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Libby Dam
The Kootenai River is the third largest tributary to the Columbia River. Seventeen miles upstream from the town of Libby, the 422-foot tall Libby Dam holds back 90 miles of water in Lake Koocanusa. Forty-eight miles of the reservoir lie within U.S. borders, the other 42 miles are in Canada. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, camping, water skiing, family picnics, hiking, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing and more.

(Click on small pictures to see larger views)

Libby Dam
Libby Dam


View upstream from Libby Dam. Yarnell Island can be seen in the distance.

Libby Dam was completed in 1972 as a joint project between the United States and Canada in an effort to provide flood protection and to generate hydroelectric power. The Kootenai River fluctuated wildly in the spring causing flooding in Montana, Idaho and British Columbia, costing millions of dollars in flood damage. Congress authorized construction of Libby Dam in 1951 and construction began in 1966.


Libby Dam Visitor Center and Tour Information
Summer, 2024:
Libby Dam Visitor Center will begin public tours June 2nd, 2024, running through August.
Tours will be offered at 10am and 4pm. Please arrive 15 min beforehand to sign in.
Tours will be available 7 days a week, dependent on construction and staff availability.
Tours will be top of dam only during the week: M-Th.
Photo ID is required for everyone over age of 18 to go on tour. Those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Tours are first come, first serve, max 20 persons.
School groups and large groups can call and request a separate tour at a different time, we will do our best to accommodate you, advance notice is necessary.
Tours may be cancelled at any time for safety or security reasons.

Libby Dam Visitor Center will open for the Summer on June 1st at 9:30am.
Visitor Center hours, Summer 2024: 9:30am – 6:00 pm daily.
June, July, August, and September.
Libby Dam Visitor Center is located at 260 Souse Gulch Road, Libby MT 59923.
It is located approximately 15 miles north of Libby, off of Hwy 37 and Forest Development Road 228, Top of Dam, West side.

Please call the Visitor Center for more information 406-293-5577.

Treaty TowerRestrictions in the past have been if you are interested in taking a tour, you must check-in at the Visitor Center front desk at least 10 minutes prior to each tour time. Tours last approximately 1-½ hours and start from the Visitor Center. Adults wishing to take the tour must bring photo identification in the form of a valid drivers license or passport. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Bags, backpacks or purses are not allowed on tours. Cameras, video equipment or other electronic devices are also not allowed. When necessary, personal medication will be allowed to be carried on ones self. School groups and special request tours are still welcome throughout the year.

For information regarding current status, please contact the visitor center at (406) 293-5577.

Libby Dam is architecturally one of the strongest and most massive types of dam built today. The dam is 422 feet tall and 3,055 feet long and was built to withstand an earthquake of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale with no structural damage. Forty-seven monolithic sections make up the dam, each one designed to stand on its own like individual dams. If one section were to fail, the other 46 would remain standing. Seismic monitoring equipment carefully monitors the dam for movement and structural integrity through one of the most thorough instrumentation systems in the United States. 

Back side of Libby DamThere are over 30 full-time employees who work at Libby Dam year-round. During the summer, seasonal employees are added to the staff to assist with natural resources and powerhouse sections. Visitors can go on guided tours inside the dam during the summer months.

During the peak of the construction in the 1970s, Libby Dam employed over 2,000 workers.To offset the impact of the construction on nearby communities, the Corps of Engineers build three new schools, additions to several other schools, and the Libby airport. The town of Rexford was moved to higher ground, where a new school, water system, sewage system, fire station, post office and road were built. Highway 37 was also relocated to higher ground on the east side of the reservoir. A forest development road (FDR) was established along the west side of the reservoir, and provides access to the streams, drainages and recreational sites on the west side of the lake. Koocanusa Bridge, Montana's longest (2,437 feet) and highest (270 feet) bridge, was built to provide additional access across the north end of the reservoir. The Great Northern Railroad line was also relocated, Vehicles can drive across the top of Libby Damproving to be one of the most complex of all the projects related to the Libby Dam. This rail line relocation included the building of a seven-mile railroad tunnel through Elk Mountain, on the upper Wolf Creek Drainage of the Kootenai National Forest.

Recreation sites were built near the dam and at several locations along the lake edge. The sites at the dam are managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The other recreation sites are maintained by the US Forest Service. McGillivray Campground on the west side of the lake, has a boat dock, group picnic area, swimming area with sandy beach, and flush toilets.

Libby Dam generators can provide enough electricity for the daily needs of 500,000 average homes. Electricity generated by the dam is sold by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to customers in a 300,000 square-mile area that includes western Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and parts of California, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.

Lake Koocanusa View downstream from dam
Lake Koocanusa is home to a variety of fish species. Sport fish include rainbow trout, west slope cutthroat, brook trout, kokaneee salmon (blueback), burbot (ling), whitefish and Kamloops (a strain of rainbow trout). The lake has a maximum depth of 370 feet at full pool. A valid Montana fishing license is required to fish any Montana waters.

Lake Koocanusa received its name in a contest to name the reservoir behind the dam. Alice Beers, from Rexford, Montana, combined the first three letters from KOOtenai River, and the first three letters of CANada and USA.

Libby Dam has a Visitor's Center with historical displays and information about the dam, wildlife, and recreation associated with the dam and reservoir.

Koocanusa recreation site map

Map of Koocanusa Reservoir recreation sites

Libby Dam Recreational Map

Libby Dam Recreational Map

Playground area near dam Lake Koocanusa area offers many recreational opportunities for fishing and boating. There are developed and undeveloped campground areas, picnic facilities, marinas and hiking trails in many places along both sides of the reservoir. Boat ramps are located at Souse Gulch, McGillivray, Koocanusa Marina, Barron Creek, and Rexford Bench. Yarnell Island, located in the middle of the reservoir, is a fun site for overnight campers who wish to boat out to the island (restroom facilities available). McGillivray campground has a roped-off swimming beach with sand and a diving area. Playground equipment is located at the Souse Gulch recreation site maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Boaters are reminded that each boat passenger must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, and children under 12 are required to wear their life jacket at all times when boating on Montana waters. Picnic shelter near dam recreation siteSince recreational sites along Lake Koocanusa are managed by more than one agency, visitors should check the rules and regulations for each area. Boaters should be aware that the reservoir extends across the international boundary into Canada, and crossing the border could result in a citation.

The Kootenai River is listed as a "Blue Ribbon" trout stream. As part of the Army Corps of Engineers wildlife & fisheries management programs, the Murray Springs Fish Hatchery was built in 1978 just north of Eureka. Fish raised at the hatchery are stocked in many lakes and streams in Lincoln County, including Lake Koocanusa, as well as many other waters in the state. Temperature of the Kootenai River below the dam is controlled to create ideal conditions for the growth and reproduction of trout. Populations of bald eagles, osprey, and other bird and wildlife species have thrived since the dam was built.


Other Libby Dam web sites and contacts:
Libby Dam Visitor Center - (406) 293-5577
Libby Dam Project - (406) 293-7751 (24-hrs)
Current lake levels/river discharge recording- (406) 293-3421

Libby Dam Project Office
17877 MT Hwy 37
Libby, MT 59923-9703

USACE Libby Dam Webpage:

Libby Dam Facebook page:

Kootenai National Forest
506 US Highway 2 West
Libby, MT 59923
(406) 293-6211

All page content copyright 2024. All rights reserved. Photos by LibbyMT.com unless otherwise credited.
Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa recreation maps from Libby Dam brochure by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Libby Dam Project.
Pictures used in collage courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers Libby Dam. Used with permission.

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