Fall 2012 - Now that excavators and dump trucks are gone, and grasses, willows, and trees are slowly taking root, the Milltown Superfund site is looking less like a construction zone, and more like the park it’s about to become. For one hundred years, Milltown Dam straddled the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, blocking fish and holding back a century’s worth of polluted mining waste. The 180-acre reservoir behind the dam was full of contaminated sediment—6.6 million cubic yards of it—that washed down from Butte’s copper mines during the record flood of 1908 and stacked up behind the dam. The contaminated sediment, laden with arsenic and copper, poisoned local wells and killed off fish and other aquatic life during high flows and ice jams. Now, thanks to Superfund cleanup, the worst of that is gone. In place of a dam and reservoir, the Clark Fork River meanders naturally across a wide floodplain. What a difference six years has made.
Fall 2012 - Summertime along the banks of the Clark Fork River in Deer Lodge finds children enjoying the cool water in the sunshine. This area is called “Bum Bridge” by local folks as it was once home to railroad vagabonds who would enjoy the park-like setting of the area where the railroad crossed the river.