One of my favorite, not-so-secret outdoor spots within minutes of Billings and Laurel is the Sundance Lodge Recreation Area. The area has now grown by 25 acres with a new, pizza-slice shaped parcel of land that borders the Yellowstone River and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone (outlined in blue, below)

Credit: Montana DOJ

The Sundance Lodge Recreation area is a former ranch.

The main portion of Sundance Lodge is a 380 acre mix of river bottom, cottonwoods and fields near Laurel. It was a working ranch until 1997, when the land was acquired by the Bureau of Land Management. It's easy-access and flat terrain makes it a popular destination for dog walkers, joggers, fishermen, bird watchers and others looking for some serenity.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

The 2011 ExxonMobile pipeline spill paid for the purchase.

The new parcel of land was funded from the settlement of the 2011 ExxonMobile pipeline spill near Laurel, that dumped approximately 63,000 gallons of oil into the river during high-flow, resulting in 85 river miles being affected from the spill.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

The new piece of property adds trails and river access.

25 acres isn't much, but these 25 acres of day-use-only public land are located in a really great spot at the exact confluence of the Yellowstone River and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. Not to be confused with the Clark Fork river in northwestern Montana. The entry to the new piece is about 1/2 mile east of the main area entrance.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

You can fish two rivers while standing at the same spot.

To the left of the picture above is the Yellowstone River and on the right is Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. Sundance Lodge Recreation Area pathways are non-motorized only, and there are no boat launches at either location. However, the new parcel's proximity to the parking lot offers a very short walk if you want to drag a tube, canoe or kayak into or out of the water.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Don't be rude. Pick up your trash.

The new parcel, with its freshly carved paths, has only been open for a short time. I was disappointed to already find trash littered on the property. Anti-littering slogans have been drilled into our heads since childhood (Give a hoot, don't pollute! Leave No Trace! Pack it in, pack it out!) yet people still think it's okay to leave their garbage in the woods. Disgusting.

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Sundance Recreation Area is open for day-use only. No motorized vehicles. Camping is only allowed with BLM approval for special events. Firearm and archery hunting is limited to a specific block management program with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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