When you think of Bozeman, you don't think about sandy shoreline. But the East Gallatin Recreation Area (aka Bozeman Beach) actually provides a nice seashore-like scene for Bozonians, as well as those visiting the Bozone.

Just a short distance from Interstate 90, the site offers a 2-acre lake, 300 feet of beach, a sand volleyball court, shelters, horseshoe pits, restrooms, lots of grass for Frisbee and catch as well as a tie-in to the area's "Main Street to the Mountains" hiking and biking trail system. The trail system also provides access to the East Gallatin River.

Given its load of amenities, the park is a popular place.

"We see a lot of activity down there," said James Goehrung, superintendent of facilities and lands for the city of Bozeman.

Bozeman takes care of the 83-acre property under an agreement with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The state bought the property in 1984 from the Hash and Deyl families. The lake is actually an old gravel pit and next door, between the park and the East Gallatin River, is the city's old landfill (now covered).

The Sunrise Rotary group built the picnic shelters that dot the park, as well as developed the beach front and volleyball courts. The Gallatin Valley Land Trust incorporated the park into its trail system. To the west of the parking area there is a half-mile loop that goes around the lake. Another trail to the west leads to the Cherry River Fishing Access Site along the East Gallatin.

The 4-foot-wide gravel trails are marked with posts listing the routes and distances. From the parking area, it's .35 mile to the east to the Gallatin Pedestrian Bridge, .65 mile to the Rouse Avenue trailhead, or 1.1 miles to the Bridger Drive and Story Mill connector trail. Dogs are allowed on leashes on the trail.

The recreation area, however, is not open to dogs, because of wildlife in the area and the beach, but the city is looking at the possibility of changing that policy, Goehrung said.

On its Web site, Montana Audubon (www.mtaudubon.org) lists the recreation area as one of its birding hotspots in the Gallatin Valley. Along the riparian corridor bird watchers can find western meadowlarks and savannah sparrows, while along the river willow flycatchers, red-winged black birds and gray catbirds can be found, the site says.

Although the lake is stocked with fish on occasion, the impoundment is not known as a great fishery.

"It gets some brood stock from the hatchery," said Ray Heagney, park specialist for FWP.

Beach-goers and other visitors can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains, including the Spanish Peaks, Hyalite Peak and the Bridgers.

"It is especially popular this time of the year," Heagney said. "There are quite a few people who utilize the beach to swim and boat."

Brett French can be reached at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

How to get there

To reach the East Gallatin Recreation Area, go north on Seventh Avenue over Interstate 90 to Griffin Drive. Take Griffin east (right) to Manley Road and turn north (left) and travel 1/4 mile north to the entrance of the East Gallatin Recreation Area on the right. A small trailhead parking area is located on the east side of the road. The trail to the east of the parking area connects to the Story Mill Spur trail, the north end of Rouse Avenue, and to several loops along the East Gallatin River. Dogs are not allowed in the park, near the swimming beach or on the lake trail.

For a map of the East Gallatin Recreation Area and its trails, log on to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust's Web site at gvlt.org/images/mapdtm_egallatin.gif. For maps of Bozeman's other biking and walking trails, log on to: gvlt.org/trails_maps.html or phone (406) 587-8404.

The GPS coordinates are North 45 degrees, 42.333 minutes and West 111 degrees, 02.328 minutes at an elevation of 4,682 feet with an accuracy of 26 feet.

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