Hungry Horse Reservoir Reopens to Public

Flathead National Forest officials announced reservoir waters and some dispersed camping areas will be open for recreational use beginning Sept. 1

By Micah Drew
Hungry Horse Reservoir as viewed from the slopes of Doris Mountain on June 28, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Officials with the Flathead National Forest on Thursday announced that Hungry Horse Reservoir will reopen to recreational use beginning Sept. 1.

“I am excited to allow public access back into the Hungry Horse Reservoir for Labor Day weekend,” Hungry Horse District Ranger Rob Davies said in a press release. “I always need to prioritize firefighter and public safety above recreation demands and as the weather changes. I am hopeful we will be able to open up the West Side Road in the near future. It is very important to me and we will open areas as soon as conditions are safe.”

The East Side Hungry Horse Road (NF Road 38) will open for public travel all the way to the Spotted Bear Ranger Station beginning at 10 a.m., with recreational access allowed to the reservoir itself and dispersed camping along the entire east shore. Area closures are still in effect for the Ridge Fire, including the Desert Mountain Road and Emery Creek Road, but the Emery Bay Campground will reopen.

The West Side Hungry Horse Road (NF Road 895) will be open to the public to the Doris Point boat launch, allowing watercraft access to the reservoir from that site, but will remain closed south of the boat launch due to ongoing wildfire activity from the Doris Point and Tin Soldier Complex fires.

Forest officials emphasized in the press release that while while the cooler weather and recent rainfall significantly reduced fire activity, the week’s rain is “not a season-ending event and areas within the fire perimeters are still hazardous.”

Even in areas without visible flames, such as blackened areas on the interior of a fire, residual heat can be found in stumps and large fallen trees, according to the release. Smoking stump holes and even standing, green needle trees can have smoldering roots below the ground for days or weeks after everything around it is extinguished, and wet soil and strong winds can cause these fire-weakened trees to fall without warning, making them very hazardous. 

Stage II Fire Restrictions ended Aug, 30 for the Flathead National Forest, meaning campfires are allowed on Forest Service land, but should always be monitored and only considered out when coals are cool to the touch.