Missouri Headwaters State Park is a river lover's dream because the park sits where the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers merge and form the Missouri River. RVers and visitors in search of a recreational hotspot that is primitive and scenic will find this park to be the perfect hub of adventure and nature.
Three Forks, Montana is an important historical location because of its position along the Missouri Headwaters area. When early Native Americans trappers, traders, and settlers were in search of a place where the resources were plentiful, this area produced wildlife, vegetation, and the resources needed for the people to flourish.
The area is also famous because the expeditionary team of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery camped at the Missouri Headwaters. Their guide, Sacajawea, a Shoshone Indian, was captured as a child by an enemy tribe near this location. Eventually, Sacajawea became the only female on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She was a guide and a Shoshone interpreter for the team, and one of the most important historical figures of that time. Visitors to the Missouri Headwaters State Park can visit and learn about the impact Sacagawea, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition had on this area of Montana.
Missouri Headwaters State Park is located 31 miles northwest of Bozeman and 72 miles southeast of Helena, Montana. For visitors coming from West Yellowstone, the park is 109 miles northwest.
Montana state parks have a seasonal park fee schedule, and fees vary depending on the time of year. Prices also range for residents and non-residents. Please check the website for seasonal fees to determine what your entry fee might look light for the time of your visit. Non-residents may purchase a yearly pass to have unlimited entry fees for a year.
The Missouri Headwaters State Park Campground is both a reservable and first-come, first-served year-round campground. Some spaces are available for reservations, while others are for walk-in guests only. This campground has basic facilities with no hookups. Each pet-friendly space has a gravel driveway, a fire ring, and a picnic table. The largest site is 60 feet long, and campers can choose either pull through or back in spaces. There are flush and vault toilets and water spigots available, but during winter months, facilities using water will be winterized. There is no dump station and no trash receptacles, so please prepare to pack out your refuse. The park’s quiet hours are from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am. Please silence your generators during these hours.
Each summer, the park hosts programs designed to educate and entertain guests of all ages. Some programs offer music, food, and entertainment, while others teach guests about the history of the area and as well as the natural and historical importance of the park. Park Rangers and special guests lead the events, and many of the events are free. During the summer months, there is a program offered on many Saturdays. Check the event website or ask a member of the park staff about what's happening during your visit.
The park's multi-use trails provide hikers, bikers, and horseback riders a shared outdoor adventure. Before heading out for a hike or ride, ensure that you are on one of the ten trails that allow bikes or horses, as a few of the trails are for foot traffic only. Pick up a park map from the park office when you arrive, and see what trail is best for you. The trails are well-marked with trailheads, intersections, and pertinent information located along the paths. Many of the trails have scenic overlooks or points of interest located along the route, so whatever trail you take, you will find exercise and something interesting to see!
If water activities like kayaking and canoeing are your thing, then bring your boats to Missouri Headwaters and spend your time on the Missouri River. All people bringing boats need to have a boat inspection before entering the water because the state participates in an initiative to eradicate invasive water species. The park has one boat ramp for park guests to enter the river. If you prefer to rent kayaks and canoes, many local outfitters rent boats or provide guided excursions. For more information, contact the park or one of the outfitters nearby.
Hunting is a favorite pastime in Montana, and many visitors come to the area from both in state and out of state to hunt for a variety of birds and animals. Hunters are allowed to hunt within the park’s boundaries as long as their hunting does not interfere with recreational activities inside of the park. During hunting season, hunters with the proper licenses and safety classes can hunt for waterfowl such as coots, geese, and ducks or game birds like pheasants. If your preferred hunt is a big game animal, you may hunt for mule deer, moose, and White-tailed deer. Contact the park or Montana Fish and Wildlife for more information.
Fishing in the Missouri Headwaters river system is fun and often fruitful. Fish for brook trout, mountain whitefish, cutthroat trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout in the beautiful rushing waters. The river will challenge beginner and experienced anglers as well as provide a good time on the water. If fishing is new to you, consider hiring a fishing guide to teach you the way of the Montana waterways. Bring your fishing gear and a valid fishing license, and see if you can catch a fish for dinner. The state of Montana requires that all anglers over the age of 12 have and possess a valid fishing license.
Just five miles away, in downtown Three Forks, is a must-visit for history lovers. The Headwater Heritage Museum, a building on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the Missouri River Headwaters area collection of historical artifacts. Lewis and Clark spent time in this area, so many of the pieces in the museum reflect their expedition. In addition to the museum’s displays, there is also a gift shop with books, toys, and other souvenirs for sale. Visiting the museum is free, but those who wish to donate to keep the facility running are welcome to give what they can. Contact the museum for hours of operation.