By Robert Lucke
Ever wonder why the Milk River has water in it most of the summer in even the driest of years? Or just where the river starts in Glacier National Park? Or its relationship to the St. Mary River and the Canadian Government?
All these questions and many more will be answered in a Milk River headwaters tour according to tour chairman, Havre's water specialist, Marvin Cross.
"The tour is open to the public. We encourage everyone who is interested to participate. There is no limit, but the bus that has been provided holds 45 to 48 people," Cross said. "If you have ever wondered where the water comes from in the Milk River or as to how that water affects Canada and Glacier National Park, this is the tour to go on."
The tour starts in Havre or Chinook on August 22. That first night will be spent at Shelby where there will be a dinner provided and speakers to give an overview as to what will be seen on the tour the next day.
"Mary Ellen Wolfe will speak on the international commission and boundary waters treaties between the United States and Canada and an explanation of how we divide the Milk and St. Mary's water and tributaries coming into the Milk River from Canada," related Cross. "And Dick Long of the Bureau of Reclamation will talk about the 26 mile long canal that takes water from St. Mary's River to the north fork of the Milk River. Irrigation districts in the Milk River valley pay for maintaining that canal and he will talk about problems with the canal that need to be addressed."
That night there will be a Canadian official there to give the Canadian perspective to the treaty too.
Next morning, August 23, the tour will start with a discussion of noxious weeds in the Milk River Basin. Then the tour will go to Lake Sherburne in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park after which there will be a rest break at the Many Glacier Campground. Stream bank stabilization of Swift Current Creek will be addressed along with seeing the St. Mary Diversion Dam and siphons that carry St. Mary water actually across the river and into a canal which later joins the North Fork of the Milk River. The tour will cross into Canada at Chief Mountain and visit Waterton Dam, St. Mary Dam and hear about Alberta irrigation projects connected with those dams. Later, tour participants will visit a St. Mary canal drop structure near Immigrant Gap and get to view first hand how much water comes into the Milk River from the St. Mary's Canal compared to an original flow from the North Fork of the Milk River. Tour participants can expect to return to Havre and Chinook that night around 10 p.m.
The bus will pick people up in both Havre and Chinook in the afternoon of August 22, according to Cross.
Children are invited to go along and everyone should have picture identification to get across the border, a jacket, good walking shoes, (although walking is optional on the tour), mosquito repellent and underage children should have birth certificates with them.
A fifteen dollar registration fee includes all meals. Overnight accommodations in Shelby will range from $27.50 to $55.00.
Cross indicated that persons interested in going on the tour should contact him at 265-5516. Registration needs to be completed by August 16 in order to get a count for meals and lodging. In Chinook, contact Tracy Teel at 357-2785 for tour information and registration.
Tours to include all of the Milk River Valley will be held most every year, according to Cross, but the headwaters one is the most interesting and critical to understanding where Milk River irrigation waters come from.