The Big Blackfoot River


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 on the left 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.