Fort Smith: 83 miles SE of Billings
Over aeons, the Bighorn River carved a steep, sheer canyon out of the rolling plains of present-day southeastern Montana and into northwestern Wyoming. The construction of the Yellowtail Dam -- named for Crow chairman Robert Yellowtail -- near Fort Smith on the Crow Reservation, not only provides power and irrigation, but also marvelous recreational opportunities on and around 71-mile-long Bighorn Lake. Established on October 15, 1966, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area encompasses more than 120,000 acres and straddles the Montana-Wyoming border.
The lake and recreation area are remote and not easy to get to, requiring long drives on winding roads through small towns. The Wyoming and Montana portions of the recreation area are not connected by a road, although a boater can cruise easily up and down the reservoir. But it's worth the effort to get here: Steep walls soar above the deep waters, and there's superb water fun, some hiking, and tremendous photo opportunities.
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