The Ninemile Creek watershed is located in the Middle Clark Fork River watershed approxi-mately 20 miles west of Missoula, Montana. The closest town is Huson, Montana in Missoula County. Ninemile Creek drains approximately 186 square miles. Higher elevations are pre-dominantly forested and managed by the Lolo National Forest’s Ninemile Ranger District, while much of the lower valley is in private ownership and has been cleared for agricultural uses.
Ninemile Creek is an important spawning tributary for fish in the Clark Fork River. The watershed supports native westslope cutthroat, as well as non-native rainbow, brown and brook trout. Ninemile Creek is considered historic bull trout habitat and a restoration opportunity for the species.
Ninemile Creek has a long history of surface mining, dating back to the 1800's. Historic mining activity has significantly altered mainstem Ninemile Creek and multiple tributaries. Specific problems include piles of dredged material that range from 12 to 40 feet tall, a lack of floodplain connectivity and excessive erosion. Additionally, large settling ponds dot the landscape and riparian vegetation throughout the watershed is insufficient to maintain adequate bank stability, provide shade, and filter out sediments and other pollutants from the stream. Several mine sites on St. Louis Creek and Kennedy Creek are contributing toxic sediments and impairing water quality.
Starting in 2003, Trout Unlimited and the Lolo National Forest began a campaign to rehabilitate mining related disturbances in the Ninemile watershed. The group first characterized mining history and impacts on more than a dozen tributaries and the mainstem Ninemile Creek. Using this information and supporting documents like the Ninemile TMDL, Forest Service inventories, and fish and wildlife conservation plans, the group prioritized projects and began raising funds for implementation. Missoula County joined as a partner in 2006 and helped secure much needed funds for planning, assessment and implementation on multiple mine reclamation projects in the watershed.
The following are completed or active projects in the Ninemile Creek watershed: