Usually, in June, I’m sitting in my boat at Holter Lake, Tiber Reservoir, or Lake Frances, fishing for walleye. However, when the wind comes up, and the fish don’t care what I have on my hook, I’ll take the hint and pull out my list of things I want to do and haven’t yet. It’s organized into half-day, day, and multiple-day options. If you don’t have one of these lists, I recommend you get one – it’s a lifesaver! On the list was a drive to Smith Dam to look around, and it won. So, on a cloudy, just rained day in June, my husband and I headed out on our Smith Dam adventure!
I was excited! Smith Dam is just outside Dupuyer, Montana, on the Rocky Mountain Front. I’d been to Dupuyer before; however, when we turned onto the gravel road that leads to Smith Dam, all the landscapes were new. If you have never driven head-on to the Rocky Mountain Front, do it. The mountains grow larger the closer you get, and it’s such a dramatic change from the grasslands as you approach.
What I noticed first was obviously the dam, but after that, how much rock covered the area – which made for great walking. The access to the dam is unprecedented; I’ve never been to Hoover Dam, but my guess is, you can’t walk right up to the base of it and soak your feet. The spillway was off to the right, and it looked like a waterfall. I hiked along the little river that comes from the water to the base of the spillway – again, unprecedented access.
We crossed onto Blackfeet land to view the top of the dam, which, depending on what source you reference, is Birch Creek Reservoir or Swift Reservoir. I’ll refer to it as Swift Reservoir because that is how it is listed on the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department’s website. OH MY GAWD! It’s breathtaking! I don’t know why this continues to surprise me; there are very few places in Montana where I’m not awestruck.
We explored down a primitive two-track road a little more, found stunning calm turquoise blue water, the remains of an old forest fire, and deafening mountain quiet. There were only two other vehicles parked at Swift Reservoir, and on our return trek, we found the drivers returning on their canoes. Watching them cut across the water effortlessly confirmed for my husband and me that we needed a canoe, and the first trip out was going to be here.
I’ll make the plea again; if you have a canoe you aren’t using, please drop it off in our parking lot. I’ll know what it’s for, just please, no Colemans.
Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director of Great Falls Montana Tourism.