Rattlesnake Creek Watershed
The Rattlesnake Creek Watershed holds incredible ecologic, social, cultural, and economic value. It supports a significant population of migratory bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and is one of only four major tributaries in the area known to support spawning (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 2004). Bull trout are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and Rattlesnake Creek is listed as Proposed Critical Bull Trout Habitat by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS 2010). The Creek supports populations of native westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi), wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, Salmo trutta, and Salmo foutinalis), and native mountain whitefish (Prosopium williamsoni). And, it provides habitat for black bears, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, and more than 100 neotropical songbird species. Community members value Rattlesnake Creek also for the recreation opportunities it offers, including fishing, kayaking, and swimming, and the functions it provides, including a back-up water supply for Missoula.
Rattlesnake Creek flows for 26 miles, beginning in the Rattlesnake Wilderness north of Missoula, Montana. A dam, retrofitted with a fish ladder in 2004, bifurcates the Creek at mile 4.5. While the top 21.5 creek miles flow through either the Rattlesnake Wilderness or Recreation Area within the Lolo National Forest, the final 4.5 miles flow through mixed public and private ownership, and receive pressure from agricultural and urban uses and environs. Within the final five miles, six irrigation ditches divert water from Rattlesnake Creek, buildings and development confine and channelize the Creek, and urban environs contribute trash, debris, and toxins to the Creek and riparian habitat. In this final stretch, the Creek flows through the City of Missoula and under two interstate highway overpasses, the Burlington Northern Railroad, and several smaller local roads before entering the Clark Fork River.
Our hope is to develop this page as a clearinghouse for information on the Rattlesnake Creek Watershed. Please check back for updates. And, please contact us if you’d like to add a resource to our website.