Fort Peck Lake loomed large on Google Maps, taking up a huge chunk of real estate in the north-east quadrant of “Big Sky Country”, otherwise known as Montana.
I wanted to camp there.
Seems like, there ought to be some good camping to be had for free on something so large.
As it turns out, there’s tons of free camping there (see link to my other article).
Nelson Creek Recreation Area is just one of those areas where you can set up your RV and live there for awhile. Technically, there’s a 14-day limit, but because there’s so many free campgrounds along Fort Peck Lake, you could effectively just move around every couple of weeks. In fact, the one week I was at Nelson Creek, I never saw a park ranger.
The Army Corps of Engineers runs the campground at Nelson Creek Recreation Area. However, the shoreline and lake is technically owned by the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife as part of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. But because the Army Corps of Engineers built the dam that created Fort Peck Lake, they have the contract with the Department to manage most of the facilities. The Bureau of Land Management and the State of Montana also operate some parks and campgrounds along the shoreline too.
What makes Nelson Creek Recreation Area particularly nice is how big it is, offering lots of places to camp. There’s a boat ramp on the western-edge of the Area, along with several gravel campsites. But along the eastern-edge, you get better Verizon 4G coverage, though grassy slightly unlevel pads
It’s also very dark at night. There are no lights out there aside from those times of the month when the moon and earth come into sync. Otherwise, it feels just like being out in nature, just you, the wildlife, and the starry skies.
If you do feel like exercising your civilized needs, there’s a 65-mile trek north to the nearest town with shopping, Glasgow. And when you’re ready to leave, the nearest RV dump station is by the dam, at Downstream Campground.
For RV boondockers, however, Nelson Creek Recreation Area represents the ultimate in camping in the wild at a place accessible and reachable by just about vehicle. It’s still a “wildlife refuge” officially, and still a place where you can immerse yourself into the wilderness of Montana, but set up in a place designed to be used by RVers.