Sun River Watershed Tour (top row) and Marias Watershed Tour (bottom row)
Highlight of 2008 Tours:
June 26 and 27 were full days for participants of the Sun River Watershed Tour. Sun River Watershed Coordinator, Alan Rollo, laid the groundwork of watershed concepts and discussed the role of the watershed group. Valley history came alive when Warren Harding of the Sun Valley Historical Society shared flood stories and settlement of the area that carved out the agricultural heritage of the watershed. A visit to Freezout Lake provided the opportunity to learn about wildlife issues of the area from Brent Lonner, FWP biologist. Curriculum activities, taught by Kelly Hayden (Montana Watercourse) and Susanna Carrithers (MSU Extension Water Quality) reinforced the concepts presented – and that was just day one!
Day two centered on a tour of the Gibson Dam and Reservoir and diversion projects. Tour guide was Paul Bergstrom. A tour of Willow Creek Reservoir and the local fisheries population was led by Dave Yerk, FWP fisheries biologist. Rai Hahn, local Sun River Science Club Advisor, engaged participants in the Mobile Environmental Science Lab that serves the student monitoring efforts of the Sun River and its tributaries. College credit was granted to educators who completed lesson plan development requirements.
A tour of the Marias Watershed, based out of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch in Dupuyer, took place June 24 – 26. Participants learned about water quality challenges of the watershed from Roger Zentzis (former Marias Watershed Coordinator). Blackfeet history and the tribe’s connection to the watershed were shared by Lea Whitford from Blackfeet community College. Larry Epstein, local Lewis & Clark historian, shared the expeditions’ exploration of the watershed. A visit to the headwaters of the Marias provided participants with the opportunity to learn how and why to monitor pH and temperature of the Two Medicine River and Cut Bank Creek.
Highlights of the second day included learning about the workings of a private irrigation company from Vern Stokes of the Pondera Irrigation and Canal Company, visiting the water treatment plant in Conrad, learning about saline seeps, and visiting with farmer Paul Kronebusch (also chair of Pondera Irrigation Canal Company) to hear about dry land vs irrigated farming, and to learn about the future of the watershed.
A float trip, the third day, on the Marias from Sanford Park to Moffett Bridge provided an opportunity for the captive audience to carry out additional water monitoring, view small irrigations projects such as water gates for livestock, and learn about invasive plants and cold water fisheries. College credit was awarded to educators who completed lesson plan development requirements.