Sharing the Big Hole River: Ranches, fish and Butte brace for drought

Editor’s Note: This story is part of “River in Peril,” a four-part series produced by reporters and photographers from The Montana Standard, and videographers from the Helena Independent Record. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________

About the series: The summer of 2021 posed grim challenges in the Big Hole Valley, and current dry conditions suggest 2022 could be similarly challenging. Many stakeholders agree that the river flowing through the valley is now in peril – facing threats from climate change, prolonged drought, irrigation withdrawals, pollution, heavy recreation use, development and more. Over the past several months, Montana Standard reporters and photographers have worked on this four-part series, which runs Sunday through Wednesday. Stories examine the past and present of the Big Hole River, the many factors impacting the quality and quantity of its waters, and how groups with competing interests are collaborating to save what many believe to be “Montana’s Last Best River.”

People are also reading…

Follow Big Hole water to the top to find its natural state.

In winter, immense snow blankets the Beaverhead Mountains, the Anaconda Range and the Pioneers.

Rob McCray, manager of the JY Bagby Ranch near Jackson, marveled at the tremendous water rising from every hillside come spring melt in the Beaverheads.

“It’s crazy the water that’s up there,” McCray said. “Every

View Source