Koocanusa Area

view of reservoir

The Koocanusa Area is primarily centered along a narrow 90 mile long Koocanusa Reservoir, formed by Libby Dam. Approximately 60 miles are within the United States.  Libby Dam is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers which provides daily dam tours.   Koocanusa Reservoir is the major recreation attraction in this geographic area, providing ideal settings for large watercraft and sailing.  The reservoir contains a large and stable population of Kookanee salmon, Kamloops (rainbow) trout, bull trout, West slope cutthroat trout and burbot.  Fishing has been reported to be fantastic.   There are a number of large developed recreation complexes along the reservoir shoreline including: Rexford Bench, McGillivray, Peck Gulch, and Rocky Gorge.   Campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming beaches, boat ramps, as well as day use areas comprise many of the facilities within these developed sites.  In addition there are two marina complexes located on the reservoir, one on the southern end, at Cripple Horse, while the northern portion of the reservoir has Mariners Haven Resort near the Town of Rexford.  There are also a number of private RV parks, restaurants, and stores near the marinas or within the surrounding communities of West Kootenai, Rexford, Eureka and Libby. Two paved highways running adjacent to the reservoir and extending from Eureka to Libby have been designated by the State of Montana as a Scenic Byway.   Traffic is light and views along the roadways are memorable, including glimpses of the Ural-Tweed Big Horn Sheep herd, located on the eastern side of the reservoir along Hwy 37, 

 Various mountain ranges create the geographic setting; Purcell Mountains located west of Koocanusa Reservoir while the Salish Mountains are located on the eastern side.   The Koocanusa Area is the perfect setting for year round recreational attractions, including: fishing, water sports, rock and ice climbing, and driving for pleasure, especially during the fall Western Larch color change.  

Stone Hill climbing area is also located adjacent to Hwy 37 just south of Koocanusa Bridge.  The climbing area offers in excess of 70 established climbing routes.  Many climbers use the site as an opportunity to hone their climbing skills or to introduce new climbers to the sport.  Koocanusa Bridge located at Mile Post 53, approximately 6 miles south of the Town of Rexford.  It is the longest and highest bridge in Montana.  The bridge connects Hwy 37 to the Western side of the reservoir and recreational opportunities such as road access to the Yaak River valley, the community of West Kootenai, and numerous hiking trails and fishing creeks.  Located on the western side is a former fire lookout cabin that is now available for the public to rent.

 The Koocanusa Area is the perfect setting for a large-water based recreation vacation.

Fish Your National Forests: This site can be accessed by Passenger Car; Fish available include: Trout, Native Trout; Types of fishing available include: Wade, Shore, Motorized boat, Float tube, Spin, Bait; ADA Accessible fishing access with boat launch

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Sand Play

Areas below the high water mark of the Koocanusa Reservoir are open to all motor vehicles including both highway legal and non Highway  legal vehicles with the exception of areas signed on the ground for resource protection.

Areas for Sand Play at Koocanusa Area

Road Cycling

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can be dangerous and scary sport. Use caution in the route you choose. 

Areas for Rock Climbing at Koocanusa Area

Lake and Pond Fishing

Areas for Lake and Pond Fishing at Koocanusa Area

River and Stream Fishing

Areas for River and Stream Fishing at Koocanusa Area

Ice Fishing

Day Hiking

Horse Riding

Areas for Horse Riding at Koocanusa Area

Big Game Hunting

OHV Road Riding

Scenic Driving

Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway was created in 1992 to become the Northern Region's 5th scenic byway. In 2011 it was designated as a State Scenic byway.

Boating - Motorized

Areas for Boating - Motorized at Koocanusa Area


Areas for Swimming at Koocanusa Area


Areas for Tubing at Koocanusa Area


Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  • Be Bear Aware!
    Montana is bear country! Learn about bears and safe practices while visiting the Kootenai
  • Food Storage Order
    A food storage order signed in 2022 requires food storage practice across the Forest to reduce the potential for human-wildlife encounters
  • Know Before You Go OffSite Link

    Regardless of the activity, always be prepared! Stay informed of current conditions and follow safe practices when enjoying your National Forests

  • Leave No Trace OffSite Link

    Visitors are asked to practice Leave No Trace principles while on the Kootenai National Forests to help maintain this abundant ecosystem and sustainable recreation.

  • Weed Free Forage
    It is a violation of rule (FS) and law (State of Montana) to utilize forage or mulch materials that contain the seeds of noxious weeds


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