Western Montana Hikes & Attractions

Salmon Lake State Park

Salmon Lake is one of a chain of natural lakes located along the Clearwater River in northwest Montana. The 630-acre lake is popular with anglers, boaters, campers, and bird watchers. Located on the lake, Salmon Lake State Park provides excellent access, and getting there couldn’t be easier. It’s right on MT Hwy 83 about 7 miles north of the Junction of Highways 83 & 200 (Clearwater Junction).

The entrance to Salmon Lake State Park is on the west side of the highway and is very easy to find. The park offers boat ramps, camping, picnic shelters, toilets, potable water, firewood for sale, interpretive displays, and other amenities. As with all Montana state parks, this is a fee area. For day use, there is no charge for any Montana resident. However, for non-residents, there is a $5.00 fee for day use. There are fees for camping which vary according to campsite type and other factors.

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Beach leading into Salmon Lake
Nestled between the Mission and Swan mountain ranges, Salmon Lake is one of the chain of lakes that are found along the Clearwater River. Salmon Lake State Park offers all types of recreation and provides easy access to the lake.

Although Salmon Lake State Park is big on features, it’s rather small in size. The park is 42 acres and sits between Hwy 83 and the lake. There are 23 camping sites and about half of them have electrical hookups.  Campsites have picnic tables and fire rings. Many sites are intended for trailers or recreational vehicles. Campsites can be reserved online and you should always check on campsite availability if you plan to camp here.

For more information here is a link for a Salmon Lake State Park Brochure

Fishing Salmon Lake

Salmon Lake is one of a number of natural lakes along the course of the Clearwater River. Lake Inez, Lake Alva, Seeley Lake, and Rainey Lake are others formed by the river as it flows generally southward until it reaches the Blackfoot River at Clearwater Junction. Each of these lakes is a jewel and well worth a visit.

Photo of boat launch area at Salmon Lake State Park
Salmon Lake State Park has good facilities for boating.

The lake is a popular fishing destination and has a diverse fish population. Kokanee salmon, northern pike, rainbow trout, yellow perch, brown trout, bull trout, largemouth bass, mountain whitefish, pumpkinseed, and westslope cutthroat trout are all found in the lake. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks stocks the lake with kokanee almost every year and this is a great place to seek this uncommon salmon.

Fishing pressure is moderate but the lake can get busy at times. In a typical year, the lake is about the 100th most popular fishery in the state. Pressure varies from year to year but can be as high as 7,000 angler days per year.

Popular for Birdwatching

The tree-lined banks of Salmon Lake might make you think it is a mountain lake. However, it is located at a relatively modest 3,995 ft and there is a lot of habitat variety in the area. This excellent habitat provides homes for a large number of bird species and makes the lake a very popular destination for bird watchers. From majestic bald eagles to brilliantly colored songbirds, the varied habitats provide homes to many different birds.

This is one of the best places in Montana to view the common loon. Loons are large and rather shy birds that are known for their exotic calls. Loons also perform an elaborate courtship “dance”. Normally loons nest on the lake every year. They can often be spotted, especially at dawn and dusk.

Learn more about the park and Montana’s other state parks in the book Montana State Parks.

You can read about the lake and many other Montana attractions in Backroads & Byways of Montana: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions