanity and our kids. The drive all the way between Bozeman and Billings was a bit long, so we knew we wanted to stop somewhere in between. We had spent so much on expensive campgrounds the first part of July that we really wanted to try more boondocking – or camping without water and electricity – in more primitive spots. This has the advantage of being much cheaper, but also, the atmosphere far surpasses being in a private RV campground.
Montana has something called Fishing Access Sites – and many of them offer overnight camping for a nominal fee – like $8-$15/night! At Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park we found a copy of this Montana Fishing Access Field Guide and it was incredibly useful for finding locations that allow overnight camping.
About halfway between Bozeman and Billings there is a sweet little spot on the Yellowstone River called Indian Fort Fishing Access point, near Reed, Montana. It’s right off I-90 and had very easy access with our trailer. Cost was $12/night (without a fishing license) and it’s first-come, first-serve spots. I admit – I was nervous driving into the campground, thinking the place would either be abandoned in a creepy way or filled with creepy people. I didn’t know what to expect, but we agreed to drive through and evaluate it before making the decision on whether to stay or not.
I was so pleasantly surprised. We found a sweet back-in spot right next to the river. The spots were predominantly filled with families. We found an open spot near the boat ramp with a fire pit and a picnic table, and a vault toilet not far away. Our campsite was primitive and so beautiful. I wish I had known earlier to look into these types of sites – and I was grateful that we were brave enough to check them out.
Every fishing access site has different rules and they are likely posted at the entrance. Near this sign we found the payment station – which consists of envelopes and a place to drop your payment – easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Most of the spots in the area are on the outer rim, along the river. The view from our “bedroom” inside the trailer – that’s the Yellowstone river gurgling in the background.
When we stay at private RV parks there are usually things like swimming pools or playground to entertain us. When there are electricity hook-ups there can also be the distraction of the TV. But when you’re boondocking we tend to do things like play board games. . .
Catch grasshoppers. . . .
Roast marshmallows. . . for s’mores. . .
Catch more grasshoppers. . .
Read by the campfire. . .
Explore. . .
And enjoy the view. Ahh. This place was magical. It was just what we needed after spending a lot of time in crowded RV parks and in larger cities.
Occasionally a big train would pass on the other side of the river. It would be noisy. And it would remind us of home, in an endearing way. Because our house back in Olympia, Washington was right near a busy train track, so loud trains were just part of being home.
I’m so grateful that we ventured off the main road and tried out a fishing access site in Montana. It was peaceful, it was inexpensive, it was a good place to take that exit, and enjoy the view.
Have you ever camped in a Montana fishing access spot? Do you have a favorite one? We’d love to hear about it – leave a comment!