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Overview of Coal Banks Landing

Elevation 2,526 ft / 769 m

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Reviews of Coal Banks Landing 2 people have reviewed this location.

Ratings Summary

Overall Rating
Site Quality
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Voyagers On Wheels
Sioux Falls, SD 33' Winnebago 2008 Voyage
79 reviews
“The benefits of an open schedule and finding things by chance”

Reviewed 8/12/2019

Nightly rate: $5
Days stayed: 2
Site Number: 5
Overall Rating

We were on our way to Malta from Cascade and stopped at the Upper Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center where we saw the information about this CG and the other review. So plans changed in an instant and forward we went.* Our rate reflects our use of the "old fart" card-the NPS senior pass. It's $10 otherwise and a $4 river charge if you plan to paddle.

This is a great small CG. There is space for 3 larger rigs as the rest is for tents, of which there are many belonging to people camping for the night before setting off on the multi-day trip to Judith's Landing. There is a grassy area next to the garage which can be used for a couple extra RVs. Since it’s FC/FS sometimes groups of campers set up in the RV sites but are usually gone by the next day so if you wished to stay a few nights parking in the grass would work. OR: 406-378-2607 is the direct line to the Visitor Center at the campground if you want to call ahead about sites or room for a rig, but nothing can be reserved. When we arrived early afternoon on a Friday the CG was empty but a later arrival (early evening) had to use the grassy area. Saturday night there was only 1 other RV and 1 couple in a tent.

Access: it is 8 miles of washboard gravel. Watch out for the GPS (Google maps) directions that might try to send you down a road that will eventually get you to the right route but it’s not as hard packed. If coming from Fort Benton it is well marked and when you get to the low overpass (a few miles from the CG) the left turn is clear, and takes you up and down to the road. If coming from the north the turn is well before the road with the overpass but be aware that the last hill is quite steep and graveled. Either way, other than the shake down quality is easily navigable for even large rigs.
Location: Cannot be beat although if you aren’t planning to paddle down on the 3 days trip through the White Cliffs you won’t have a lot to do without driving miles on gravel. There is the small town of Virgelle with the Mercantile and a B&B and then further down the road is the Virgelle Ferry (for which the road is named) Bev has lived in the house there since 1960 and grew up as ell as raised her own kids and is wonderful. You can ferry your car across for a long gravel road back to Fort Benton or to Loma or she’ll take you over and back on foot. If you want a very short paddle and have your own kayak/canoe you can put in there and get out at the CG. OR you can sign up with an outfit in Fort Benton and float to the CG. There are 3 sites, one sits virtually on the banks of the river. Another sits in the open field across the street. Both of these are full sun. Site #4 backs up to a cottonwood tree and a long hedge of them so is a lot cooler. In any of them you are less than a 5 min walk from the water. There are birds galore.
There is NO cell service there but in the Visitor Center there is and it’s open.

Cleanliness: I did not use the vault toilets but was told that it seems that the BLM might be trying to phase out toilets and have campers use WAG bags. The toilets here are still open so no problem there yet. There are two water spigots and the water is treated with chlorine because the Missouri River is not potable. We had already filled our tanks but did use it to wash off the kayaks. Otherwise the place is kept very clean and grass is mowed.
Our site was level and the others looked to be as well and if off it would not be by much. The sites are HUGE. WAY bigger than our 33’ MH plus the car. Seriously 2 could fit!
AS for quiet...it is blissful. At dawn the cows across the river, the horses up the hill, the geese on the island and the other birds will be greeting the sun but the humans will be retiring early at night and waking early to get on the river and there is no loud anything.

If you are not going to paddle I highly recommend walking north on the road to the formations at the corner. They are a small sampling of what the White Cliffs are like. It’s private land but you can see them all from the road. Head on up the hill and the views of the Bear Paws Mountains are great.

Site Quality

Voyagers On Wheels would stay here again

This review is the opinion of a Campendium member and not of Campendium.com

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Zamia Ventures
Hobe Sound, FL 25' Airstream Flying Cloud Ford F150
132 reviews
“Remote camping directly on the Mighty Missouri”

Reviewed 6/30/2018

Nightly rate: $10
Days stayed: 2
Site Number: 8
Overall Rating

Where else can you park directly on the river for $10/night? There are not many choices for camping along the Missouri in the Great Falls / Fort Benton area, but Coal Banks is really a great option. Although managed by the BLM, the campground is most similar to a nice national forest campground. There is a small number of designated sites -- only 3 RV sites and an unknown number of tent sites. Sites are quite level, with picnic tables and fire pits. There is a vault toilet, and a small cabin/office with information and -- get this -- FREE WIFI on the porch. There's no service on any carrier in the campground, as far as we could tell. Water was also NOT available during our visit, so come prepared with all your water.

The big draw of the campground is that it is right on the Missouri River, with excellent wildlife viewing and fishing opportunities. There is a boat launch right in the campground that is used by many of the local outfitters to launch multi-day boat trips through the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, and several boat groups came through for one night stays during our visit.

The best RV site is the one that backs up directly to the river, and the second best is the one on the right hand side as you enter (site 8) because it offers great privacy. There is a camp host on site, and the boat tour groups were fun but not rowdy at all. Access is down a 5+ mile gravel road from 87 with two entrances. The southern portion of the loop road was better quality but if you're towing an RV you MUST turn before a low-clearance bridge (bypass goes to the left as you approach the bridge from 87). The northern portion of the loop road to 87 was more of a washboard but still passable.

Site Quality

Zamia Ventures would stay here again

This review is the opinion of a Campendium member and not of Campendium.com

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  • dry camping
  • restrooms: vault
  • water available


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