Brush Lake State Park

Secrets abound in northeast Montana haven

Summer means exploring our state, and at Prairie Populist we’re joining the thousands of Montanans visiting the amazing lands, lakes, and historical sites that make up Montana’s state parks. We hope you’ll check back all summer and join us as we explore what these parks mean for the people of our state and how they help make Montana a place unlike any other.

When we pulled into Brush Lake State Park we thought it was very calm. And when we met Christian Anderson, the park ranger, he seemed very calm as well.

But calm people can still share their excitement for a place – very well as a matter of fact!

Christian grew up in Plentywood, about a dozen miles away from Brush Lake. After graduating from college, he worked at the Fargo Zoo for a while. But when the park ranger job was advertised in his home newspaper he applied right away.

Christian Anderson mowing in the trails

Although he’s only been the ranger at Brush Lake for a year, he told us about its past couple centuries.

The lake was formed in the Ice Age. When glaciers were moving across North America one got lodged where the lake is now located. When it finally melted out it left the sixty-feet-deep lake.

The groundwater-fed lake also has reefs. Yes, reefs, like what you hear about in the ocean. They are made of limestone – not coral – but you can see them through the crystal-clear water, forming canyons below the surface.

This bizarre turquoise lake is now home to shrimp, which brings migratory wading-birds that winter all the way down in the Andes in South America. These unique citing opportunities also bring birders from around the country.

The birds, as well as the plant cycles and biology, also brought Christian – at least for the summers. And he is making sure that the park can draw in more people as well.

But, Brush Lake is caught in a catch-22. While Christian wants more people to come to the park, it is just not set up for it. There are only 12 campsites – even though the original blueprint planned for more – and on busy weekends it is not very easy to run the park as a one-man show.


Despite the challenges, Christian is still making sure the park improves. He mows trails around the lake, where you can see ground owls hunting rodents, and Brush Lake is now dark skied certified. He told us about how you can see Jupiter’s moons with a telescope from there, so don’t go to sleep too early!

Throughout the conversation, Christian told us so much that you’d think he would have begun talking quickly or that we’d have asked tons of questions. But instead, it maintained a calm but passionate quality to it, with all of us pausing to stare out at the lake that could blend in with the light blue sky.


-Written by Andie Creel. Photographs by August Schield.

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