Clear, cold waters emerge from the Mission Mountains and the Swan Range flowing through the Swan River watershed joining the Flathead River and eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean by way of the Columbia River. The Swan Valley holds more surface water than any other Montana watershed; 16 percent of the land is wet. Water collects in over 4,000 pot holes, ponds, lakes, marshes and wetlands, and a 1,300-mile network of streams transports water throughout the valley. These wet areas and stream sides provide significant high quality habitat for native fish and wildlife and clean water for humans.

The Swan River and several of its tributaries provide significant habitat for bull trout, a federally-listed threatened species. Nearly half of the bull trout spawning redds on the Flathead National Forest are found in the clear, cold streams of the Swan Watershed.

The Swan Lake watershed faces three water quality issues:

  • Sediment contributed from past management activities
  • Sediment from roads needing ongoing maintenance
  • Residential development in the floodplain or too close to lake shores

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2004 completed a water quality study for the Swan Lake watershed exposing these water quality issues. In response to this study, we formed a Technical Advisory Group (TAG), made up of representatives of the agencies and organizations involved with protecting water quality in the watershed. The TAG meets periodically to prioritize and plan annual monitoring and restoration in the watershed.

Key Program Elements in Water Quality Conservation include:

  • Stream and Lake Monitoring
  • Road Restoration
  • Sharing information on water quality issues and best practices

IMAGE: Leon Kauffman