Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, following the construction of the Yellowtail Dam by the Bureau of Reclamation. This dam, named after the famous Crow chairman Robert Yellowtail, harnessed the waters of the Bighorn River and turned this variable stream into a magnificent lake.
Bighorn Lake extends approximately 60 miles through Wyoming and Montana, 55 miles of which are held within spectacular Bighorn Canyon. The Recreation Area is composed of 70,000+ acres, which straddles the northern Wyoming and southern Montana borders. There are two visitor centers and other developed facilities in Fort Smith, Montana and near Lovell, Wyoming. The Afterbay Lake below the Yellowtail Dam is a good spot for trout fishing and wildlife viewing for ducks, geese and other animals. The Bighorn River below the Afterbay Dam is a world class trout fishing area.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is a lesser known treasure waiting to be discovered. It boasts breath-taking scenery, countless varieties of wildlife, and abundant recreational opportunities, such as boating, fishing, ice fishing, camping, and hiking. Bighorn Canyon offers visitors what few other National Park areas can, that of solitude, serenity, and beauty. In the midst of our chaotic world, this is a truly unique quality.
Email - BICA_Superintendent@nps.gov
Fax- 406-666-2415 Headquarter
Bighorn Canyon NRA Headquarters
5 Avenue B, P.O. Box 7458
Fort Smith, MT 59035-7458
- or -
Bighorn Canyon NRA Visitor Center
20 Highway 14A East
Lovell, WY 82431
Headquarters - 406-666-2412
Visitor Information - 406-666-2412
Visitor Information - 307-548-2251
Operating Hours, Seasons
Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center, Fort Smith, Montana is open 9:00AM-5:00PM daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Check locally for weekend hours in May and September. Closed the rest of the year.
Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center, Lovell, Wyoming is open daily throughout the year. Memorial Day through Labor Day hours are 8:00AM - 6:00PM. Labor Day through Memorial Day hours are 8:30 - 5:00PM. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
Crooked Creek Ranger Station, near Horseshoe Bend turnoff. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
PLANE - Logan International Airport in Billings, Montana for either North or South entrances.
Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming for South entrance.
Private Planes - The 5U7 airstrip in Fort Smith, Montana is unattended and a day VFR airstrip. There are mountains and power lines surrounding the airstrip. It is suggested that with winds permitting take off should be done on runway 07 and landings on runway 25.
CAR - North Entrance - Fort Smith, Montana - Take Interstate 90 to Hardin, Montana. Turn on Highway 313 traveling 40 miles south to Fort Smith, Montana and the North entrance.
South entrance - near Lovell, Wyoming - From 14A turn north on Highway 37, continuing 9 miles to South entrance.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION - None available.
Weather & Climate
The North end of Bighorn Canyon is semi-arid getting 18 to 20 inches of rain annully. The South end is in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains and is a high desert with average rainfall from 6 to 10 inches annually. The average temperatures are consistant throughout the park with summer highs in the 80s and 90s, lows in the 50s and 60s. Winter temperatures highs 20s and 30s and lows averaging in the 10s and 20s, but temperatures can drop below 0.
Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center, Fort Smith, Montana, and the top of the Dam is handicapped accessible. The tour of the dam and power house requires walking flights of stairs at several points along the tour.
Bighorn Canyon Visitor Center, Lovell, Wyoming is fully accessible including a nature trail encompassing the reflection pond behind the building. Crooked Creek Contact Station is also fully accessible.
Automobile and boat are the best ways to see the wonders of Bighorn Canyon. Since there are no roads connecting the two ends, traveling by boat is the only way to get directly from one end to the other.
The North end of Bighorn Canyon is surrounded by the Crow Indian Reservation. Please respect their land and stay on the road, or on the water, except in areas that are open to travel.
The South end can be traversed by auto or boat. Hiking, bicycling and horseback riding are other ways to enjoy this end of the recreation area.
Open All Year
Adjacent to the Afterbay Lake, contains 29 sites which accommodate both RVs and tents year round. Each site is equipped with tables and BBQ pits/fire rings, bear-proof food storage containers, vault restrooms, a boatramp, drinking water and RV dump station. No reservations, hook-ups or showers.
