Canyon Ferry Lake is located about 1/2 hour to the east from Helena, Montana. It was created in 1954 upon the completion of Canyon Ferry Dam. It’s part of the Missouri River, and managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Most of the paid campgrounds along Canyon Ferry Lake are owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, and most cost a fee ranging from $10.00 to $15.00 a day.
There are also privately owned and operated campgrounds and RV Parks, but these have been omitted from this list. These are only public campgrounds…
- Goose Bay Marina & Campground (46.5408, -111.5611) – $18.00 a day for no-hookups, $30.00 a day for full hookups. This is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation but contracted to a concessionaire. This is the premier government-owned campground on Canyon Ferry Lake. Includes an RV dump station with potable water, campground store, US Postal Service mailbox, gasoline, propane, firewood, and day use area. Senior Pass and Access Pass are not honored here. Reserved online through its own website (link).
- Riverside Campground (46.6564, -111.7348) – $15.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. Reserved online through Recreation.gov (link) or via walk-in. Riverside Bureau of Reclamation campground area along the Missouri River at the north end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. There are 38 camping sites and a 14 day stay limit. This is a scenic area with very few trees, but great river access. A boat launch is at the site. Very well-maintained campground and very popular.
- Court Sheriff Campground (46.6579361, -111.7077167) – $15.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. Reserved online through Recreation.gov (link) or via walk-in. Includes 49 campsites with drinking water and restrooms provided. Boaters can launch at Shannon boat ramp. 14-days maximum camp stay. Very well maintained campground, and very popular.
- Chinamen’s Campground (46.6528, -111.7061) – $10.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. Reserved online through Recreation.gov (link) or via walk-in. Facilities include restrooms and drinking water and 45 camping sites. There is a boat launch accessible. These are all small campsites and will not accommodate medium to large RVs. Limited to vans, cars, pickup truck campers and small RVs. Lots of shade with camping under pine trees.
- Jo Bonner Campground (46.6441, -111.6839) – $10.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. Reserved online through Recreation.gov (link) or via walk-in. 28 camping sites and basic facilities including drinking water. There is a undeveloped boat launch. Maximum 14-day stay. Includes sites for large RVs. Limited shade.
- Hellgate Campground (46.6177, -111.6401) – $10.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. Reserved online through Recreation.gov (link) or via walk-in. 72 sites and the basic facilities including drinking water and handicapped accessible restrooms. It is located on the east side of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Handicapped restroom facilities are provided. There is a boat launch at the site. These sites are more rustic than the campgrounds above, yet still come with fire rings.
- Silos Campground (46.4119, -111.5764)- $10.00 a day, but accepts Senior Pass and Access Pass for 50% discount. This is the only paid government campground on Canyon Ferry Lake that does not accept reservations online. These are strictly walk-in only, first-come first-serve. This campground is not well-maintained and tends to look ignored. 77 dry sites, 4 gazebos, handicapped accessible restrooms and RV sites. Stays are limited to 14 days.
- Goose Bay Dispersed Area (46.5437, -111.5699) – Just a stone’s throw from Goose Bay Marina & Campground, this is a dispersed area along Goose Bay. Includes pit toilets. There’s no official boat ramp here, but you can drop your boat into the water at Goose Bay Marina, and then anchor it next to your campsite in the dispersed area. This is the most popular of the free campgrounds at Canyon Ferry Lake.
- Confederate Campground (46.4893, -111.5245) – Surrounding Confederate Bay, this is also a dispersed area. There’s good beach camping on the north side large enough for big RVs. Along the south side of the bay, there’s beach camping for small RVs, cars, and vans.
- Indian Road Campground (46.3328, -111.5286) – Just north of the town of Townsend, this campground has small campsites and can only accommodate small RVs, vans, cars, and pickup truck campers. Not well maintained, it’s probably the least desirable of free campgrounds offered by the Bureau of Reclamation.
- Cottonwood Campground (46.3493, -111.533) – The only government campground not owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, this is run by Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks as part of the Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area. It has 4 campsites, including a handicapped site, a completely shaded pull-through site, and two others under complete sun. Also includes a river access site and boat launch.
RV Dump Stations
- Goose Bay Marina & Campground (46.540728, -111.563991) – Just recently built, the dump station is not free. Costs $6.00 if you’re camping at Goose Bay, or $10.00 if you’re not. Includes potable water in the parking lot.
- Townsend/Canyon Ferry Lake KOA (46.414578, -111.580340) – Located behind the KOA office building, this dump station costs $5.00 to dump. Includes water, but no signage on water drinkability. More than likely, it’s plumbed into city tap.
- Town Pump Helena (46.618083, -112.013967) – Free dump station with rinse water. Signage warns not to use water for drinking.