A New Chance for Jefferson River Access


The people of Montana lost Beaver Chew last year, but with a little luck and a little help from friends, there may be a happy ending.

Beaver Chew, if you recall, was an 80-acre plot of state land at the confluence of the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers, the beginning of the Jefferson River. It was part of a larger land exchange in which SRI Land Holdings, a large ranch company, transferred some upland property to the State of Montana in exchange for consolidation of river bottomland.

The Jefferson River Canoe Trail (JRCT), a chapter of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Heritage Foundation, fought long and hard to save Beaver Chew but lost out in the final decision of the state Land Board.

So, where’s the happy ending?

It isn’t a done deal but the JRCT has another proposal in the works to secure a 30-acre piece of property at Parson’s Bridge, ten miles south of Whitehall, also known as the Waterloo bridge, the bridge that crosses the Jefferson River to provide access to the Waterloo community and the lands between the river and the Tobacco Root Mountains. There is a boat ramp at the bridge that’s notorious for the steep slope that has long challenged floaters trying to launch or take out boats.

The property is riparian woodland just north of the bridge on the west side of the river, with a variety of trees, including juniper, cottonwood, and willows. Morel mushrooms are found in the spring, and whitetail deer are common.

JRCT will use the property as a floaters’ camp for people following the river, and it would also be open for picnicking and walk-in fishing from an existing parking lot. The Skyline Sportsmen of Butte have expressed interest in the project and have plans to improve the boat ramp.

So is there a catch?

As usual, it’s money. The chunk of land carries a $270,000 price tag, which is a lot of money to a small non-profit organization. But, the heavy lifting has been done. JRCT has gotten approval for a $195,000 grant from the Montana Fish & Wildlife Conservation Trust. JRCT has pledged their own relatively small cash reserves to bring the total to $204,000, meaning they need an additional $66,000 by June 30, 2017 to lock in the deal.

The Jefferson River Canoe Trail is working to raise the $66,000 through a fundraising appeal, looking for tax-deductible donations. People can donate through PayPal, or a crowd-funding campaign at generosity.com. You can also send checks to JRCT at PO Box 697, Pony MT 59747.

This project can work to be a huge asset to the people of southwest Montana, with improved fishing and boating access to the Jefferson River, and a new place to take a walk, bird-watch, picnic, pick mushrooms and, in general, enjoy the outdoors along the historic Lewis & Clark Trail. It’s a true win-win deal.

For more information, go online to http://Jeffersonriver.org/campsites/waterloo_grove.htm, or www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/waterloo-grove-jefferson-river-canoe-trail.

Changing topics a bit, I’d like to compliment David Macumber and the Montana Standard for their coverage of the fire that tragically destroyed the R. L. Winston bamboo rod shop in Twin Bridges. Note: the main Winston facility on the south end of town is unaffected.

There’s a lot of history in Winston bamboo rods and the Winston name on a bamboo rod, old or new, connects it with a long tradition of craftsmanship.

Sweetgrass Rods, founded by Glenn Brackett and Jerry Kustich a decade ago, after a falling-out with Winston, recently moved the shop and retail store from Twin Bridges to 121 W. Galena in Butte.

I take my hat off to Glenn Brackett, the head artist and craftsman of Sweetgrass and a former owner of Winston who posted this statement at the Sweetgrass Facebook page, “We want them to continue to carry the rod building banner into the next 100 years. Our support is what’s called for at a time like this.”

We are fortunate to have a classy person such as Glenn Brackett as a new business neighbor here in Butte.

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