Canyon Ferry Reservoir and its many nearby campgrounds experienced record high visitation this summer, along with record high misuse of some of those sites, according to the Montana Bureau of Reclamation.
The area that was misused the most was the Fish Hawk Campground, located south of the dam on the west side of the reservoir on a grassy knoll above the shore.
"During the summer recreation season, some visitors participated in unauthorized activities such as cutting down trees, littering, vandalism and staying longer than the 14-day limit at Canyon Ferry Reservoir," said Dan Stremcha, supervisory facility operations specialist at Canyon Ferry.
Litter was a big issue at the Fish Hawk Campground. In photos shared by the Bureau, discarded mattresses, chairs, boxes and general garbage were left on the side of the road near the campground. Reclamation is asking for the public's help to keep these shared resources clean and in good order so these areas can continue to be used by all visitors.
The reservoir covers 25 miles and hosts 24 Bureau of Reclamation maintained recreation sites. It offers many different types of recreation from year-round fishing, to camping, hunting, sightseeing, picnicking, water sports, swimming and more.
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Bureau officials are asking that visitors put all trash into the proper receptacles or pack it out with you when you leave. They are reminding visitors to not cut down any trees or naturally occurring vegetation and to camp only in designated areas. Bureau officials say that camping in non-designated areas can cause damage to the land and surrounding areas.
Finally, the Bureau is reminding people not to stay beyond the 14-day limit. This helps ensure that others have the opportunity to access and enjoy the public lands.
The Bureau has stated that if these problems persist, the office will consider reducing access to Fish Hawk Campground by limiting the area to day use only and removing the option for overnight camping.
"It is very important for all of us to treat our public lands and fellow recreationists with respect," Stremcha said. "These areas belong to Americans and are maintained and operated for everyone's enjoyment. When public lands are misused, it takes time and money away from making other improvements."