Central Montanans lose out if Ackley Lake is closed to camping

Jacques Rutten

Ackley Lake has been a favorite camping destination of Central Montana families for many years. That could be changing in the future, depending on which state agency ends up managing the area. 
Photo by Jacques Rutten

The heat is on in Central Montana, and that means Ackley Lake State Park will be a busy place this weekend. 

Throughout the summer, the reservoir near Hobson is popular with boaters, fishermen, and swimmers. Along a narrow strip of land that surrounds the water you will often find dozens of tents and campers. 

But that could be changing soon.  

The article on the front page of last Saturday’s News-Argus explained that steps are being taken to remove Ackley Lake as a state park and turn over the management to another state agency. Lack of funding and staffing were the primary reasons given for making the change. 

I’m not expecting a big public outcry if Ackley Lake is removed from the list of state parks, but there is something about that change that should concern people. State officials said that if management of the lake is turned over to another agency, it may also signal the end of camping at Ackley Lake, and that would be a huge loss for Central Montana. 

I recognize that Ackley Lake is not for everyone. Compared to the rugged beauty of Crystal Lake or the world-class fishing of Fort Peck, Ackley may not seem like much. It’s a little too windy for some, a little too primitive for others. But it fills up with campers and boaters almost every single summer weekend. 

The reasons for the lake’s popularity are simple: it’s a short trip for anyone living in Central Montana; it offers boating, swimming and fishing; and perhaps most importantly, it’s a place where people can camp next to a lake. As simple as that sounds, we just don’t have many options for that type of camping in Central Montana.  Sure, we have some great places to pitch a tent up in the mountains or set up a camper along the Missouri River, but lakes and reservoirs are few and far between, and lakes where you can camp are almost nonexistent. 

That’s why Ackley has become such an important place for so many Central Montana families. It’s close and it’s easy. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty darn good. There are great memories made at Ackley Lake every summer weekend, and I would hate to see that taken away from today’s families or future generations of Central Montanans. 

The future of Ackley Lake will be decided in the coming months. Please let your voice be heard. 



What’s next?

 Ackley Lake will be on the agenda at the State Parks Board meeting on Aug. 18 at First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park near Great Falls. 

You can also share your views on the future of Ackley Lake by writing a letter to the editor at editor@lewistownnews.com





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