Clark Fork Restoration
When the Clark Fork River leaves Montana on its westward journey to the Pacific, it is Montana’s largest river—and one of its most storied. Its famous tributaries, like Rock Creek and the Blackfoot and Bitterroot rivers are among the most popualar angling destinations in America. On a good day, these waters will yield 16-inch cutthroats on dry flies while a bruiser bull trout might materialize out of the ether in hopes of making a meal out of the fish on your line. On a bad day, a spring freshet or a localized thunderstorm will wash toxic mine waste and sediment into destination fishing holes, or irrigation withdrawals might dewater a favorite stretch of stream. While the Clark Fork is but a shadow of its former self, TU has a plan to restore it and the fishing that made it famous.
TU has a rich history in the Clark Fork basin, where we’ve implemented effective restoration techniques that have improved habitat and angling opportunity. Between our volunteers with the Montana State Council and our national staff, we’ve increased fish passage and population numbers. Much remains to be done, and TU is poised to continue the work that is making fishing better in the Clark Fork basin.
In 2009, following years of litigation between Montana and the ARCO Co., the Milltown Dam—along with about 3 million tons of toxic sediment tapped behind it—was removed. This historic project reconnected the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers for the first time in nearly a century. While this was a huge step forward for the health of the river system—and for angling opportunity in the region—more remains to be done, particularly in the tributaries of the Clark Fork, where restoration and reconnection opportunities are waiting to be tackled by eager volunteers and TU staffers.