FWP changes state park reservation system

Feb. 26—Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has implemented some changes to the reservation system for state parks, designed to make it easier for Montana residents to secure campsites during the hectic summer months.

With tents, trailers and motorhomes abundant in Lake County, many families look forward to camping season.

The Flathead Lake State Park System has five parks available for overnight stays: Wayfarers, Yellow Bay (with five tent sites) and Finley Point on the east shore, and West Shore and Big Arm on the west shore. Wild Horse Island is open to day-use only.

Lake Mary Ronan has overnight camping too, and heading towards Libby there's the Thompson Chain of Lakes State Park that covers approximately 3,000 acres and stretches more than 20 miles along Hwy. 2.

According to the MFWP, changes will create more opportunities for recreationists to enjoy state parks and comply with legislation passed by the 2023 Legislature.

"Starting this year, visitors will have up to three months prior to their planned arrival date to make campsite and lodging reservations or purchase tour tickets. This is a change from the six-month booking window in the past," the MFWP website states.

Visitors also need to be aware that the maximum stay per site changed from 14 consecutive nights to seven. The latter change allows at least 20 percent of state parks' campsites to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

That's helpful if your family lives in Charlo and wants to camp at Wayfarers State Park but doesn't have a reservation.

Speaking with a friend who camps a lot, she said she thinks seven days is more reasonable than 14 days because 14 days is a long time to stay in one park. Also, she felt a three-month reservation period was more useful because sometimes family plans change in six months.

Another camping enthusiast friend noted that he's had friends and relatives show up unannounced who want to see some of the beautiful Western Montana outdoors. At least they have a better chance to do so with first-come, first-served campsites.

Montanans are known for their hospitality and welcome visitors from other states and countries, but it helps if they get a chance to enjoy some of their state's recreation areas, too.

Sites are reservable from the third Friday in May through the third Sunday in September. Reservations are available now by visiting or calling the call center at 855-922-6768.