Ackley Lake State Park was named after one of the earliest settlers in the area. It is located in a wide-open area of Montana – about 17 miles west of Lewsitown. This part of Montana reflects the reason why the state is often referred to as “Big Sky Country,” with the open views and endless span of sky. The park is located fairly close to the Rocky Mountains, providing a scenic backdrop for visitors. This park does not have an endless list of amenities and is classified as a primitive campground. Camping and fishing are the main activities that visitors to the park come for.
Ackley Lake State Park covers 160 acres, a good portion of which the lake covers. Visitors who fish in the lake may bring boats. The main type of fish caught in the lake are rainbow trout. Fishermen from all over the region come to this lake because of the enormous size of the fish. It is unknown why the fish are so large on average, but it is not uncommon to catch a trout between 10 and 15 inches long. Compared to the trout in the mountain streams and some other lakes in the region, these are considerably larger. Fishing prospects are good, as the lake is frequently stocked. The best times of day to fish here are early in the morning and in the early evening before sunset. Some fishermen in the area swear that the best bait is canned corn and worms – and that seems to prove true a good portion of the time.
During the winter, the lake is also a prime spot for ice fishing. It has been reported that several fishermen have caught large bass and trout in the winter. New ice-fishers are discouraged from using this lake. Since it has a lower elevation than the mountains, gauging the thickness of the ice and its safety is often difficult; thus, it should only be attempted by seasoned ice-fishers. Ice skating is also allowed in the winter months, but it is important to stay close to the shore. The lake doesn’t freeze evenly in the deeper parts, so skaters must remember to stay on ice that is completely opaque. Ice skating should only be done during long cold spells to ensure the ice is frozen through.
The lake in this park is fairly large and provides an excellent location for water sports fanatics to have fun. A well-built boat launch area is available. Jet skis, small boats and other watercraft are welcome. Windsurfers find this lake to be an excellent practice place with the nearby mountains’ winds coming down frequently. Canoe and kayak owners also enjoy visiting this lake during the seasons when it is not frozen. Swimming in unmarked areas is not recommended, as many parts of the lake contain undercurrents that are strong. Regardless of the water sport chosen to perform on this lake, it is important even for the most seasoned swimmers and sportsmen to wear a life vest because of this fact.
There is a path that wraps around the lake, which is a perfect location for walkers, runners, joggers or bicyclists. Pets are welcome on the paths and throughout the park, but they must be on a leash. Unlike many parts of Montana, the geography of this park does not include forested areas, so nature photographers are less likely to be attracted to it. There are several interesting prairie wildlife species to see, as well as insects and wildflowers in the summer. It is important to bring a good bug spray in the summer when spending time near the lake, as mosquitoes become thick.
Camping is allowed on the premises and is free for 14 days during a 30-day time period. Drinking water pumps are available. There are vault toilets near each campsite, but no showers. Grills, picnic tables and fire pits are included in campsites. The park has about 23 sites and one common area that may be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are not needed for campsites. For more information about the park, rules or lake, contact the state office responsible for maintaining the premises. Their phone number is (406) 454-5840.