By Alkali Springs Correspondent
We were saddened to hear about the drowning in Bear Paw Lake last week.
That mountain lake looks so serene and beautiful that a person would have trouble understanding how anything tragic could ever happen there. And yet tragedy has struck there at least two other times in our lifetime and maybe more times in that area before people were writing about life in the beautiful Bear Paws.
On two occasions Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks drained the lake through the years. Their mission was to make a good trout fishery out of a lake that was quite literally full of sucker fish. After trying many tricks of the trade to get rid of the suckers, draining the lake seemed the only answer. The mystery was that both times when draining the lake, they found submerged automobiles containing bodies. The cars had driven into the lake and the drivers drowned. Go figure that one.
We have always wondered if there could be a third auto and body now in the murky depths of the lake? Possible, we guess, but not that probable, given the low water levels the lake sank to last summer. Fishing is great on Bear Paw these days. Both for perch and trout that grow larger daily. So it is doubtful that the lake will be drained in the near future. Still though, this drowning just added to the list of sad, sad things that have happened in that beautiful part of Beaver Creek Park.
Old-timers report that in the early homesteading days there were no fish in the Bear Paws at least not in the Bear Paw streams that ran into the Milk River. There were trout in those streams that ran into the Missouri on the south side of the mountains.
That bothered officers out at Fort Assinniboine who looked at the creeks, the huge beaver ponds, and drooled at how trout would do in that natural like habitat. With little to do to while away the summer months at Fort Assinniboine, the soldiers retrofitted large wagons with huge cauldrons. Soldiers were sent with those wagons all the way to Fort Shaw, west of Great Falls, to seine trout and haul them back to Assinniboine overland, then plant them in the southern reaches of Beaver Creek. That they did, over and over again. The trout never did well in Beaver Creek. Still soldiers hauled more and more trout to Beaver Creek. It was only years later that folks figured out the mystery of what was happening to Beaver Creek brook trout. They were being purloined as quickly as they entered Beaver Creek by denizens of Clear Creek who wanted fish in their creek as well but did not have the authority of the United States government behind them.
And that's how the fish got into the Bear Paws in the first place. Or so the story goes.