|Gipsy Lake in Helena National Forest|
Not long ago, my family and I were camping at a large lake near our state's capitol. Canyon Ferry Lake is actually a reservoir on the Missouri River, which ultimately drains into the Mississippi. This lake covers over 35,000 acres and has 76 miles of shoreline. Naturally, it is a popular place for water recreation and fishing in this land-locked region.
My parents towed their personal watercraft and we were camping with others who had large boats, but since Canyon Ferry is in western Montana, and the mountains aren't ever very far, we brought our ATVs too. Doesn't everyone bring a four-wheeler for a weekend at the beach?
On the first day we were there, we decided to pack a lunch and head east on the trail -- well it was really a dirt road that only required a bit of ground clearance to make it passable. A quick look at the GPS map revealed that we were riding into the Big Belt Mountains and we were gaining in elevation. Just as we peaked near 8,000 feet and headed down the other side, we were greeted with a splendid view of another lake, but this one was much smaller (less than a mile of shoreline) and its water was draining the other direction into a different large river called the Smith.
Okay... so I've gone to quite a bit of effort to lay out the details here, but I want you to understand what makes this small mountain lake so beautiful - beyond it's shimmering surface.
- It's not crowded (even though vehicles are allowed).
- It has great fishing and good-tasting fish. We ended up with three on the stringer.
- The 20-mile ride in made it that much more pleasing to see, especially because I was hungry and we were able to have our picnic lunch on the shore.
- We hadn't planned to be here when we were at the house packing up for the weekend. In fact we weren't even in the same river drainage as our campsite.
- Our family (including our doggies) spent a few quiet hours enjoying the sunshine.