Some Red Lodge campgrounds facing delayed openings from flood damage

Posted at 4:37 PM, May 18, 2023

RED LODGE — The summer season is camping season in Montana but as many gear up to head outdoors, expect a delay in some places around Red Lodge in getting to popular spots.

Outdoor recreation in Montana is plentiful. It draws in $2.5 billion annually and is responsible for almost 5 percent of the state’s income.

But last year's floods have left a lot of questions about this year’s camping availability.

"Classically, what we aim for is the weekend before Memorial Day. We try to get them open a little earlier, and some we have been able to get open," said Annette Smits, district recreation staff for the Beartooth Ranger District on Wednesday.

It's a better outcome than Smits would have guessed was possible six months ago.

"We’re probably looking at 70% to 80% of our campgrounds will open on time or maybe even a little bit early. Some of the road accesses in there may be a bit rougher or a bit primitive and you’ll see some minor scouring but overall, at least in terms of developed, recreation campgrounds, we fared relatively well. It’s our road systems and our trails that really got impacted most heavily by the floods of last year," added Smits.

Basin campground host Sam Martinsen said he wasn’t sure what to expect this year.

"I just wasn’t sure what the cleanup was going to be like. But a lot of the cleanup for the most part was done here. So, I give a lot of credit to the organization that does this," said Martinsen.

Flooding isn’t the only thing delaying openings: A bear recently closed Greenough Lake.

"You just have to bear smart, make sure you’re bear spray is close, make noise, whistle, talk if you’re on the trails," Martinsen added.

"We rely on the public, and we rely on people to be aware. So, when they’re in the campground, for instance, we have bear boxes up here where they can store food safely," Smits said.

Other campgrounds still up in the air include East Rosebud and Woodbine near Nye.

As summer kicks off, Montanans will just have to continue to roll with the punches as they enjoy the beauty of the Treasure State.

"It’s Montana, it’s the mountains, we have bears, weather happens, it’s just being prepared when you’re out there," added Smits.

"I’m hoping that people can come up to these campgrounds and have the best time of their life," Martinsen said.

Here's a partial list of planned opening for campgrounds in the Red Lodge area:

Campground openings.PNG