Many people are familiar with the Bighorn River in the Bighorn River valley. Situated perfectly in the heart of the Crow Indian Reservation. The Bighorn River’s crystal clear cool water creates one of the greatest trout fisheries in the world. The secret to this successful trout factory is the Bighorn Reservoir. The reservoir is held back by a 560 foot dam that creates a lake 72 miles long and 500+ feet deep. The lake’s incredible scenery and great fishing lies in the shadow of the Bighorn River on both the Montana and Wyoming side. This lake is perhaps one of the most scenic and impressive in all of Montana.
Before the dam was built the river was a rapids river sporting class five rapids, but most of the time it was a muddy mess especially during the runoff. Prior to 1966 when the dam was completed the river used to flood the small town of Hardin, MT on a regular basis. Hardin is a bustling ranching and agriculture community about 40 miles downstream from where the Bighorn River exits the canyon. The only person recorded to float the canyon before the dam was built was a legendary mountain man named Jim Bridger. Jim braved the terrible rapids in an effort to find better trapping grounds. Needless to say he only did it once as it was too difficult to risk again.
The Bighorn Canyon is a red rock canyon with healthy forests and abundant wildlife. Visitors will often see black bears, mule deer, turkeys, marmot, elk, eagles, hawks and dozens of mating waterfowl on the lake. The views in the Canyon are truly breathtaking. Giant spires break the surface of the lake and tower hundreds of feet in the sky. Throughout the canyon, hundreds of old caves can be found and it’s rumored that there’s still Native American carvings and paintings in them. The lake has dozens of wild rivers flowing into it that are filled with native species of Cutthroat trout. The lake has some wide spots and then some that are barely big enough to fit four boats across. Because it’s a canyon visitors can literally park their boats on the walls of the canyon for a picnic lunch. The lake is controlled by the National Park Service and they have setup floating docks with rest areas, campgrounds and tie ups to spend the night on the lake or simply tie up and fish.
Fishing on the lake is incredible with almost every species of fish an angler wants to catch including brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, lake trout, small mouth bass, walleye, sauger, suckers, ling, catfish, crappie, perch, carp and sturgeon. The food for these fish is plentiful with more than dozen different species of minnows including the millions of fabled emerald shiner minnows that live in the lake. It can be a little tricky trying to target the species because it’s tough to find structure on the Montana side of the lake, but once you start to figure it out it’s amazing! Our guides have a pretty good idea of where to find the fish and as of this year we are offering guided lake trips.
The Native American history of the Bighorn Reservoir and valley is incredible including Custers last stand. The Crow tribe of Native Americans chose the Bighorns as the last settling place, because it had everything they needed to create their society. They have a legend of how and why these mountains and this canyon was to be called the Bighorn’s. It all begins with a small boy and ends with a big legend. Click here to read the full version. Prior to the frontier days this was Crow country and they used to hunt the Bighorn Canyon for sheep, elk and deer. There’s only a couple ways to walk in and out of the canyon and only the Native American Crow tribe knew how to make the descent. For hundreds of years the tribe hunted the canyon leaving a legacy of tradition behind.
Whether it’s a sight seeing tour or fishing trip your looking for on the gorgeous Bighorn Reservoir. Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort can make it happen for you. The Bighorn Reservoir is truly a Southeastern Montana secret that shouldn’t be overlooked. Pay Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort a visit and we’ll show you the lake!
Forrester’s Bighorn River Resort.