Hydrology is the study of the movement, allocation, and quality of water on Earth. This article isn’t really about that. But it does refer to the fact that most of the region’s inhabitants are largely unaware of the tremendous opportunities for recreation and education our region’s dams and reservoirs can provide. So, in terms of hydrology, this article is a small snapshot of some of the more amazing locations in our region which everyone should consider “studying” up close. Camping, hiking, fishing, boating and other activities at these out-of-the way and little known locations provide us with a hands-on opportunity to enjoy the secondary benefits of hydroelectric power. Though the environments of these areas were altered, they have created a man-made beauty unrivaled by any human created cityscape.
Simply put: hydroelectric power is the only power source we can fish in.
Prior to the completion of Yellowtail Dam, the Bighorn River was a muddy, warm water prairie stream. The dam transformed the river into a cold, clear tailwater ideally suited to rainbow and brown trout, and aquatic insects. The Bighorn River now draws visitors and anglers from around the globe.” – National Parks Service.
Bighorn Canyon (created by the Dam)
A landscape of sheer cliffs towering 1,000 feet above a ribbon of blue water, the Canyon is home to world class fishing and a place where wild horses still run free.
– from National Parks Service.
Part of the National Register of Historic Places, the Pathfinder Reservoir hosts a wide variety of fish species for the sportsman.
The Pathfinder Interpretive Center and 1.7-mile interpretive trail are located near the dam. The interpretive trail may be accessed across the historic suspension bridge or from the dam.
Approximately 50 camping sites are operated by Natrona County Parks. Marina, museum, boating, hiking, fishing and camping.
– from Wyoming Tourism
Created by the Kerr Dam, Flathead Lake, which lies in the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana, is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The lake is 28 miles long, up to 15 miles wide and more than 300 feet deep.
Several state parks and lakeshore communities offer boat launches and marinas on the lake, enabling water sports enthusiasts to fully enjoy its 200 square miles of surface area. A number of businesses offer boat tours of the lake or rent many types of watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, windsurfers, hydro bikes, sailing and fishing boats.
Serious anglers can use state-of-the art equipment to locate trophy Mackinaw in the depths of Flathead Lake, which is home to a number of other types of fish as well.
Wild Horse Island, the largest island in the lake, is a wildlife refuge for more than 75 kinds of birds as well as deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and bear. The appropriately named Bird Islands are frequented by geese, ospreys, herons and eagles, among other types of birds.
– from PPL Montana
Mystic Lake Dam
Framed by the rugged snow capped peaks of the Beartooth Mountains and the Custer National Forest, Mystic Hydroelectric Project is surrounded by a breathtaking wilderness landscape that supports diverse aquatic, fisheries and wildlife resources, native habitats and unique geological features. Anglers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts seek this setting from late spring to early fall.
– from Mystic Lake Project
The Dams of Great Falls, MT.
Great Falls, Montana sits along the Missouri River – the longest river on the Continent. This famous fly fishing river winds it way to Great Falls from the Rocky Mountains by Bozeman, Montana. As the river passes Great Falls it flows over 5 different waterfalls over a 10 mile span as it heads downstream. The river drops a total of 612 feet from the top of the first falls to the bottom of the last. These dams along this area include: Black Eagle, Rainbow, Cochrane, Ryan, and Morony. – from Great Falls Tourism