Down to the river: How does remediation change the Clark Fork?

These six students hauled on chest waders for class.

They toted tripods, Topcon Auto Levels, stadia rods, 100-meter measuring tapes, gravelometers and other assessment gear.

For the next few hours and days in late September and early October, they experienced a close encounter with the Clark Fork River and its troubled history.

Students Howie Viguers (from left), Tommaso Long and Alex Becker recently performed a host of measurements at a cross section spot along the Clark Fork River. The three are students at University of Montana Western. 

Duncan Adams Photos, The Montana Standard

They saw streambanks layered with saffron-colored contaminated mining and smelting tailings and clear evidence of copper. The tailings were deposited during a catastrophic flood in 1908.

More than 115 years later, the students worked to gather data to help inform the Clark Fork’s ongoing Superfund cleanup.

Specifically, at 16 spots along the river, the students collected key measurements of the Clark Fork’s parameters before remediation starts up again next fall.

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The students examined width-depth ratios for the river

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