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the Big Blackfoot River


The Big Blackfoot is classic Montana water. Clear, cold, and unimpeded by dams for its entire 132 mile length, the river winds through three canyons, past red rock cliffs and mountains, and alongside wildflower-laden meadows and prairies.

The Blackfoot valley forms the southern boundary of the Crown of The Continent, a fully intact ecosystem still containing every species of fauna that was here before the first European explorers arrived on the scene -- one of only twelve such ecosystems left on earth.

Wildlife rare to other regions abounds here. Grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, cougar, lynx, wolf and deer all call its valley home. Bald and golden eagles regularly patrol the air space above.

The area is rich in history, both ancient and recent. The great Glacial Lake Missoula floods of 12,000 years ago helped carve the many red rock cliffs found in the area as well as the rolling boulder-strewn native grassland valley floor.  For many centuries, the valley was traversed by the Kokalahishkit trail, heavily used by many western tribes to reach the vast buffalo herds to the east. Traces of the Indians' travois tracks can still be found in the area, including some running across our north pasture.

Two centuries ago, Meriwether Lewis followed this trail as his "Voyage of Discovery" -- the Lewis and Clark Expedition -- made its return trip to St. Louis. On July 5, 1806, Lewis and his band shot an antelope for lunch near its banks. The vista onto which they gazed during that meal has changed little since that time.  He was sufficiently impressed to sketch the rock pictured below into his journal while resting at the mouth of the Clearwater River, a major Big Blackfoot tributary.

It was another twenty years before the next European set foot in the valley,when the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger spent the summer of 1826 in the Blackfoot valley, trapping beaver while somehow avoiding the loss of his topknot to the equally legendary and fierce Blackfeet Indians.

More recently, this valley - and the river running through it - formed much of the backdrop for Norman Maclean's beautiful novella and Robert Redford's subsequent movie "A River Runs Through It".  This elegant tribute to fly fishing and the Big Blackfoot River is just one of the many inspirations leading up to the creation of the Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper program.

 

 

 

 

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