Built in 1908 by Montana Power, Hauser Dam is named for Samuel Hauser, an early Montanan who advocated damming the Missouri to harness electricity for regional mining enterprises. At this 3,720-acre lake, heavily used for boating and waterskiing, the fishing is OK for smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon.
There are two scenic, practically adjacent public campgrounds on Hauser Lake. If the beach at White Sandy, seven miles northeast off I-15 on Highway 453, is full, then continue a few yards farther to Black Sandy.
While at Hauser Lake, try your hand at sapphire mining. The Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine (5360 Castles Rd., 406/227-8989), 10.5 miles east of Helena via York Road, offers buckets of sapphire-laden gravel. Here the novice can wash gravel to discover highly colored sapphires as well as garnets, rubies, and gold. A gallon bucket of gravel from the sapphire mine costs $25, and it’s best to come equipped with a screwdriver and tweezers, essential tools of the gravel mining trade.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition