Enticing Ennis Lake.
Just north of Ennis is a reservoir that, viewed from the surrounding mountains, looks like the haphazard puddle of a spilled bucket. Though small and shallow—the deepest sections mark out around 20 feet—Ennis Lake is a great spot for a summer excursion.
Meadow Lake Campground is the only public camping area on Ennis Lake. This campground is primitive, meaning it doesn’t have flush toilets or showers, but it does allow tent-camping, and it happens to be very close to the boat ramp. Meadow Lake is a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks access site and camping is first-come, first-served, so there’s no guaranteeing a site during peak weekends. For more information, visit fwp.mt.gov or call the Region 3 office at 994-4042. If you’re using an RV or travel trailer, or if a cabin rental is more your style, check out Lakeshore Cabins and Campground. This little outfit has many amenities but doesn’t allow tent camping. Find information and make reservations at 682-4424.
Ennis Lake is home to some quality trout and whitefish; however, the fish are harder to catch later in the summer as water temperatures rise. Early mornings and late evenings are usually the best bet when fishing Ennis Lake; these are also the best times to avoid the noise and disturbance of the lake’s motorized users. Fishing can be done from shore, but for access and opportunity, hop in a boat. While large fish will venture into the shallows to gobble up baitfish and bugs during cooler months, mid-summer is a deepwater game. If fishing in early summer, focus on the inlet area. Lures, flies, and bait are all allowed. Check with the Tackle Shop or Shedhorn Sports in Ennis for up-to-date fishing information.
Ennis Lake is hugely popular with water-sports enthusiasts, due to the reservoir’s warm temperatures. During the mid-summer heat, you’re likely to see all manner of floating craft, including tubers, power-boaters, and personal watercraft of various shapes and sizes. Non-motorized boats have open access to the entire lake, but motorized craft are restricted to the area outside of Kobayashi Bay.
While the area directly around Ennis Lake is primarily private land, there are a couple of good hikes within a short drive of the camping area. Down past the infrastructure area of the dam, a trail emerges that will take a hiker all the way through the scenic Bear Trap Canyon. This trail is good for an overnighter as well, provided both hikers are experienced and in decent shape. Beware: there are rattlers aplenty on this trail, so vigilance and a snakebite kit are recommended. South Meadow Creek is also close to the lake, and while it’s a great place for a mid-week hike or mountain-bike ride, it’s also open to off-road motorized use, so avoid it on weekends if you want solitude.
This summer, instead of floating the Madison again, or dragging the family up to Fairy Lake, head over the hill to Ennis Lake for a change of scenery.
Kurt Dehmer owns Durty Kurty’s Guide Service in Bozeman.