Coal Banks is named for the dark layer of lignite coal in the hillsides. Steamboats used the landing both during the Indian wars of 1876-1877 and the construction of Fort Assiniboine on the northwest side of the Bears Paw Mountains.
This site is the primary launch point to float the Upper Missouri River. The campground is located on the north bank of the river approximately 2 miles downriver from the Virgelle Ferry.
Activities: Tent camping, RV camping (no hook-ups), boating, fishing, picknicking.
Safety Note: Motorboats may not be able to launch (depending on size) if water levels drop below 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This is the last opportunity to replenish your water supply from a public water source.
Facilities: Thirteen picnic tables, nine fire rings, two vault toilets, two parking areas, a concrete boat ramp, potable water, boater self-registration box, and a BLM contact station.
Location: If approaching from the south (Great Falls/Fort Benton), take U.S. Hwy 87 north to mile marker 66.7. Turn right on Gardiner Road (improved gravel) and proceed approximately 7 miles to the Virgelle Ferry Road ( Gardiner Road will pass under an old train bridge and end at a “T” intersection). Turn left on Virgelle Ferry Road, travel approximately 1 mile and the campground will be on the right. If approaching from the north (Havre/Big Sandy) take U.S. Hwy 87 south to mile marker 72.4. Turn left on the Virgelle Ferry Road (improved gravel), proceed approximately 6 miles, and the campground will be on the left.
Season/Hours: Campground open year-round. Water available May 1 through October 31. BLM contact station/camp hosts available May 1 through September 30.
Maps: Lonesome Lake BLM map and Upper Missouri Boaters' Guide
Fort Benton River Management Station
P.O. Box 1389
Fort Benton, MT 59442
Toll Free: 877- 256-3252