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Painted Rocks Dam

Painted Rocks Dam

The Montana State Parks Foundation is publishing a weekly showcase of Montana State Parks' 55 properties. 

This week's featured state park, Painted Rocks State Park, is named for the green, yellow and orange lichens that cover the grey and black walls of the granite and rhyolite cliffs. The park is located on the upper end of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River, 17 miles south of Hamilton.

The Montana Water Conservation Board started work on Painted Rock Dam in 1939. The dam was originally planned to be constructed for agricultural use. Today, Painted Rocks Reservoir provides water for irrigation, stock water, domestic use and in-stream flows for fish. The reservoir the dam creates is the perfect location for boating or fishing.

While in the park, keep your eyes open for the diverse populations of wildlife including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear or moose. You may even catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep or peregrine falcons, which were reintroduced to the area in the 1980s.

If you happen to be in the area in the spring or fall, osprey, great blue heron, water ouzels, spotted sandpiper and kill-deer make pit stops during their migrations.

Part of the homeland of the Salish people for many years, this area continues to be a place of great value to the Salish. The area provides great hunting and a place to gather traditional foods such as huckleberries, serviceberries, bitterroot roots and trout, as well as other fish and mountain tea.

Looking to camp? Painted Rocks State Park offers 25 campsites, a boat ramp and boat dock. Be sure if you’re bringing your trailer or RV that it’s no longer than 25 feet.

If you like to hike, there are many trailheads near the park that offer access to national forest land.

The Montana State Parks Foundation helps fund work at parks, for more information log on to www.montanastateparksfoundation.org.

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