Cooney Reservoir Offers a Variety of Activities
Living in a semi-arid region means there are not too many lakes near Billings. To compensate, some of the small streams that naturally run from the mountains to the prairies have been dammed up creating reservoirs. Cooney Reservoir is one such place, and it is close enough that you can just get away for the afternoon if that is all you want to do. With many different activities available at Cooney, there is something for everyone.
Located just 40 miles south of Billings, the reservoir is convenient to anyone in the area. Coming in at right around 310 acres in size, the body of water is big enough to handle quite a few people. As Red Lodge Creek flows northeast out of the Beartooths, it has been dammed up. The reservoir maintains water year round and provides a great place to fish.
During the summer, you will want to have a boat. The lake is big enough and deep enough that getting around to the good fishing spots necessitates a boat. Plus, I have never had much luck fishing from the shore, so make sure you have a way to get around. During the winter, however, fishing is a little bit easier. The reservoir freezes over, and getting to the prime spots is a matter of walking on the ice and drilling a hole with an ice auger. If you want some great tips on what is biting, check out the Cooney page on FishingNotes.com.
If fishing isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are other things to do on the lake. During the summer, this is a prime spot for people to go water skiing. The lake is far enough from the mountains that the weather does get warm during the summer months. For those who do not want to ski, swimming is always an option. This time of year, on the other hand, is the beginning of ice skating season. I have not been to the reservoir lately, but I’m guessing the ice is not quite thick enough to support your weight. Give it a couple more weeks to set up nicely. Once the snow starts to fall (and stick around) cross country skiing in the area is a popular activity.
You can go for an afternoon and stake one of the many picnic spots around the lake. Or go for a weekend and pay the small fee to pitch a tent (or park your RV) in the campgrounds. There is plenty of space around the lake, and everyone will get a chance so mind your manners, no pushing and shoving. If you need a snack there was a concession stand installed in 2010. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you can pick up some of the smaller items you might need.
Cooney is a fantastic getaway that is not far from Billings. Head south on Highway 212 as though you are going to Red Lodge; just after Joliet, near the town of (Boyd) you will see signs pointing you toward Cooney. Follow those roads for a little ways, and you will pop out right next to the dam (here’s a map). There are no set hours, but it is always safest to play during the daylight. Make sure you pack appropriate clothes for the season, and take an emergency kit; cell service may be spotty if you need to call for help. If you have never been to Cooney before, take a couple hours one of these afternoons and check out what it has to offer.
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