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Warm Springs on Ice

November 13, 2011

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The other day I drove up to Warm Springs Ponds, the mine waste settling pond/wildlife management area jointly managed by Montana’s Fish & Wildlife department and BP-ARCO. I was hoping to get a bit more paddling in before winter settles prohibitively in, and I haven’t paddled the ponds yet. Not that there was likely to be much excitement in canoeing that shallow stillwater, where no shore is much farther than hollering distance from any other. Mostly I just wanted to get a better firsthand sense of how the cellular pond complex is pieced together. That, at least generally, I was able to get out of a walk, which is all I was able to get out the day. The ponds, it turned out when I got there, are already freezing over. Really interesting light out there, though.

Probably the most curious thing about the ponds, or at least the one I wasn’t expecting, is the presence of the prison-built Morel Rainbow Arch Bridge (pictured) to nowhere, stranded on little clot of terrain out in the middle of one Pond 2 (there are three ponds in the complex, two functional in the current water-treatment regimen, one retired). The little bridge was built in 1914 to span Silver Bow Creek—the mine-waste conduit coming out of Butte that is the effective headwater of the Clark Fork—and abandoned two years later in one of many pond expansion over the years. It’s still sitting there right where it was built, spanning nothing now, but marking the spot in the 2,400-acre puddle where there was once a live stream.

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