Posted: May 20, 2013 3:09 PM
DILLON - With Memorial Day weekend approaching, it's time for the camping season to start in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Here's a look at what you can expect if you're planning to camp in the forest:
In the Butte-Whitehall Area, Beaverdam, Lowland, Delmoe Lake, Whitehouse, Pigeon Creek, Mormon, Ladysmith and Toll Mountain Campgrounds will be open. Water will be available at Delmoe Lake and Whitehouse. Camping costs at Delmoe Lake are $8 per site plus $3 for each extra vehicle per night. Camping costs at Beaverdam and Lowland are $5 per site per night. Homestake and Elkhorn picnic areas will be open as well.
Thompson Park is open daily from 8 a.m. until9:00 pm daily. There are three picnic areas and two trailheads that access 25 miles of non-motorized trails, including the Milwaukee Rails to Trails. The park is co-managed with Butte-Silver Bow through October. Trail and disc golf brochures are available from the Butte Ranger District office. The Thompson Park disc golf course is the only legal course open to the public for use on the National Forest.
Sheepshead Recreation Area, north of Butte, offers fishing and picnicking for groups and will open June 15. The pavilions at Sheepshead and Freedom Point can be reserved for weddings, picnics, and other types of day-use activities.
Some trailheads are open; however trail access may be minimal due to high snow levels. Roads are muddy at mid to high elevations.
For updates on access to recreation sites, contact the Forest Service offices in Butte at (406) 494-2147 or in Whitehall at (406) 287-3223.
For the Georgetown Lake, Philipsburg and Deer Lodge Valley Philipsburg Bay Loop A and Piney Campground (The boat launch and Loop A only) are open. Lodgepole, Cable, Spring Hill, Flint Creek, will open by June 1. East Fork, Copper, Orofino and Racetrack should be open by June 7 and will have reduced services after September 20. Certain sites within these campgrounds may be closed as hazard tree removal continues, visitors are asked to respect those closures. Spillway will be closed for the season for safety reasons due to numerous standing beetle killed trees. Grassy Point and Red Bridge should also be available for use by Memorial Day along with the day use sites around Georgetown Lake. Trail crews will begin work in early June and will begin working on the highest use trails first.
Call Forest Service offices in Philipsburg, (406) 859-3211 or in Deer Lodge, (406) 846-1770 for more information.
Some of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness trailheads are accessible at this point, but not all. Visitors will likely encounter snow within a couple miles of trailheads, but most lakes are still snow covered As a reminder, use of stock within the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness is prohibited on the Pintler District April 1 through July 1. Check with Forest Service offices in Wise River, Philipsburg, Sula or Wisdom for details as you plan your wilderness trip.
In the Big Hole area, it is likely all the campgrounds will be available for use. Call the Wisdom Ranger District at (406) 689-3243, or Wise River Ranger District at (406) 832-3178 for more information before heading out for your trip.
Seymour and Pintler campgrounds are clear of snow and available for use. Visitors are reminded to be cautious of hazard tree removal activities at both locations. Travelers may reach the historic Canyon Creek charcoal kilns west of Melrose; however, Vipond Park is not accessible, due to deep snow. Call the Wise River Ranger District at (406) 832-3178 to get the most up to date information on conditions.
The Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, between Wise River and the Grasshopper Valley has been plowed and is open all the way through. Grasshopper and Price Creek Campgrounds as well as Crystal Park along the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway are open.
Elsewhere along the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, lower elevation campgrounds; Pettengill, Boulder, Lodgepole, and Willow will be open however be cautious of the hazard tree removal debris and log piles within these campgrounds.
Other Forest roads blocked by snow include the upper end of Thief Creek road, above the Birch Creek Center, and Upper Willow Creek. Travel may not be possible up-drainage to Gorge or Tendoy Lakes until mid-June.
All major access roads into the Lima Peaks, Tendoys, and Bloody Dick Range are open. Access to Reservoir Lake is open; however travel over the Big Hole Divide is closed. Lemhi Pass and the Sacajawea Memorial Camp are open. Browns Lake, out of Glen, along Interstate 90, on Rock Creek is open, but access further up the drainage is not possible or is limited. Currently, creek and river levels are low but will change significantly with the warmer temperatures predicted. Caution should be used when playing and hiking around main tributaries. Contact the Dillon Ranger District at (406) 683-3900.
In Madison County, Potosi and Mill Creek campgrounds will be open; however, potable water will not be available.
Several campgrounds in Madison County are operated by a concessionaire, under supervision of the Forest Service. They lie near the Madison River and include West Fork, Riverview, Madison River, Wade Lake, Cliff Point, and Hill Top. Visitors are encouraged to call the concessionaires, Dave or Laurie Schmidt, at (406) 682-7560 for the latest information on camping opportunities at these campgrounds.
Many roads in the Gravelly Range won't be open until July 2. This allows roads to dry before they get traffic.
In the Madison, Gravelly, Snowcrest, and Tobacco Root mountain ranges, there are special rules for storing of food and refuse at your campsite to avoid grizzly bear encounters. All food and refuse, including liquids other than water, must either be stored in a vehicle, an approved container, or hung 10 feet off the ground and four feet out from any tree or support pole. Free bear-proof containers are available for loan at the Forest Service offices in Sheridan and Ennis. For more information, call the Forest Service in Sheridan, at (406) 842-5432, or Ennis, at (406) 682-4253.
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF offers 25 backcountry cabins for rent. You'll need to bring food and bedding, but most cabins come with firewood, beds, and utensils. To rent a cabin, call toll free, 1-877-444-6777 or go online to http://www.recreation.gov/.
For more information contact your local Forest Service office or go online to www.fs.usda.gov/bdnf.