The camping rules for Montana Fishing Access Sites (FAS) presented below were acquired from the Administrative Rules of Montana, Department 12, Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Chapter 8, Parks Division. These rules apply to all of Montana’s “Fishing Access Sites” and they address boondocking, dispersed camping, vehicle camping, and so on.
Camping Rules for Montana Fishing Access Sites (FAS)
The State of Montana, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) administers some 340 Fishing Access Sites (FAS). Of those, only 97 (as of this writing) supports camping. Below is an overview of the regulations that apply to these sites.
Refer to, “Map of Montana Fishing Access Sites With Camping” to view all FAS campgrounds.
Is a Conservation License Required?
Yes, all persons entering an FAS, or any other lands operated by the FWP, must hold an active Conservation License. This is an access pass good for one year. Conservation Licenses can be purchased by anyone, whether they are a resident or non-resident. Licenses cost $10.00 for non-residents, $8.00 for residents. For more details, visit the FWP website for Conservation Licenses.
Most FAS with campgrounds require fees to camp. The fees vary from one FAS to the next. Most FAS campgrounds will offer discounted fees for Montana residents. There are, however, a minority of campgrounds that are free. Refer to “ARM 12.8.213 Recreation Use Fees” for details.
Are Reservations Required?
Reservations are not required. All FAS campgrounds are operated as, “first come, first serve”.
Is a Fishing License Required to Camp at an FAS?
No fishing license is required to camp at an FAS, but a license is required to fish. Only those persons fishing must have a license.
However, anyone holding a valid Montana fishing license will get a discount on campground fees, usually ranging between 25% to 40% off.
Is Boondocking Allowed at Fishing Access Sites?
Many of the free camping FAS offer dispersed camping, while others offer marked sites. The paid camping FAS all offer marked sites. The FWP requires that all campers camp in areas designated for camping. Refer to “ARM 12.8.205 Camping, Day and Group Use” for details.
How Long Can You Camp at a Montana Fishing Access Site?
By state regulation, there is a maximum 14 days in any 30 day period, in any one “recreation area”. In this case, a recreation area would be an FAS campground.
Many FAS campgrounds have signs posted for 7 days in any 30 day period. However, any campground that does not have signs posted for maximum stay, reverts to the state regulation of 14 days.
The 30 day period starts with your first day of camping, and continues to run each day after until it reaches 30 days. If you don’t use up the full 14 days limit, the 30 day period still continues to roll by.
Refer to “ARM 12.8.205 Camping, Day and Group Use” for details.
What Are the Quiet Hours at a Montana Fishing Access Site?
Quiet hours are defined individually at each FAS. Many FAS do not specify quiet hours.
Can You Run Your Generator at a Montana Fishing Access Site?
Yes, you can run your generator at an FAS. The way the rules are written, a generator that is mounted or fixed to a vehicle can be run even during quiet hours. It’s only “portable generators” that must be shut off during quiet hours. Refer to “ARM 12.8.208 Disorderly Conduct” for details.
Can You Drive Off-Road Vehicles at a Fishing Access Site?
The only off-road vehicles that can be driven at a Montana FAS are those that comply with licensing and registration requirements set by the state’s Motor Vehicle Code. Even then, all vehicles are required to remain on established roads. Refer to “ARM 12.8.204 Vehicles” for details.
Are Campfires Allowed?
Yes, campfires are allowed at FAS campgrounds. However, all fires must be restricted to established fire rings and fireplaces. Gas stoves are allowed. Refer to “ARM 12.8.206 Fires” for details.
Gathering Firewood at a Fishing Access Site
Dead and down wood may be collected for campfire use as long as the wood is used within the FAS of which it was found. Wood cannot be removed from an FAS. Wood cannot be removed from standing trees, either. Refer to “ARM 12.8.207 Property Disturbance” for details.
Are Pets Allowed at Fishing Access Sites?
Yes, pets are allowed at FAS campgrounds. The rules state that between April 1 and September 15 of each year, all pets are required to be physically restrained by a leash no longer than 10 feet. Outside of those dates, a leash is not required, however, you must still maintain control your pet and prevent it from running loose. Refer to “ARM 12.8.203 Control of Animals” for details.