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Crow Creek Falls, Montana

Co-Author: A Working Class Outdoorsman

Directions:

From Toston, travel west on highway 285 – 9 miles to Radersburg. Continue through Radersburg 13 miles to the Jenkins Gulch intersection. Continue straight through on the Hall Creek Road 2 more miles until you reach TR. 109. Turn right at the TR. 109 sign and park at the Jump Off Trailhead.  CLICK HERE FOR ALTERNATE ROUTE

Travel Time:

1.5 hours from Townsend WARNING: ROUGH ROAD

Hike Difficulty:

Hike Distance:

6 miles round trip

What to bring: 

  1. Hiking boots
  2. Camera
  3. Lunch
  4. Fishing Gear

Trip Extras: 

  1. Put your name in the Monument
  2. Fish Crow Creek
  3. Spend the night at Eagle Guard Station (click to make reservations)
  4. Camp at the undeveloped Crow Creek Campground (13 miles from Radersburg)
  5. Visit the Broadwater County Museum

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This hike is an easy family day trip to one of Montana’s most beautiful hidden wonders, known as the Crown Jewel of the Elkhorn Mountains. With little steep grade even your young kiddos can go along.

The trail into the falls from the Jump Off runs along the creek for about three quarters of the way and then it climbs out of the bottom and up on the bench.  You will wander through a meadow, some timber, and then drop down to the falls.  The entire hike, not just the falls, provides beautiful scenery great for pictures as well as a glimpse into the history of the falls. You can also view wildlife and observe a host of different bird species.

For a bonus, you can scale the walls up above and look down over the falls (be careful). You can also fish the pools behind the main falls to catch some of the bigger guys.


Crow Creek Falls Monument:

In our effort to contribute to the history of the falls, we constructed a monument holding a jar in which you can add your name along with all of the others who make the journey into the hidden wonder.

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History: 

The falls have only been public property since 2004, when the Helena National Forest was able to purchase them after 100 years of mining patents and other private ownership. The falls were first patented in 1924 in a 20-acre mining claim called the Hawkeye Placer.  The claim, after moving from owner to owner, fell into the hands of Lynn Mining in 1981. The owner, with approval from the Jefferson Valley Conservation District, blasted a hole 3 feet wide and 75 feet deep through the bedrock to divert the falls into a 400-foot flume.

Getting in by Helicopter

Equipment and camp was helicoptered into the mine site and Lynn dredged the pool where the water had once fallen 60 feet from the cliff above. Access to the site was specifically denied with a sign stating that “trespassers would be shot”. The property including the falls was listed for sale in 1983 in the Wall Street Journal for $1 million, after the owner was able to make very little money. Eventually he gave up his bond after being fined close to $8,000 for illegal road construction. He became a hobo in Missoula and never paid the fine.

Title Holdings Complications

In 1995, after the Forest Service was unable to buy the mining claim due to the title holding many parties with interest and a price tag far over appraisal value; the equipment was advertised as yours “if you could get it out of there.” In 1997, Duane Carter was given approval to begin the attempt of removing the mining equipment. In 1998 a group of teen boys spent the winter cleaning up the falls property as part of their rehabilitation.

Purchase of the Claim

Finally, in 2002, the 20-acre mining claim and falls were purchased for $150,000 by the American Land Conservancy who retained ownership until the property and the falls were restored to their natural state – knowing it was easier for a private entity to clean up the property than a government agency.

Final Clean-up

Duane Carter returned to finish the seven-year chore of getting all of the equipment running and many other groups worked to put the falls back together.  A 1943 D-6 bulldozer and Allis Chalmers crawler-loader were taken out and the crane and drag line were cut up and buried among soil cleanup and the burning of the shacks and other cleanup activities. The road was pulled out after the two weeks of cleanup were complete and grass and flowers were planted at which point the sale of the claim was negotiated.

For a more complete description of the process and history click here.

This is an old time trail marker called a "blaze". This is done with an ax by the trail crew.
This is an old time trail marker called a “blaze”. When a trail crew would sit down for a break – one crew member would cut the marker into the tree with his ax. Oftentimes, trails would “vanish” in meadows because of the low number of foot traffic and therefore hikers had to look for blazes to stay en route.


Alternate Route: 

From Townsend, travel to the north side of the Missouri River bridge 1 mile North on highway 12. Turn west onto Indian Creek Road and continue for 13 miles. Turn left onto Eagle Creek Road and continue for 5 miles until you reach Hall Creek Road. Continue until you reach the TR. 109 sign mentioned above. Click here to view map. WARNING: Route is shorter in distance but dirt road is rough all the way and it is easy make to wrong turns!!!!

Old Painted Advertisement on the Canyon WallsVia this route you will see old signs painted on the canyon walls. The signs advertised businesses located in Townsend. The Indian Creek and other areas of the Elkhorn Mountains were home to many miners back in the day. Mines like the Kleineschmidt, the Vosburg, Park Mines and the East Pacific were home to many a miners. The town of Hassel was also along the way. All these places are located on the east side of the Elkhorns and the people traveled the Indian Creek Road to trade in Townsend.

 

Photos

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