Hebgen Lake, Montana, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Montana - Gold West Country - Yellowstone Country -

Anglers will find some of Montana’s best stillwater trout fishing at Hebgen Lake. The 12,500-acre reservoir lies conveniently just outside the western entry to Yellowstone National Park. An artificial reservoir created in 1914 along the Madison River by the Montana Reservoir and Irrigation Company, the lake quickly became the ideal spot for water-based recreation. Along its 70-mile shoreline, one will find resorts, private homes and Gallatin National Forest Campgrounds. The peaceful water scenes against the backdrop of several spectacular peaks represent the best Montana has to offer. No wonder so many who discover Hebgen Lake come back time after time.

The area around the town of West Yellowstone is a noted tourism location year-round. Visitors to Hebgen Lake add a new dimension to their Yellowstone vacation with swimming, wakeboarding, wind-surfing and wildlife viewing along the wooded shoreline. Several resorts fronting the lake offer guest cottages, apartment-style extended stay rooms and regular hotel rooms, along with great small restaurants, local nightlife and fantastic lake views. Three of the resorts also act as full-service marinas, renting boats, canoes and kayaks, and servicing boats brought to the lake. Boat slips are available for lease as well as overnight docking. Bait, tackle, gas and boating supplies are sold along with snacks, ice and sundries.

Lake resorts have swimming areas and often also manage campsites for RV travelers. Hebgen Lake permits all types of watercraft, including power boats, jet skis, sailboats, canoes and pontoons. A new group, the Hebgen Lake Yacht Club, is located at one of the resorts and sponsors sailboat races and boating activities. Several commercial campgrounds are located around the lake, so there is always room for another ‘lakelubber’. Two US Forest Service campgrounds offer more economical and primitive camping opportunities, although some campsites have electricity. Rainbow Point Campground has a swim area, boat ramp, picnic tables and campfire rings. The Cherry Creek Campground has dispersed campsites only. A forest service day use area is located at Rainbow Point Picnic Area, with docks, boat ramp, fire grates and tables. Bird watching is a popular activity, with bald eagle, golden eagle, osprey, sand hill crane, Canada goose, heron, white pelican, western grebe, loon, mallard and wood duck among those sighted.

Stocked with trout yearly, the fishing at Hebgen Lake is outstanding. The lake holds brown trout, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout, along with Utah chub, mountain whitefish and white suckers. The trout grow to good size and are best caught on dry flies. The lake’s many bays and inlets offer good fish habitat. Several outfitters in West Yellowstone arrange for guided fishing on both Hebgen Lake and nearby Quake Lake. A Montana fishing license is necessary, and all regulations must be followed.

Hebgen Lake is also open for ice fishing. One of the marina-resorts rents ice fishing shelters in a variety of configurations to assure anglers’ comfort. With a warm and comfortable hotel room or guest cabin waiting on shore, fishermen can fish comfortably all day in their shirtsleeves in the heated ice houses-or choose to stay on the lake all night. The resort is now experimenting with year-round tiny houses on the lake; in summer, the ice houses are mounted on pontoons to float near the dock for an authentic floating guest room. In winter, the pontoons come off and the house is skidded onto the ice for a luxury fishing shelter.

Mount Hebgen rises just to the east of Hebgen Lake. A number of hiking trails cross the lower slopes of the mountain, all with excellent views and the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. Much of the eastern shoreline lies within the Gallatin National Forest. The area holds deer, moose, bison, elk, mountain goat, coyote and fox. On occasion, a black bear, wolf or grizzly bear may wander close to the lake. Many trailheads branch out from Red Canyon Road, including some suitable for mountain biking; the really adventurous mountain biker will find highly ‘technical’ and single-track routes farther up Mount Hebgen. Those who love horseback treks can arrange to stay at a guest ranch near the south end of the lake, offering a variety of trail rides, guided trail adventures and the full complement of ‘dude ranch’ activities.

One nearby attraction that many don’t know exists is the airbase of the US Forest Service’s West Yellowstone Smoke Jumpers. When not forest fighting fires, the staff is willing to arrange tours of their facility and explain how parachuting into a forest fire is carried out. The base is just north of the Town of West Yellowstone. Another must-visit attraction is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and education center near West Yellowstone. And, the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park is just east of the small city. West Yellowstone holds plenty of choices of lodgings and a variety of restaurants and shopping. One of the most delightful places to stay may be a private lakefront rental cottage or home on Hebgen Lake. Often, these vacation rentals include a boat or kayak.

The landscape is interesting, with many of the nearby slopes scarred by the earthquake scarps from the 1959 earthquake. The earthquake that did much damage to the Hebgen Dam and created Quake Lake changed the landscape here forever, although nature has reclaimed and concealed much of the damage. Emergency repairs to the dam were successful in saving the dam and the lake in 1959, but recent inspections required the dam to be upgraded to meet new, more stringent regulations. A major construction project recently rebuilt much of the structure to stronger standards. More information on the devastation caused by the 1959 earthquake can be found on the Quake Lake page linked to this one.

Although Hebgen Lake and the dam have been owned for many years by PPL Montana, a power company, the dam has never been used to generate electricity. That may change in the future as PPL Montana recently sold the dam and reservoir to NorthWestern Energy. Regardless of who technically owns the reservoir, there will be no changes to the resorts, cottages, campgrounds and homes along the lake. The trout will still be waiting for you to entice them, and the gently lapping waves against shore will still lull you to a good night’s sleep.

Things to do at Hebgen Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Jet Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Wind Surfing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Hebgen Lake

  • Brown Trout
  • Carp
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Sucker
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Hebgen Lake Photo Gallery

Hebgen Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: NorthWestern Energy

Surface Area: 12,564 acres

Shoreline Length: 70 miles

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 0 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 6,547 feet

Maximum Depth: 70 feet

Water Volume: 386,000 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1914

Trophic State: Oligotrophic

Spread the word! Share our Hebgen Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.