Cooney State Park is located in Roberts, Montana, about 40 miles south of Billings in Storey County. It has a reputation of being the most popular natural recreation area in the south-central Montana area with around a quarter of a million visitors arriving each year. Cooney State Park is predominantly comprised of the 300 acre Cooney Reservoir which sits right in the middle of the park. As such the main activities in this park center around the water including swimming, boating, sailing, waterskiing and fishing. The park is open year round so once the water freezes, visitors can also enjoy ice fishing, ice skating and ski tubing. In the areas around the lake park guests can do some camping, hiking or cross country skiing.
Cooney State Park is situated at the base of the Beartooth Mountains, and the reservoir is fed by the Red Lodge Creek. Many people stay at the Cooney State Park on their way to Yellowstone National Park because it’s only a day’s drive away from Yellowstone’s northeast entrance. Cooney State Park is also only 25 miles from Red Lodge, which features a few museums for rainy days, along with the Red Lodge Mountain Resort Golf Course with 100 mile views of the Beartooth Mountains. This mountain range is the largest area over an elevation of 10,000 feet in all of North America. Highlights include glaciers, waterfalls and beautiful lakes along with Granite Peak, the tallest mountain in Montana. Cooney State Park is a popular base camp for hikers and photographers who wish to explore the beautiful scenery these mountains have to offer.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks stocks the Cooney Reservoir each year with over 100,000 rainbow trout and walleye. There is a permanent boat launch installed for easy access along with ample parking for boat trailers. They do not rent boats but if you don’t have one of your own, the fishing is notorious for being excellent from the docks and along the shore as well. Spring and autumn seem to yield the biggest catches because in the summer there is a lot of activity on the lake combined with an increase in anglers. A fish cleaning station is provided so you can quickly prepare your day’s catch for the frying pan.
The land around the reservoir consists of rolling hills with beautiful prairie grasses and old cottonwood trees. A total of 72 campsites are scattered throughout the park offering various amenities. Eleven of the campsites offer electric hookups. There is a group camping site available to be reserved, and it’s recommended you do so well in advance to ensure your group can camp together. Most of the park’s camping sites are intended for tenters.
Drinking water is available on the property along with modern toilet facilities and coin operated showers. While camping is open all year, be advised that the showers are only available between 1 May and 30 September. There is a picnic site with a playground for young children. Charcoal grills are also provided for visitors to use.
Cooney State Park added a concession stand in 2010 which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, every Thursday through Sunday. They sell an assortment of drinks and snacks, bottled water, ice, and firewood for campfires, along with some popular types of bait. Safety items are also available such as fire extinguishers and flotation devices for carrying on boats.
Some small sections of the park are open for hunters when the season opens. Contact the park or the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department for a map and more information on which areas are available.
If you would like to bring your pet they must remain on a leash and can only stay for the day. They are not allowed to stay in any of the camping areas overnight. A day use pass for non-Montana residents costs $5.00 per vehicle. You can rent a campsite in off season (1 Oct – 30 April) for $13, and the rest of the year the sites are $15. If you choose a site with electricity there is a $5 surcharge for electricity usage tacked on.
For more information on Cooney State Park and some beautiful pictures of the reservoir, visit their official website: http://fwp.mt.gov/parks/visit/parkSiteDetail.html?id=283293.