Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 24th, 1999

The Clark Fork

I don't much care for Interstate Highways, but occasionally a particular section can be really quite lovely. One of my favorite stretches of highway is I-90 between St.Regis and Clinton Montana. The road crosses and re-crossed the Clark Fork many times. We used to have a little travel game as to who could identify which river crossed where, but the players could just call out "Clark Fork" on this stretch and have it right! It's a beautiful stretch of road and designated one of the 'Scenic Highways' in Montana. The road parallels the Clark Fork river for miles.

During the warm months it is common to see a driftboat with guide and angler on the river, and there are pull-off's where you can see the river even if you aren't going to fish it. Montana has done a fine job for the anglers, and fishing accesses are plentiful and well marked.

During the winter, the road can be dangerous, but that has never seemed to stop Montanans from going where they want - and if it's on that stretch of highway the 'Scenic' is still there.

Clark Fork west of St. Regis Mt.

If you are a Trout Unlimited member, you receive a quarterly publication from them (free) called, Trout. In the current issue is a wonderful article about the Clark Fork. It is rare in our world of conservation problems, this one is a success story! It took five years, and 10,000 miles on Bob Dunnagan's pick up, but Bob and his TU Chapter the Idaho Panhandle Chapter got involved in the relicensing of two dams on the Clark Fork. The 320 miles of Clark Fork has been a ravaged river. Problems of previous mining and smelting operations, the building of the I-90 itself, logging on the tributaries, agricultural wastes and municipal sewage all contributed to the problem. And then there were the dams.

Unlike so many other situations where the 'company' becomes the enemy, the company in this case Avista Corp. (formerly Washington Water Power and owner of the dams) contacted TU's national office and asked TU to join in a collaborative effort to basically save the Clark Fork. It was a battle, with lots of participants - not easy in any sense of the word. Avista also partially funded TU's participation. They put their money where their mouth was. They all came together and got the job done!

It's a longer story than I want to detail here, (do read the article) but the whole concept is certainly refreshing! A tip of the FAOL hat to all concerned. Avista proved big business can be more than responsible - they can lead in conservation. That is really big news!

If you are not receiving Trout you also missed a dandy article on fishing the Gallatin River and Trout in the Cold! Individual membership for residents in the US is $30.00; and just $35.00 for a family. You can even join TU online.

You may not have a local fishing or conservation group you wish to be involved with, but you can do something to preserve the rivers we have. Join Trout Unlimited now. ~ LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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