Location: Fort Peck, MT Mile 1771.5

Fort Peck Dam is the first dam built in the upper Missouri River Basin. The area surrounding Fort Peck was first charted by Lewis and Clark in 1804, and the pristine natural condition of the river and surrounding area awed the renowned explorers.

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Fort Peck Dam is the first dam built in the upper Missouri River Basin. The area surrounding Fort Peck was first charted by Lewis and Clark in 1804, and the pristine natural condition of the river and surrounding area awed the renowned explorers.

The Old Fort Peck trading post was built in 1867 on a narrow ledge of shale about 35 feet above the river, its rear wall abutting the hillside. The front of the stockade was so close to the ledge that it was an effective steamboat landing for sternwheelers that made frequent trips upstream. But the site of the old stockade was lost to the river near the turn of the century.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Fort Peck project in 1933, thousands of people from all over the country migrated to Montana during the midst of the Great Depression in hopes of earning a living. More than 7,000 men and women signed on to work on the dam in 1934 and 1935. Employment peaked at nearly 11,000 dam workers in 1936, and thousands more swarmed to Montana to set up businesses including food markets, hardware stores, butcher shops, general stores, saloons and brothels. More than eighteen boomtowns sprang up in the vicinity, and the "wild west" was reborn as a tiny and obscure township swelled from a population of a few hundred to nearly 40,000 people.

Maj. Clark C. Kittrell, who served as Corps of Engineers deputy district engineer at Fort Peck from 1933 to 1937 and as the district engineer from 1937 to 1940, defined the complexity of the mission: "No engineering job of this magnitude had ever been attempted with so short a time for planning."

New techniques had to be learned and developed as rapidly as ingenuity would allow. Countless technical problems arose and were solved. A shipyard, created on site, quickly turned out the "Fort Peck Navy," which would dredge the river bottom and pump the slurry that formed the dam. Workers overcame a massive slide in 1938, a year after closure was made, and with completion of the dam in sight. The last load of material was dumped in October 1940, almost seven years to the day after FDR’s authorization.

The legacy that is Fort Peck provides visitors a fascinating look into yesteryear. The town of Fort Peck, now an independent municipality, is a rare treasure. Neither progress nor modernization can erase the etchings of time that allow visitors a glimpse back at another era.

Many of the early buildings - some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Building - still stand, symbols of a distant past, with an integrity that allows them to function yet today.

The vast size of Fort Peck Lake and its remoteness from major population centers provide a variety of high quality outdoor experiences. Popular recreation activities include camping, boating, fishing, hunting, sight-seeing, picnicking, biking, hiking, photography, watching wildlife and just relaxing.

Fifteen hundred miles of pristine shoreline serve as a haven for those wishing to get away from the stresses of modern life. There are 27 recreation areas located around the reservoir. The areas near and around the dam offer paved roads, electricity, showers and playgrounds while facilities around the rest of the lake are more primitive with gravel roads, picnic tables and vault toilets. Access roads to many of the remote areas may be impassable in inclement weather.

Fort Peck Lake enjoys nationwide recognition as a hot spot for walleye fishing. The lake also offers excellent fishing for sauger, smallmouth bass, lake trout, chinook salmon and northern pike. The introduction of cisco as a forage fish in 1983 proved successful and has increased both the size and number of game fish.

The Fort Peck Lake Area and the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge provide superb hunting of deer, elk, big horn sheep, and prong horn. The Missouri River Breaks are known for producing large elk and other game animals.

Additional information on fishing and hunting can be obtained by contacting the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

  • From Glasgow, MT, take Highway 24 south 17 miles to Fort Peck.
  • From Nashua, MT take Highway 117 south 12 miles to Fort Peck

Fort Peck Interpretive Center exhibits include wildlife of the C. M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, paleontology; including a cast of the Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Peck’s Rex, Fort Peck Dam construction history, boomtowns and homesteading. The center also showcases the two largest aquariums in Montana, displaying native and game fish of Fort Peck Lake and the Missouri River.

The center’s interpretive programs, theater presentations, amphitheater programs and nature hikes covering a variety of topics are presented weekly throughout the summer.

The Center is connected to the Kiwanis Park Day Use Area and the Downstream Campground by a network of more than 3 miles of paved nature trails. The trails are a popular birding and wildlife viewing winding along the Missouri River and surrounding wooded area. Other amenities in this area include three fishing ponds, playground equipment, horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, basketball court, picnic tables and picnic shelters.

Visitor Center Hours: The Fort Peck Interpretive Center is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  Call (406) 526-3493 or (406) 526-3411 for current hours.

  • Hours are subject to change due to staffing or public and employee health and safety. Call (406) 526-3493 or (406) 526-3411 to confirm your visit and to coordinate a group of 20 or more people.

Due to concern for the health and safety of staff and the public, powerhouse tours have been suspended indefinitely.  Call (406) 526-3493 or (406) 526-3411 for more information or visit our FB page @USACEFortPeck