Every year anglers from across the country make their summer pilgrimage to Montana's Madison River, seeking the challenge of wild trout in a matchless natural setting. For many the Madison River experience is at its best near Three Dollar Bridge, where jagged mountains rise above the river's crystal waters, and a $3 parking fee provides access to world-class flyfishing.
In 2002, fishing access and open space at Three Dollar Bridge were at serious risk of private real estate development. Western Rivers Conservancy stepped in to help save this seven-square-mile property, known as Candlestick Ranch, preserving public access to one of Montana's premier fishing sites. Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the crucial 100-acre river portion of the ranch, including three miles of Madison River shoreline centered on Three Dollar Bridge, along with significant riparian, spring creek and wetland habitats.
We then facilitated the purchase of the remaining 4,300 acres of the ranch by a private conservation buyer and the subsequent donation of a conservation easement to conserve habitat and maintain public access to this special area. Such an accomplishment was made possible by the essential support of the fly fishing community, local conservation groups and agencies.
Photo credits: Patty Pickett (1), Russ Schnitzer (2)