18 June 2007

Home Ranch Campout: Montana Beauty

RTD & I mostly car camp this time of year. The June weather and large lingering snowfields make getting around in the high country (i.e. backpacking) difficult at best. As a quick get-away last week, I headed to the Home Ranch:

On a large tributary of the upper Big Hole River, this place has it all. Excellent brook trout fishing in a handful of nearby creeks, and some very good rainbow trout fishing, too (the 'bows spawn in these tribs, and some large fish hold over at least until creek levels drop in mid-July). Lots of sandhill cranes, a few herons, the occasional osprey, etc. And gorgeous views to the Pintler as in photo of the old barn at the Home Ranch (above).

Firewood close by (here, a rack of lodgepole):

Elk cows and calves (usually, the elk stay several hundred yards away; this momma let RTD & I walk a short distance away since she seemed to think she & calf were invisible). The mother is in the willows at the lower left, and the calf is in the grass laying flat with its head down (look for the reddish-brown):

Where the deer and the antelope play (these two does ran off with their fawns, but then returned and posed after hiding the little ones):
And of course wildflowers: elephant's head, lupines, sunflowers...

The Home Ranch and Mule Ranch were former Anaconda Copper Mining corporation holdings. In addition to raising mules for the Butte mines, the company pastured sheep here--moving them back and forth to the Mill/Willow Creek area in the shadow of the giant (500 feet+) Anaconda Smelter stack. In this way, the ACM could maintain the illusion (and legal pretense) that arsenic and heavy metals fallout from the smelter did not harm domestic stock. This was an important element in the ACM's ability to prevail over the Deer Lodge valley ranchers in the "smoke wars" of c. 1900 to 1920--efforts by the ranchers to obtain compensation for harmful pollution. The properties became state property after the company had no further use for them, and they have benefitted enormously by limiting the degree of cattle grazing.
Alas, even a few years ago there were many grayling in these creeks, but let's not ruin my mood.

1 comment:

sceamon said...

Smoke Wars - Silenced By The Lambs

I never knew about those sheep. That is interesting.

I enjoy your blogs and check in on them a few times a week. It's a real wealth of environmental knowledge in southwest Montana.

Check out my blog on the Art Walk sometime