The Missoula Three Rivers Collaborative recently produced its Missoula River Guide and Map for 2020.
In collaboration with Destination Missoula, the Downtown Missoula Collaborative and Windfall Inc. advertising agency, the rivers collaborative created the river map to provide Missoulians with information on river access points, common float times and parking information. In addition, the guide outlines safety and conservation guidelines.
Destination Missoula houses hard copies of the map in its downtown office, and its website has an online version. Windfall created the guide and map.
“We’ve got trail maps all over the place, but there’s not really a good guide or map on river use in Missoula,” said Morgan Valliant, conservation lands manager for Parks and Recreation of the City of Missoula. He is part of the river collaborative’s coordinating committee.
Valliant said increased traffic to the section of river covered by the guide and map — from the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers in Milltown State Park down through Missoula and Silver Park — was the main reason the rivers collaborative deemed a map necessary.
The Clark Fork River Coalition, one of the partners on the project, conducted a survey in 2018, Valliant said. It found that peak float season, the end of June through the beginning of September, saw between 14,000 and 18,000 people on the river. That number has only grown as Missoula grows, he said.
“This uptick is great to see,” Valliant said. “It means community cleanup efforts have been embraced.”
That said, Valliant mentioned increased traffic means increased responsibility.
“What we don’t have is a really good infrastructure for accommodating that use,” he said. “We've seen a huge increase in resource damage over the last 10 years. We have lots of people moving here, and there aren't any clear rules or guidelines, so we wanted to make a more comprehensive guide and map for people.”
Pelah Hoyt, lands director at Five Valleys Land Trust, is also a part of the Three Rivers Collaborative’s coordinating committee. She echoed Valliant’s call for more order on the river.
“Our community has worked so hard for decades to improve the health of this river and improve access to this river. And the work paid off,” Hoyt said. “Now we need to improve management of the river.”
The rivers collaborative spent multiple months on the map project and roped in multiple organizations, from nonprofits to downtown businesses to government offices. All of the work was worth it for the final product, Hoyt said.
Hoyt said she hopes the guide and map will eventually extend beyond this section of river, but it’s a great start for this summer. And this map came at a great time. With the University of Montana starting its semester earlier than usual, she expects the river will be getting even more attention.
To see an online version of the River Guide and Map, visit https://destinationmissoula.org/downtown-river-map.
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