Scenic USA - Montana
Big Hole River
|Photo by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
Inset photo courtesy NPS
Opening lines in Norman Maclean’s novel, A River Runs Through It, may still be echoing in the minds of Montana’s fly fishermen today. Legendary streams draw anglers from all parts of the globe. Here, rainbow, brook, cutthroat, brown and grayling test the angler’s skills, and create some of the most memorable fishing experiences ever.
The Big Hole River and its tributaries, the Wise and Beaverhead, have few rivals when it comes to scenery and fish per mile. These clear running streams are found throughout Big Hole Valley. The valley is surrounded by four mountain ranges, with peaks towering over the valley from 7000 to 10,000 feet in elevation. During the winter the valley records the most precipitation, averaging over 100 inches of snow a year. Plenty of snowmelt fuels these rivers throughout the summer and into the fall.
Two of the first Anglo visitors arrived in the valley in 1806. Captain William Clark and Lieutenant Meriwether Lewis were instructed to follow the Missouri River to its source, cross the western mountains, and follow the best water route to the Pacific Ocean. Honoring President Jefferson’s forethought in obtaining the Louisiana Purchase, today's Big Hole River was named the Wisdom River by Clark.
Today, the Big Hole Valley is an unusual blend of history and modern living. Cattle drives and branding, active gold mines, and 30 foot tall haystacks (using a Beaverslide Hay Stacker) are common sights throughout the valley. Ranching, mining, logging and visitor services have kept the Big Hole Valley prospering for the last 130 years.
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