A haven for birds, a stronghold for grayling
One of the country’s premier fly fishing streams, the 150-mile-long Big Hole River tumbles from the Beaverhead Mountains through some of the most diverse geography of any river in Montana. It is a beloved trout fishery and, remarkably, the only river left in the Lower 48 with fluvial Arctic grayling. The Big Hole Valley is also one of the great bird areas of the West, with extensive wetlands that are important nesting, feeding and resting habitat for a variety of species.
WRC is working in the Big Hole Valley to deliver more water for imperiled grayling and other fish, to preserve recreational access, and to protect habitat for the Big Hole Valley’s diverse wildlife. Currently, we have two projects underway, Eagle Rock Ranch on the Wise River, and Clemow Cow Camp, southeast of the town of Wisdom. We purchased Clemow Cow Camp in August 2022, and we are now working to convey it to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Protecting habitat and public access
A rare inholding within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the 317-acre Clemow Cow Camp is a beautiful expanse of wetland meadows graced by two cold, high-mountain streams, Cox and Old Tim creeks. Just off the property, these streams flow into Warm Springs Creek, a tributary to the Big Hole River. Given the area’s remoteness and excellent habitat, this is a haven for fish and wildlife of the upper Big Hole Valley.
Clemow Cow Camp provides top-notch habitat for grizzly bear and Canada lynx (both threatened species) and includes 154 acres of riparian wetland habitat that waterfowl and shorebirds depend on. With two miles of Cox and Old Tim creeks flowing through the property, Clemow Cow Camp supplies important water for fish in the Big Hole basin, including mountain whitefish (a species of state concern) and westslope cutthroat trout.
On top of its superb habitat, Clemow Cow Camp is a recreation gem. The property serves as an entry point to the adjacent 148,150-acre West Pioneer Wilderness Study Area, the largest remaining roadless area in southwest Montana. WRC’s efforts will permanently secure this key access point for hiking, hunting and wildlife viewing. Clemow Cow Camp also has a historic cabin that the US Forest Service will refurbish and add to its cabin rental program.
Keeping water in-stream
Our work at Clemow Cow Camp will also enable more water to be kept in-stream for fish. The property controls 2.77 CFS of water rights on Cox and Old Tim creeks. Once we convey Clemow Cow Camp to the Forest Service, the agency will be able to work with Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project to dedicate the property’s water rights in-stream. Combined with our efforts at Eagle Rock Ranch on the Wise River, WRC will be putting a total of 13.27 CFS of critically needed water back into the Big Hole system.