Departure Point Recreation Area
Guide

Introduction

Located on the banks of Holter Lake and featuring plenty of water-based recreational activities for visitors of all ages, Departure Point Recreation Area is a great option for RV lovers looking for a home base in the Wolf Creek area. Operated and maintained by the BLM, Departure Point Recreation Area operates a little differently from the standard BLM area since a day-use fee is enforced during the peak season. This means there are no free campsites, but we promise you that it's still worth the visit!

Featuring stunning views to the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, Departure Point Recreation Area is one of three recreation areas on the north side of Holter Lake that are managed by the BLM. Construction on the lake began way back in 1908 and it has a massive 243,000 acre-feet water storage area so there is plenty of room for everyone to explore. During the summertime, you will find many visitors at Departure Point Recreation Area fishing, boating, and hiking opportunities that are on offer. While Departure Point is very small, the other two BLM managed recreation areas have more room and amenities to enjoy if you are looking for more developed facilities.

RV campers are welcome to stay at one of the four RV friendly campsites within Departure Point Recreation Area that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The BLM also manages three other campgrounds within the area, including the Holter Lake and Log Gulch campground that are both RV-friendly. Peak season at Departure Point Recreation Area runs from the beginning of May until mid-October.

RV Rentals in Departure Point Recreation Area

Transportation

Driving

Located in central Montana, driving to the Departure Point Recreation Area isn't too difficult for most RV rigs. All of the roads are kept in great condition thanks to regular maintenance and all of the roads being sealed. The recreation area is accessible via Beartooth Road from both the north and south, but it is uncommon for RV's to take the southern entrance due to the lack of major roads. For those taking the main route, you will travel on I-15 before turning off to the park. This is the main road in the area and it connects the major towns in this area of the state to each other.

Departure Point Recreation Area is around a 20-minute drive from the I-15, so we recommend picking up some supplies before you make your way out to your getaway destination. If you just need a few small things you can visit the town of Craig (around 13 miles away), but otherwise, your best bet is to stop into Helena (around 47 miles away) or Great Falls (around 60 miles away).

If you are planning to visit during the winter months you will have to be sure that your RV can handle severe winter weather. From late October until the end of April there are no fees for using the recreation area, but on the flip side, this means that the roads may be closed if there is heavy snowfall. There will be no staff at Departure Point Recreation Area in the off-season, but you can contact the Butte Field Office if you have any questions prior to or during your visit.

If you are just visiting for the day you are welcome to park your RV in the small paved parking that adjoins the campground.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Departure Point Recreation Area

Campsites in Departure Point Recreation Area

Reservations camping

Holter Lake Campground

The campground within the Holter Lake Recreation Area is the most popular place to stay for visitors to Holter Lake. This campground is the closest to the road that takes you to the area and is a great choice if you want to stay in the campground with the most amenities.

Holter Lake Campground is divided into two loops and contains a total of 52 campsites with 42 being suitable for RVs. The sites are especially large and can accommodate up to two RVs at any given time, so if you are traveling with friends or family this campground is a great choice. Water collection points, vault toilets, dumpsters, and a picnic table at each site are some of the great amenities available.

Holter Lake Campground is also the only BLM operated campground in the area where you can reserve sites in advance. Thirty-three sites can be reserved online prior to your arrival, so keep that in mind before choosing where to stay during your visit.

First-come first-served

Departure Point Campground

Departure Point Campground within the Departure Point Recreation Area is perfect for RV travelers who are looking for a quiet place to stay. The campground is by far the smallest out of the RV-friendly locations that are on the Holten Lake shoreline, so you won't have to worry about crowds if you choose to stay here.

The campground isn't glamorous (it shares its location with the day-use carpark), but you will get a flat paved site that is easy to get set up on for your stay. There are only four sites to choose from and they are lined up next to each other with a picnic table and fire grill in front of them near the shoreline. Shade is fairly non-existent since there are no large trees around, so be prepared for this before you arrive. None of the sites feature any electric, water, or sewer hookups, but there is a restroom for your convenience.

All of the sites at Departure Point Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis only and you will have to pay a fee for the campground from the beginning of May until the end of October.

Log Gulch Recreation Site Campground

To the northwest of the Departure Point Recreation Area is the Log Gulch Recreation Site where there is another camping option for RV visitors to choose from. This is the largest campground on the banks of Holten Lake with 70 sites available at any given time, 68 of which are RV-friendly. RVs up to 50 feet in length will be able to fit in the campground.

All of the sites at Log Gultch are built on gravel pads and most sites will have a fantastic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. You won't find any water, electric, or sewer hookups at each individual site, but there is a picnic table and fire ring for you to enjoy. Campground-wide amenities include water collection points, vault toilets, boat ramp access, and a fish cleaning area. For visitors who are bringing their own watercraft, you are also permitted to use the slips if you wish to keep your boat in the water.

Like the Departure Point Campground, all sites at Log Gultch are available on a first-come, first-served basis only and you will have to pay to use the campground during the peak season.

Seasonal activities in Departure Point Recreation Area

In-Season

Swimming

One of the highlights that visitors to Departure Point Recreation Area can experience during the summertime is swimming at Holter Lake. There is a roped-off swimming area on the banks of the recreation area that is perfect for taking a dip in when the weather is scorching hot.

There is no sandy beach in the swimming area, but if you want to kick back and relax after your swim there is a grassy area large enough for many people to use. There are no lifeguards on duty at the swimming area, so remember to swim to your abilities.

Boating

Holter Lake is also a superb place to go boating during the peak season. There are many miles for you to explore out on the water, and thanks to the lack of boating restrictions, you will have a large choice of watercraft to choose from.

Motorboats, canoes, and paddleboards are all popular choices, and thanks to the many boat ramps provided by the BLM you will have no trouble getting on and off the lake. If you don't bring your own watercraft there will also be some available for rent from private companies so nobody will have to miss out.

Picnicking

Departure Point Recreation Area has the smallest picnic area on Holter Lake in comparison to the other BLM managed recreation areas, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it as a picnicking destination.

There are three shaded picnic shelters in the day-use area directly overlooking the lake that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Near the picnic shelters, you will also find a restroom and the swimming area. These spots are perfect if you have a small group, but you may want to consider the Holter Lake State Recreation Area if you need more facilities.

Off-Season

Fishing

It is a rare sighting to see Holter Lake not being used by anglers due to the incredible fishing opportunities that are available within it. Many different species of fish call the waterway home, including rainbow trout, which is the most popular catch choice.

Other fish species that call the lake home include walleye, brown trout, and northern pike. We recommend that you bring your own fishing gear to the lake as there are no guarantees rentals will be available due to how popular fishing is for visitors.

Wildlife Viewing

Don't expect to see that many wildlife creatures in the recreation area due to its small size, but if you want to explore around the lake you will have plenty to see. Elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep all frequent the area, along with many types of birds.

Falcons, pelicans, osprey, and bald eagles can be spotted, so make sure you pack your binoculars if you are interested in birding. Once the snow starts to fall wildlife viewing can still be done, but come prepared for the conditions.

Winter Recreation

Departure Point Recreation Area slows down during the wintertime, but there are still plenty of fun things to do if you are brave enough to head outside. Snowshoeing is the perfect activity for those wanting to explore the area, especially on the portion of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail that is near the lake.

Ice fishing is also possible on the lake and the portion of the Missouri River that is located to the northwest of the recreation area.

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