Right now, the snow covers the icy surface of Painted Rocks Reservoir at the south end of the main West Fork Road. The visitors this time of year have snowshoes, skis or snowmobiles. However, in the summer, the lake has plenty of private boats, waterskiers, swimmers, canoes and rafts as one of the two main watery playgrounds in the county - Lake Como being the other.

At the height of summer, you can consider yourself lucky to get a campsite at the Montana state campground at the south end of Painted Rocks Reservoir. Often, someone has driven to the lake, 25 miles south of Darby and set up their tent ahead of you. The usual first-come, first-served basis doesn't work for everybody at the park's 23 campsites, especially with a lot more visitors in the valley this past season. So the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has now added six of those sites to a reservation system this year. Maci MacPherson said in a news release that the reservation days will be Thursday through Sunday nights only. Meanwhile, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will still be first-come, first served.

The reservation system will start taking requests April 1st. The first reservation can be made for May 27 and the last reservation will be for August 15. MacPherson said the half-dozen sites are big enough for tents. In fact, three of them can fit 25-foot-long RVs and the other three can fit 30-foot-long RVs. There is no potable water at the 23-acre state park, and please "pack it in, pack it out." If you have questions about the park, call Maci at 406 273-4253. Starting April 1, to reserve a campsite, go online to montanastateparks.reserveamerica.com or call Reserve America at 1-855-922-6768.

By the way, Painted Rocks is the name of the lake due to the yellow, green and orange lichen you'll see on the cliffs along the road. The dam's construction started in 1939 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project and is used for irrigation and fisheries habitat in the Bitterroot River. It's also a great place to see peregrine falcons that were re-introduced to the area several years ago.

painted rocks
Painted Rocks Reservoir. (Google Earth)

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