Campgrounds and recreation sites are important and widely used facilities throughout United States Forest Service (USFS) lands. These facilities range from remote trailhead locations to highly trafficked, paved campgrounds. As with all infrastructure, regular improvements and upkeep are recommended to prevent the sites from going into disrepair. With the advent of an important, recently implemented federal funding source, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in 2020, the Forest Service has been able to improve a considerable number of these facilities. This GAOA funding provides a dedicated funding source for recreation-focused improvements, including campgrounds, trailheads, roadway improvements, signing, facilities, and trail improvements.
Through USFS Region 1 (Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota), Great West Engineering (Great West) has been working with numerous Forests on a variety of engineering designs for recreational improvements. The following highlights several of these projects.
Falls Creek Campground Site Aerial
Project Information Signage at Falls Creek Site
Plan in Hand Site Visit with USFS
Rocky Ridge Campground, Nez Perce-Clearwater NF
View From Lolo Motorway, Nez Perce-Clearwater NF
Completed Campground in Helena-Lewis & Clark NF
Falls Creek Campground, Helena – Lewis & Clark National Forest, Montana
The development and implementation of this project was a long time in the making. This area, located on the Rocky Mountain Front in north-central Montana, provides critical access to the upper Dearborn River, Falls Creek Falls, and access to over 20,000 acres of Forest lands, including the Scapegoat Wilderness. Due to private property ownership, the public lands in this area had largely been blocked to public access. In 2019, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) came to an agreement with a landowner for purchase of 442 acres, which the RMEF then transferred to the USFS, with the understanding that trail development and recreational site improvements would occur. In late 2021, the USFS contracted with Great West for the development of a new campground, river access improvements, and other recreational site improvements. Great West worked hand-in-hand with the USFS recreation employees, district ranger, engineers, and landscape architects to develop numerous conceptual alternatives and final design for the development of a new campground, stock campground, water pump, toilet facilities, and river access improvements. The project design was completed in 2023 with planned implementation in 2024-2025.
Wilderness Access Improvements, Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest, Idaho
The Nez Perce-Clearwater NF in central Idaho provides important access to three wilderness areas, Frank Church River of No Return, Selway-Bitterroot, and Gospel Humps. The Forest Service obtained GAOA funding for improvements for roadway access, parking areas, signing, trailhead facilities, and campgrounds. This large-scale project included more than 200 miles of roadway inventories and topographic and aerial drone surveys of 12 sites. Due to size and funding priorities, the projects were broken up into six distinct sites. Several projects are being implemented and several others are in final design. Project challenges have included remote sites, weather, forest fires, snow, and poor road conditions.
Crystal Lake Campground & Hay Canyon Campground, Helena – Lewis & Clark NF, Montana
Crystal Lake Campground is a developed campground located in Central Montana near Lewistown on Crystal Lake, a popular fishing and recreation area. The campground had been identified by the Forest as needing improvements to the entire campground, as well as full water system and solar system improvements. Great West completed the topographic survey, roadway and campsite improvement design, water system design, and host campsite improvements.
Hay Canyon Campground is a recreation area located on the South Fork of the Judith River near Lewistown. The previous site included several dispersed sites that the USFS wanted to make into a fee campground area with more developed sites and associated features.
With visitor numbers to our National Forests on the incline, our team is proud to partner with the Forest Service to enhance the experience for generations to come. We look forward to being able to enjoy the completed sites and continuing to utilize our campground and recreation site design expertise on future projects. To learn more about our capabilities or how we can help your community, contact us today.
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