MILLTOWN STATE PARK
Abundant outdoor opportunities and a rich cultural heritage converge at the newly restored confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers at the heart of the Milltown State Park.
The site of a federal Superfund dam removal and river restoration project, Milltown State Park features nearly 635 acres of terrain and several miles of river frontage. It is a small but diverse landscape, ranging from restored river bottoms and mature cottonwood stands to a pine forested bluff above the confluence and dramatic rock cliffs over the Blackfoot River.
There are multiple entrances to the park. The Milltown State Park Overlook offers a panoramic view of the rivers and features interpretive displays and picnic tables. There are three miles of hiking trails that lead from the Overlook down to the Clark Fork River and its floodplain trails. Across the river at the Confluence and Gateway areas, there are two park entrances connected by an accessible paved trail along the lower Blackfoot River. The Confluence Areas main attractions are the riverfront trails and the interpretive plaza. In July and August, the Confluence and Gateway Areas serve as river access for the renowned tube hatch of thousands of floaters and paddlers escaping Missoulas summer heat.
Beyond recreational pursuits, the park is a place for historical exploration along riverfront trails. Among the many stories from the deep past are the Glacial Lake Missoula floods that shaped the landscape thousands of years ago. The Salish and Kalispel know the confluence as the place of bull trout and consider it an important part of their ancient, ancestral home to this day. In 19th century history, Meriwether Lewis made a Fourth of July passage through the confluence and decades later John Mullan and his road builders spent a harsh winter there. Beginning in the 1880s, with the rise of the timber industry, the rivers were dammed to produce power for the mills and communities but at great consequence.
The hopeful story of the Milltown Dam removal and rivers' return presents an educational opportunity to explore the nations changing relationship to the landscape as well as the science behind river restoration and ecology. Thousands of students, from grade school to grad school, have done so in the parks short history. For a deeper dive, visit the story map, A Confluence of Stories, that highlights the natural and cultural history at Milltown State Park.
As Montanas newest state park, Milltown is still a work-in-progress. Additional land along the Clark Fork was acquired in 2020 and a new trailhead and trail at the historic Bandmann Flats property is slated for 2021. Whether you go to play or to learn, theres a lot to do at Milltown State Park and more yet to come.
Lewis And Clark