Published with NRS Duct Tape Diaries, March 16, 2020 and Kayak Session Magazine
In southern Montana, the clear waters of East Rosebud Creek tumble through the bedrock of a world etched by glaciers. In the spring, icy runoff from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness creates miles of falls and boulders which roar in an almost un-navigable tempest. At mid-flows, it piques the interest of every boater who has wondered if they’re ready for Class V. Low flows attract devout anglers hoping to outsmart several species of trout or the native Montana whitefish.
The surrounding valley is beautiful, much like other headwater areas throughout the state. Winter snowpack feeds the streams and alpine lakes and then waters the forests of aspens and conifers or feeds wide carpets of wildflowers thriving below talus slopes. The rugged terrain and fresh feel of the wilderness tempt tourists into exploring the hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails of this watershed just north of Yellowstone National Park and the Snake River.
In the last twenty years, three different dam-building proposals have threatened this creek. Each time, overwhelming grassroots resistance and relentless, bi-partisan lobbying at the state and national level prevented the proposals from getting off the ground. The last time, in 2009, groups like American Rivers, Friends of East Rosebud and many other partners decided to go just a little bit further. Because of the dedication of many different organizations and individuals, on August 2, 2018, twenty miles of East Rosebud Creek received its Wild and Scenic designation.
One of the advocates who helped to preserve the unique character of this free-flowing river is Mike Fiebig. At the time, he worked for American Rivers as the Conservation Director of the Northern Rockies Region.
“East Rosebud Creek was the first Wild and Scenic River designation in the State of Montana since 1978,” Mike shared with me from his new home in Durango, Colorado where he recently stepped up to the role of Director of River Protection for the Southwest. “Water is a necessary part of the river, but it’s not the only part. To have a river, you need an ecosystem that’s free-flowing up and down its length and across its floodplain.”