Free Camping on Fort Peck Lake, Montana
Nelson Creek Recreation Area is one of several campgrounds and recreation areas located along Fort Peck Lake in north eastern Montana. Nestled at the southern end of the Lake’s “Dry Arm”, Nelson Creek is popular among boaters and campers coming from the southern portion of the State. There are numerous numbered campsites along with many more unofficial campsites, all of which is free to camp on. Nelson Creek is also one of the more remote boondocking areas on the Lake, and offers many secluded campsites.
Nelson Creek Recreation Area, Fort Peck Lake, Montana
Fort Peck Lake is technically property of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and is officially known as, “Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge”. However, the USFWS contracts the management of Fort Peck Lake Campgrounds to three different agencies. The Army Corps of Engineers manages most of the recreation areas, along with Fort Peck Dam. A few other recreation areas are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Montana.
Nelson Creek Recreation Area is among those managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. There is no fee to get in and no fee to camp. Everything is open to the public.
The access road into the Recreation Area is hard packed dirt with very little washboarding and potholes. It’s easy to get up to the 50 MPH. Just watch out for deer or antelope on the road.
Campsite 1003 perhaps offers the best combination of gorgeous scenery, large sites, and decent Verizon 4G signal. Sites 1001 and 1002 offer good Verizon 4G signal as well, but either have lesser scenery or offer smaller sites. Sites 1002 and 1003 each can accommodate up to three or four RVs. Site 1003 is the largest, and has three fire rings and picnic tables. Sites 1001, 1002, and 1003 are located along the southern-most portion of the Recreation Area, on the eastern side of the road.
The other campsites all offer great scenery, but either weak or zero Verizon 4G signal.
At night, you can expect pitch black evenings with star-filled skies. Nelson Creek Recreation Area is still a busy campground, and by the weekend the place is completely filled. It’s still very idyllic with its beautiful vistas of Fort Peck Lake, gentle breezes, and myriad of ground cacti and flowering scrub.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Beautiful views of Fort Peck Lake, some areas with secluded camping, pitch black evenings with starry skies, cool afternoon breezes
Cons: Mostly weak Verizon 4G signal, 60-75 minutes away from nearest town with amenities, very popular campground fills up fast
Most numbered campsites come with fire rings and picnic tables. Pit toilet located at boat ramp.
Cellphone Signal Strength
Verizon 4G comes in weak through most of the Recreation Area. You can get fair to moderate signal at campsites 1001, 1002, and 1003.
RV Dump Station
There is no dump station here, nor any potable water. The closest dump station with potable water is at Downstream Campground, located by the dam (free).
Some gnats seen flying about along with a few houseflies. Mosquitoes are a problem closer to the water’s edge. We encountered no rats, mice, or other critters.
Despite how crowded Nelson Creek Recreation Area can be, it still remained largely peaceful. Much of the campsites are spread far apart.
Safe or Sketchy?
We camped here for a week and a half, and encountered no problems. Boondocking seems pretty safe here. We were able to leave camp to go into town (Glasgow) without consequence.
There’s no reservations, there’s not even first-come, first-serve. It’s all dispersed camping, you’re on your own.
Any Permits Needed?
No permits needed.
How Crowded Is It?
Your best bet is to arrive between Monday and Thursday. By Friday, nearly all campsites are taken. There are still a few secluded campsite here, so if you want to get one, get here early.
Army Corps of Engineers
Tel: (406) 526-3411
Fort Peck Lake Downloads
Campgrounds on Fort Peck Lake, published by Army Corps of Engineers
Fort Peck Lake Recreation Areas, published by Army Corps of Engineers
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