Montana Highway 56 winds through a wild place in the Bull River valley. On either side the Cabinet Mountains rise sharply from the valley floor. Travelers must be careful as they come around a curve, as they might encounter a Big Horn sheep or other wildlife coming down from the mountains or making the valley bottom their home. Even a short walk along the river bank will be enough to introduce one to the uneven, floodplain full of historical and active side channels and beaver runs. That is the Bull River valley of today – imagine the difficulty faced a century ago in traversing this valley. Over more than a century, homesteaders, road builders, and eventually engineers have transformed the valley and made it much more accessible. Trees have been cleared, sections of river straightened, wetland areas drained to make way for hay fields, etc.
We may never be able to completely return the Bull River or other streams to the way they once were, but through restoration efforts – plugging drainage ditches, allowing the channel to migrate, or planting trees along the river… we can push the Bull River closer to its more natural state, winding through the valley and a matrix of forest and wetlands, while accounting for human’s continued presence on the landscape.
Read more about the 2017 Bull River Calendar and the historical images it features here!