The Montana State Parks Foundation is publishing a weekly showcase of Montana State Parks' 55 properties.
On the outskirts of Missoula is Montana’s newest state park, Milltown State Park. Once a Superfund river restoration project, years of hard work from multiple state and federal agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and committed volunteers helped make the park what it is today.
Interpretive displays are placed at the overlook and confluence areas to provide insight into the history of the area. The story of how people have used the park and the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers is told from multiple perspectives in these detailed displays.
Outdoor opportunities and cultural heritage merge at the restored confluence, providing a unique opportunity for visitors.
The park includes 500 acres of terrain that ranges from restored river bottom to a pine forested bluff that overlooks the confluence.
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The park affords visitors a place to go hiking, biking, fishing, floating and watching for birds and wildlife. The Milltown State Park Overlook features interpretive displays and picnic tables. There are nearly three miles of hiking trails that lead from the Overlook down to the Clark Fork River and its floodplain trails.
Construction began on the Confluence and Gateway areas, on the north side of the river, in the summer of 2017. The park development includes trails, an interpretive plaza and river access. The grand opening for the Confluence area was June 23, 2018.
Among the many stories from the deep past are the Glacial Lake Missoula floods that shaped the landscape thousands of years ago. The Salish and Kalispel tribes know the confluence as the place of bull trout and consider it part of their ancestral home. In the 19th century Meriwether Lewis made a Fourth of July passage through the confluence, and decades later the Mullan Expedition spent a harsh winter there. Beginning in the 1880s the rivers were dammed to produce power for the nearby lumber mills and communities.
The hopeful story of the Milltown Dam removal and the rivers' return offers an opportunity to explore America's changing relationship to the land, as well as the benefits that river restoration yields for Montana's families and communities.
The Montana State Parks Foundation helps fund work at parks, for more information log on to www.montanastateparksfoundation.org.