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welcome to your watershed

Image by Rostyslav Savchyn of a mountain stream merging into a larger stream.

What is a Watershed?

A watershed is where water collects and drains to creeks and rivers. All the water that we encounter is part of our local watershed - affected by all the activities that take place. The hills and mountains create the boundaries between watersheds. 

Missoula is in the Clark Fork watershed, which begins where the snow melts and feeds into places like Rattlesnake Creek, which flow into the Clark Fork River. 

The Clark Fork River empties into Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho and from there the water enters The Pend Oreille River which then flows into the Columbia River. So, Rattlesnake Creek, the Clark Fork River and the Pend Oreille River watersheds all are part of the larger Columbia River watershed. 

A river flowing through an area of dense vegetation.

The 5 C's of a healthy watershed






A river flowing through a valley with mountains in the background.

Missoula is in a special position at the intersection of urban, agricultural, and wilderness areas. This means we benefit from community events and development, local agricultural producers, and easy access to nearby recreation and public lands! It also presents challenges like interactions with wildlife, runoff from farms, lawns, and roads reaching our waterways, and recreational stress on open spaces and river access points. 

Responsible recreation

To keep the outdoors safe and sustainable for all to use, follow these responsible practices: 

stay on the trail

Creating your own trails or walking on the side of existing trails causes erosion. This may add sediment to the stream and damage streamside vegetation and habitat.

Image by David Marcu of hikers going up a wooded trail.
Leash your dog and scoop the poop

Off-leash dogs contribute to erosion, damage redds, poop where you don't see, and intimidate other recreationists and animals. Dog poop can introduce bacteria or parasites to other animals and pollute storm water runoff that ends up in streams and rivers. 

Image by Brady Wakely of a small dog on a leash standing in a field of grass.
clean, drain, dry

Check your boats and watercraft at all road stations and in between bodies of water to prevent spreading invasive species. 

Image by SaiKrishna Saketh Yellapragada of an empty canoe floating on the ege of a lake with a hill of trees in the background.
do not obstruct water flow

Pools of water warm up quickly, stressing aquatic animals. Disturbing the creek bed also disrupts redds (fish egg nests) in spawning season.

A person standing on a rock in the middle of a river flowing trough a hilly area of dense vegetation.

missoula resources

Missoula Conservation District - (406) 303-3427

Missoula Water Quality District - (406) 258-4890

Missoula Stormwater Utility - (406) 552-6357

Missoula Water - (406) 552-6700

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks - (406) 542-5500

Missoula Parks & Recreation - (406) 552-6277

Missoula Resources

Our sponsors

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For sponsorship information please email Deb Fassnacht

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