Black Canyon Campground
Open All Year
Black Canyon Campground is a boat-in only campground located 5 miles south of Ok-A-Beh Marina at dayboard 5. The site contains 17 tent sites equipped with tables and BBQ pits/fire rings, bear-proof food storage containers, and floating vault restrooms. Sites available on a first come/first serve basis. Campers must carry out their own garbage. Extremely low or high water levels may make access to the campground difficult. No drinking water or terrestrial toilets available.
Horseshoe Bend Campground
Open All Year
Approximately one mile from the south entrance, is the turn off to Horseshoe Bend. The campground contains 54 sites which accomodate both RVs and tents year round. Each site is equipped with tables and BBQ pits/fire rings. Some sites have shade shelters. Also available are modern flush toilets, a boat ramp, drinking water and an RV dump station. NOTE: During the winter months, facilities are winterized and maybe closed with the exception of the Marina restroom. No reservations, hook-ups or showers.
Medicine Creek Campground
Open All Year
This boat-in or hike-in only campground is located north of Barry's Landing at dayboard 32, in Medicine Creek. Surrounded by junipers, there are 6 tent sites equipped with tables and grills. When water levels allow, a floating vault toilet, boat dock and slips are available at the site. No drinking water available or terrestrial toilet. Campground may be difficult to access during low water conditions by boat.
Trail Creek Campground
Open All Year
Trail Creek Campground, along the road to Barry's Landing, is a picturesque setting for the 5 tent only sites and 7 sites suitable for trailers or tents. Each site is equipped with tables and BBQ pits/fire rings enhanced by a nearby trickling creek and abundant shade. Bear proof food storage boxes and vault toilets are located in the campground. A boat ramp is located nearby. No water is available at this camping site.
CROOKED CREEK RANGER STATION
Open All Year Vary
Phone - 307-548-7326
Location - On Highway 37, just past the south entrance into the park.
Exhibits - Display on four historic ranches found in the Recreation Area. Map of the park.
Available Facilities - Small book sales area run by Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. Restrooms available from sunup to sunset. Ranger Station is handicapped accessible.
BIGHORN CANYON VISITOR CENTER
Open All Year
Open From Memorial Day to Labor Day 8:00AM-6:00PM
Open From Labor Day to Memorial Day 8:30AM-5:00PM
Phone - 307-548-2251
Location - Located 11 miles south and west of the south entrance to Bighorn Canyon in the town of Lovell, Wyoming at the junction of Highways 14Alt and 310.
Special Programs - Choice of a 20 minute film on Bighorn Canyon and two videos, one on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses and one on the Medicine Wheel are shown upon request.
Exhibits - Relief map of Bighorn Canyon and the surrounding areas. Some geological, historical and photo exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area.
YELLOWTAIL DAM VISITOR CENTER
Open From Memorial Day to Labor Day 9:00AM - 5:00PM
Phone - 406-666-3218
Location - Fort Smith, Montana. Continue through the town of Fort Smith and past the government housing. Follow the road up the hill to the parking lot for the Visitor Center
Special Programs - Twice daily guided tours of the dam and power house. A variety of films shown upon request.
Exhibits - Exhibits on -construction and workings of the Yellowtail Dam. -the unique geology of the area -details of the life of Robert Yellowtail, the Crow tribal leader when the dam was built and for whom the dam was named. -the Crow Indians and the famed leader Chief Plenty Coups -the history of Bighorn River and Bighorn Lake -examples of fish that one may expect to catch at Bighorn Canyon NRA.
Available Facilities - The visitor center and top of the dam are wheelchair accessable but the tour of the dam requires ascending two flights of stairs in the dam and one flight in the power house. Books and other items available for sale through Southwest Parks and Monuments Association sales facility at the visitor center. Restroom facilities are available at the visitor center and two locations along the tour route.
Phone, Email, Address, GPS coordinates
List of Nearby Campgrounds
Local weather forecast
|These outdoors activities are available near Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.|
| ||Hotels Near Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area:|
Western Motel Hardin, Hardin
, 25 miles away|
Rodeway Inn Hardin, Hardin
, 26 miles away|
Super 8 Hardin, Hardin
, 26 miles away|
Western Motel Lovell, Lovell
, 46 miles away|
Holiday Inn Express BILLINGS EAST, Billings
, 48 miles away|
| ||Ski Areas Near Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area:|
Antelope Butte, Wyoming
, 41 miles away, 1000 foot drop, 3 lifts, 18 runs|
Big Horn, Wyoming
, 69 miles away, 800 foot drop, 3 lifts, 20 runs|