BILLINGS - June is a beautiful time of year to camp in Montana - or at least it usually is.
But this year, getting to campgrounds this year can be impossible after this month's major floods.
“The East Rosebud has significant road damage throughout the drainage,” Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan, the public affairs specialist with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), said Tuesday.
The USFS now expects many popular campgrounds near Red Lodge to be closed for the entire summer.
“Sheridan, Rattin, M-K and Limber Pine are all campgrounds that we anticipate are going to be closed for the season,” said Leuschen-Lonergan.
As you head down the Stillwater Valley, it’s similar sight. Woodbine, Jimmy Joe and East Rosebud campgrounds are also expected to remain closed for the year.
The campgrounds themselves suffered minimal damage but roads, bridges and parking lot areas are a mess.
“There’s just a cliff now where the road used to be. And that... was the moment where I think we realized, oh gosh, we really are not getting out of here any time soon,” said Nicole Oshea, who was evacuated from the East Rosebud campground on June 14.
Oshea was able to make it out, but her car is still stuck there, and she has no idea when she’ll be able to get it.
“You just think that when something happens your insurance is going to cover it, and I have full coverage insurance, but my claim initially got denied because there’s not physical damage to the car and because an adjuster couldn’t go see it,” Oshea said.
Overall flood damage to USFS campgrounds, trails and recreation facilities in Montana is estimated at $20 million, according to Leuschen-Longergan.
The Forest Service hopes to pay for some of that damage through the Federal Highways Program.
“Our initial estimates are about $5.7 million is what we are going to submit,” said Leuschen-Lonergan.
While all of the damage is overwhelming, there is at least some positive news headed into the Fourth of July weekend.
A few campgrounds near Red Lodge are set to be open.
“The Palisades Campground is one that is open," Leuschen-Lonergan said. "The district also anticipates opening Basin Campground later this week."
If you do plan on heading out for a camping trip, you should contact the district office at 406-446-2103 to check if a campground is open and safe.