We stayed at Goose Bay Dispersed, on Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana in late June 2020.
Our Previous Stop: Yellowstone – Fish Creek Rd Review & Info
Our Next Stop: The Free Beaverhead Campground By Clark Canyon Reservoir
Location: 46.542100, -111.573300
Camping Limit: 14 Day
Amenities: Vault Toilet, Picnic Table, Handicap Campsites & Access.
Town: Townsend, MT – 26 miles or Helena, MT – 32 miles
Gas Station: Town Pump – 26 miles
Dump Station & Potable Water: Goose Bay Marina & Campground – 0.1 miles ($10: no dumpsters. Potable water is free) Public Dumpsters can be found about 8 miles north at Hellgate Campground.
Grocery Store: Bob’s Supermarket – 26 miles
Cell Phone Service
Verizon – Excellent
AT&T – Excellent
White Gulch – 8.5 miles
Avalanche Gulch – 8.4 miles
Hellgate Gulch – 9.5 miles
Cavetown – 12.5 miles
Helena, MT – 32 miles
Townsend, MT – 26 miles
Crimson Bluffs Trail Head – 27 miles
Great Falls, MT – 117 miles
Missoula, MT – 144 miles
Glacier National Park – 220 miles
Goose Bay Dispersed, Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana
The free dispersed camping at Goose Bay on Canyon Ferry Lake in Montana is fantastic. It’s unbelievable that it’s free and I’m sure that will change someday. You can camp right next to the water and there are nice picnic tables scattered throughout the area. There are even campsites with cement pads next to the 3 vault toilets that are for handicap access.
There are two loops of free camping at Goose Bay. In the drone shot above, you can see the first loop and all the camping along it. The first loop has one vault toilet and at least 20 campsites that are all big rig friendly. Most of them have picnic tables and good access to the water. The only exceptions are the campsites along the north shore. There’s a pretty steep cliff along that side and only some of the campsites have a way to get down to the water.
In the picture above is one of the campsites on the first loop. There’s some great beach access points at the tip of the cape.
The first week we camped at Goose Bay Dispersed we chose this spot along the second loop at the very tip of the small cape. The trailers on the right side are part of the Goose Bay Marina Campground. Those are paid campsites. It’s really easy to see where they start and you don’t have to worry about accidentally camping in the pay area because there’s a fence dividing them from the free area.
The second loop has two vault toilets and two handicap campsites. We had a picnic table on our site and a really nice fire ring. The view was amazing and most of the time the water was perfect for swimming.
The second week we camped on the first loop at the northernmost campsite. The water isn’t as accessible but the sunsets are amazing in that area.
What It’s Like Camping At Goose Bay Dispersed on Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana
The way into Goose Bay is about 2.5 miles of dirt road. It was super washboardy and bumpy when we first drove in but just before the 4th of July they grated it and it was much better. The roads leading to the campsites off the main road are all in excellent condition and you don’t have to worry about finding a place to turn around because they are all loops.
Goose Bay is extremely popular on the weekends. We were there two weekends (one was the 4th of July) and the entire place was packed. Even the pay campground was filled with trailers. People will crowd in right next to you so don’t expect any kind of privacy on the weekends. Having people pack in is pretty common for lakeside camping areas so if you don’t like to hear generators running all night or people partying you may want to reserve a site in the pay area for the weekend where they have quite hours.
The beaches are made up of flat, smooth lake rocks. Every single rock is excellent for skipping and they’re really great to walk on barefoot. When you sit on the shore after swimming you don’t get covered in sand. We thought it was a cool part of one of the best free camping areas we’ve ever stayed at.
It rained a lot during our stay in late June early July so it was pretty empty during the weekdays. We saw a lot of wildlife and the area is just gorgeous.
The only downside to camping at Canyon Ferry Lake is the water can get really mossy and they do have trouble with harmful algal blooms in the lake during July and August. If you see algae floating in large mats on the surface of the water and it has a bluish color do not go near it and do not let your pets swim in it as it is toxic and can make you and your pets very sick.
In the picture above you can see what looks like algae collecting on the shore near our trailer. We didn’t know about harmful algal blooms at the time and we paddle boarded and swam in the water. After doing some research we learned about the dangers of this kind of water especially later in the year. The algae was not blue in color so we were fine but we’re glad we learned about it for the future.
Montana has a problem with HABs (harmful algal blooms) and they have a website with a live map where people report seeing them. If you are camping near a Montana lake in late summer early fall always check to make sure there is no infected water near you. Also, be sure to report any bluish algae you see to help warn others. Click here to see the map and more info on HABs in Montana.
The final thing about camping at Goose Bay, Montana is to bring lots of mouse traps. We ended up trapping a total of 4 mice in our trailer. They are everywhere and they seem to know how to get into trailers that are supposed to be mouse proof like ours.
My Review Of Goose Bay Dispersed Camping By Canyon Ferry Lake, MT
We loved camping at Goose Bay Dispersed and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. The lake is beautiful, the camping area is clean, and the picnic tables are a great amenity you don’t always get when camping in free areas.
Yes, there were a ton of people on the weekend and you should try and get there early in the week if you want a good spot (especially on the 4th of July). But even with all the people on the weekends, it’s still an amazing place to camp and the weekdays are fairly calm.
It did rain a lot but the storms were beautiful and usually passed quickly.
The nearby campground had a boat ramp and free potable water. The dump station was only $10. There are no dumpsters available anywhere and the Goose Bay Marina & Campground only allows people staying int their campground to use their dumpsters. Luckily there is a day-use area/campground called Hellgate (click to view on google maps) just a few miles north that has quite a few dumpsters that are open to the public.
If we had a rating system we would give Goose Bay Dispersed full points or stars because it’s an amazing place to camp. If your ever near Helena, MT be sure to swing by Canyon Ferry Lake to check out Goose Bay, you won’t regret it.
Have any questions about camping at Goose Bay Dispersed or Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana? Leave a comment below.