Transition of the Hell Creek recreation area at Fort Peck Lake to the Little Shell Tribe is progressing, with the tribe expected to open its reservation system later this year for the 2022 season.
In August 2019, the tribe sent a letter of intent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the tribe intends to lease and operate the Hell Creek Recreation Area. It is located about 25 miles north of Jordan on the Hell Creek Arm of Fort Peck Lake.
“The real positive thing out of this is we are looking for economic avenues to be a successful standalone tribe in terms of our own economic success. This is one of them where the opportunity is there. We’re not asking the government for any money. We’re going to do this on our own. I think that shows our drive and willingness to become a self-sustained tribe,” tribal chairman Gerald Gray said at the time.
Gray says the opportunity fell into his lap when he was fishing in a walleye tournament in the Hell Creek area. He says he learned the State Parks were not going to renew their lease as of April 30, 2021. “I was like, 'Well, wait a minute. Why can’t the tribe pick it up?'” Gray said.
During a call this week between the tribe; Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the site at Fort Peck Lake, the parties discussed next steps in the process to assign FWP’s existing lease to the Little Shell.
The goal is to have FWP’s Parks & Recreation Board review and vote on the lease assignment at its Dec. 9 meeting. After that, it must be approved by the Corps.
In mid-October, Chairman Gray and Little Shell staff shadowed state park employees as they winterized facilities at Hell Creek in preparation for assuming responsibility for managing the recreation area.
The tribe is currently drafting its management plan for Hell Creek. After it is reviewed and approved by the Corps, the tribe can begin taking camping and day-use reservations for the 2022 season. More details about how to access the new reservation system will be announced at that time.
“The tribe is looking forward to providing a smooth transition for the reservation system, and we are excited for the upcoming season with Hell Creek users,” said Gray.
People planning to visit Hell Creek next year can expect to enjoy the same basic services. The FWP web page for the site says:
On the Hell Creek Arm of Fort Peck Lake, this park provides facilities for most water sports, as well as excellent multi-species fishing, including walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. Hell Creek also serves as a launching point for boat camping in the wild and scenic Missouri Breaks. There are 71 campsites, 44 of which have electrical hookups. The park also offers a comfort station, potable water, playground, trails, fish cleaning station, RV dump station and a group facility you can reserve for special events. Hell Creek Marina, a private marina offering bait, groceries, gas and other services, is located at Hell Creek State Park.
FWP director Hank Worsech said in a news release: “It’s been a pleasure working with Chairman (Gerald) Gray on the transition process. He has demonstrated his strong leadership, his tenacity in strengthening his tribe, and his commitment to conserving the resources at Hell Creek and preserving the access and recreational opportunities the public enjoys.”