Located in the Teton Valley, Tongue River Reservoir State Park surrounds a man-made reservoir created when the Tongue River Dam was completed in 1948.
The dam was originally built to provide water for irrigation for agricultural purposes and to supply water for stock watering needs, but now offers visitors the opportunity to go boating, fishing, and enjoy other recreational activities.
The reservoir contains fish species such as walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, smallmouth bass, whitefish, and yellow perch, and attracts anglers from throughout the region.
Fishing access sites for shore anglers are available, and there are several boat ramps for those who want to use a canoe or kayak.
Many visitors come specifically for wildlife viewing, but if you choose to come from March through December, be sure to bring bear spray. It is not uncommon to see grizzly and black bears in the park, especially in the spring when they have come out of hibernation. There are also plenty of other land animals to see like elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope.
Though it’s located in southern Montana, the closest city – about 30 miles away – is Sheridan, Wyoming. If you’re planning a visit to Tongue River Reservoir, you’ll likely want to stop in town at some point for groceries, gas, or to stay overnight.
If you’re planning on continuing your trip, Sheridan offers convenient access to the Bighorn National Forest.
Tongue River Reservoir State Park Stats
- Day Use Fees: $8, Free for Montana Residents
- Size: 642 acres
- Season: Year-round
- Major Feature: Tongue River Reservoir
Main Attractions in Tongue River Reservoir State Park
Because it’s located near the border, many of the attractions near Tongue River Reservoir State Park are actually in Wyoming.
About a half-hour drive from the park is Sheridan, the largest city in the region, go-to metropolis for dining, lodging, and supplies, and hub for Wyoming’s various ranger stations and parks departments should you want to continue your trip.
With six different campgrounds – Rattlesnake, Campers Point, Pee Wee North, Pee Wee South, Sand Point, and Below the Dam – there are a total of 156 campsites at Tongue River Reservoir.
The campgrounds are open year-round and have many amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, grills, flush toilets, drinking water, showers, and laundry facilities.
The Nelson Inn • $$
Located in Sheridan Wyoming, the Nelson Inn is a historic hotel that dates back to 1892. The building was originally constructed as a stagecoach stop and inn for travelers, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors can enjoy the beautiful antique furnishings and architecture without sacrificing modern amenities. Breakfast is prepared for guests every morning in the dining room, and there is an indoor pool as well as an outdoor hot tub onsite.
Just outside of Sheridan is the Trail End State Historic Site, a Wyoming State Park commemorating the last stop on the Oregon Trail. The park is open year-round and offers picnicking, hiking, fishing, and camping.
It hosts many events throughout the year including educational programs for kids, summer concerts, and other family-oriented events.
Black Tooth Brewing Company is a small brewery in Sheridan Wyoming born of the Wyoming craft beer movement. They offer tours for visitors led by the owner of the company, Jeremy Danner.
The itinerary begins with an introduction to the brewing process, proceeds with a tasting of three beers, and culminates with a beer pairing.
Located at 5 Main Street in Sheridan, Frackelton’s is housed in a historic building that was built in 1919 for Diefenderfer and Dinwiddie Hardware. The restaurant was named for a dentist who practiced in the building in the mid-century, William Frackelton, whose profession is immortalized in the logo.
Activities in Tongue River Reservoir State Park
While fishing and wildlife viewing dominate the activities at the reservoir, all kinds of water activities are possible here like motorboating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
Tongue River Reservoir State Park is a great place for fishing. It has many different species of fish available and is renowned for its excellent crappie, walleye, bass, and northern pike fishing.
There are boat ramps available as well as fishing access sites for shore anglers, and fly fishermen head to the river below the dam. The park has a fish cleaning station for your daily catch, as well as picnic areas with tables and grills.
Wildlife viewing draws a huge amount of visitors to the park, especially in the summer when it’s easy to spot large mammals like elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. Birders will be pleased to see osprey, blue herons, and maybe even a bald eagle.
Motorized boats are allowed on the reservoir, though most folks simply bring a canoe or a kayak.
If you’re coming in from out of state, check with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to ensure your craft is properly disinfected and permitted to enter the reservoir.