Did you know Flathead Lake currently has only 13 public access sites along its 180 miles of shoreline, 89% of which is flanked by long stretches of private land?

Anyone who recreates on the lake will tell you that limited public access is leading to increased congestion at the existing sites, especially with use on the increase. But, it looks like public access will be improving, thanks to the generosity of a family and acquisition proposals put forth by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

This is a follow-up to a couple of our posts earlier this year. And Tristan Scott of the Flathead Beacon has shared updates. Tristan tells us that the Montana Land Board   unanimously approved the proposal to acquire new tracts of land to create new public access sites on Flathead Lake: Somers Beach State Park and Montebello Fishing Access site.

The proposal on Flathead Lake’s north shore east of Somers would formalize access to a popular half-mile, 106-acre sandy area that FWP has with its owners. Under the proposal, Montana FWP would acquire the land for the creation of a state park, and as a way to permanently conserve wildlife habitat while continuing to allow public recreation. The Sliter family that owns the property had been seeking ways to protect it while still providing access.

The other big update:  FWP is also seeking to acquire 14.89 acres of property one mile east of Dayton along the western shore of Flathead Lake. That property is owned by Montana’s Outdoor Legacy Foundation and would be developed into Montebello Fishing Access Site and include an access road, parking area, boat launch, dock, latrine and host campsite. The site would be open for day-use only, but acquisition of the property by FWP would ensure future public access to this property as well as Flathead Lake.

Both proposals were prompted by increasing public demand for opportunities to recreate on or near the lake. This year, Montana State Parks recorded 1.4 million visitors from January through June of this year, marking a 25.4% increase compared with the same time period last year and underscoring the need for state land managers to secure additional recreational sites to keep up with demand.

COVID-related or not, it's doubtful those numbers are going to dramatically shrink anytime soon.


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