This post is sponsored by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
If you’re looking for a place to camp, play in the water, and enjoy family time in nature in southeast Montana, look no further than Tongue River Reservoir State Park. This park features beautiful scenery and plenty of activities to keep you busy. You can camp, boat, fish, watch wildlife, and explore nearby battlefields and natural areas from a base camp at this Montana State Park. We have everything you need for a successful trip.
Tongue River State Park
The centerpiece of Tongue River State Park is a 12-mile-long reservoir surrounded by scenic red shale, juniper canyons, and the open prairies of southeastern Montana.
We tent camped at the park as part of a trip to learn about the Battle of Little Bighorn and the events preceding and following it. After spending the day at Little Bighorn Battlefield, we drove the highly scenic route to Tongue River Reservoir State Park. The next morning we were just 15 minutes from our tour at Rosebud Battlefield.
It’s a great place to enjoy Montana’s outdoors, especially water-based activities, including boating, fishing, and swimming. You can also camp at one of the park’s six campgrounds like we did.
Camping Facilities at Tongue River State Park
On our visit to Tongue River State Park, we camped in one of the first come, first served sites. There wasn’t a lot left at 5 pm in late June, but since we were tent camping and didn’t need a hookup, we were able to grab one of the few that were left.
If you want a hookup, or just to be sure you have a spot before you drive all the way out there, a reservation is a good idea.
Montana’s Tongue River State Park has:
- 81 reservable camping sites with electric hookups, 27 of those are double occupancy campsites (two electric hook-ups). Make your campground reservation through Reserve America.
- Eleven campsites on Campers Point have electricity year-round. During the off-season, all sites are first come, first serve.
- Over 80 non-reservable, non-electric camping sites.
- Most sites have a fire ring and a picnic table.
- A dump station and water faucets are available during peak season, as weather permits.
- A fish cleaning station.
- Vault toilets throughout the campgrounds.
- Two boat ramps with docks — at Camper Point and at Pee Wee North.
- Day use areas include sheltered picnic tables at Campers Point and Sand Point. Sand Point has a small, but popular “beach area” for swimming and picnicking.
Park office hours during peak season are 8 am to 4 pm daily. In the summer season, look for campground hosts.
Tongue River Reservoir Marina
The Tongue River Reservoir Marina is located at Camper Point and offers:
- Boat rentals, including pontoons
- A gas dock
- A store with snacks, bait, and other camping and fishing supplies
- An ice cream counter (open in the summer)
- Public restrooms
- Fishing and hunting licenses and non-resident park passes
The Tongue River Reservoir Marina is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting.
Things to do in Tongue River Reservoir State Park
The biggest draw to Tongue River Reservoir is of course the reservoir itself. There are opportunities to boat, water ski, jet ski, and of course, fish.
Many “State Record” fish came from Tongue River Reservoir and you may be able to hook crappie, walleye, bass, and northern pike.
If fly fishing is more your thing, head to the Tongue River below the dam to cast a line.
When we camped there we saw people swimming from the lakeshore near their campsites and exploring the lake via paddle boards and kayaks. It was a little breezy in the evening which made it more difficult for the lightweight SUPs and kayaks, but I don’t know if that’s a regular summer weather feature or not.
Wildlife viewing can be good, too. Keep an eye out for osprey, blue herons, deer, pronghorn, and bald eagles.
In winter, the park is a popular place for ice fishing and ice skating. I’d also love to cross-country ski around the reservoir (and at nearby Rosebud Battlefield State Park) if the snow was good.
Things to do Near Tongue River Reservoir in Southeast Montana
You could easily spend all of your time in Tongue River Reservoir State Park and many people do, but if you want to see more of this corner of southeast Montana, there are other things to do and places to see near the state park.
Little Bighorn National Battlefield
This National Battlefield is located north of Tongue River Reservoir State Park and commemorates the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. If you are coming in from Billings or I-90, the turnoff to the Tongue River is right at Little Bighorn Battlefield.
I wrote about Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in this article about visiting Montana Battlefields.
Rosebud Battlefield State Park
Rosebud Battlefield State Park is about 25 minutes northwest of Tongue River Reservoir and is the site of the Battle of the Rosebud. This battle was the precursor to the Battle at Little Bighorn and a big reason that the US Army was defeated there.
I wrote about Rosebud Battlefield State Park in this article about visiting Montana Battlefields.
Tongue River Breaks Hiking and Riding Area
The Tongue River Breaks Hiking and Riding Area is located northeast of Tongue River Reservoir State Park about an hour and offers miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding opportunities.
One of my favorite things about this BLM-managed area is that Google Maps has it labeled as a “Hiding and Riding Area.” It’s pretty remote, so that seems to fit.
There is no motorized use allowed in the area, hence the name, so pull on your boots, or hop on a bike or horse to check it out. Tongue River Breaks Hiking and Riding Area is heavily forested and absent of any trails other than an old wagon trail running through the middle.
This hiking and riding area has 30-foot tall sandstone pillars, like Medicine Rocks State Park, which are pretty dramatic.
Two Moons Historical Monument
Two Moons was a Crow Indian chief who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After the battle, he surrendered to the US Army and was taken prisoner. He escaped and made his way back to his home in the Tongue River Valley.
This historical monument is located just off I-90 near Busby. It’s not much to look at as it is surrounded by a chainlink fence, but it’s worth a stop to think about Two Moons in the land he called home.
St. Labre Mission’s Cheyenne Indian Museum
The St. Labre Mission is located in Ashland and the Cheyenne Indian Museum is on the mission grounds. The museum has a large collection of Cheyenne artifacts as well as an interesting history of the mission itself.
Know Before You Go to Tongue River Reservoir State Park
The nearest town to Tongue River Reservoir is Ashland, Montana which is a tiny town with not much more than a gas station/convenience store. If you need groceries or anything else, you’ll want to plan ahead and bring everything you need with you or make the drive to Sheridan, Wyoming.
Sheridan, Wyoming is the closest town of any size. It’s about 40 minutes (30 miles) from the reservoir. Hardin, Montana is 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 miles), and Billings, Montana is 2 hours (112 miles).
Have a full tank of gas- fill up at the I-90/ Hwy 212 intersection, Ashland, or Sheridan.
Cell service is spotty in this part of southeastern Montana and northern Wyoming. Don’t count on using it.
Pay attention to land designation – the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation is to the north of Tongue River Reservoir State Park and Crow Country to the west. While Tongue River Reservoir State Park is not on either of these reservations, be respectful of the fact that these are the ancestral homelands of several tribes, and parts are considered sacred.
The Tongue River is a beautiful and remote corner of Montana and Wyoming. It is a great place to enjoy the outdoors whether you like to fish, boat, hike, or just relax by the water. If you have the time and inclination, there are other interesting places to visit nearby if you want to explore more of southeast Montana.