June Montana Mountain Snow Levels Are High
We had heard from Bitterroot Trout unlimited that the snowpack level was high, but we didn't realize how high. We had been noticing that the Bitterroot River was finally getting up to flood stage in the valley. That was another indicator that there was more snow in the mountains that some of us expected. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey gauge near Victor on the Bitterroot River showed a predicted water level peak of slightly above the 11-foot flood stage by June 6 or 7.
A look at the June 3 numbers from the Montana site of the Natural Resource and Conservation Service showed the interesting automated snow gauge levels. In the higher mountains, there's quite a bit of snow to melt.
For instance, in the Bitterroot River drainage, the snow water equivalent at Saddle Mountain at Lost Trail was 23 inches and the Twin Lakes reading (up Lost Horse Canyon) was 22 inches. Overall, the Bitterroot snowpack was 224 percentage of normal for this time of year.
But the Bitterroot was not alone. The Flathead levels are 148 percent of normal, the Lower Clark Fork is as 191 percent and Upper Clark Fork is at 171 percent. East of the Continental Divide, the Smith-Judith-Musselshell is 238 percent, the Helena Valley is 246 percent, and the Gallatin is 195 percent.
We'll be reporting the experts' opinions on how this will effect our water supply. We can report that the water has been flowing over the dam spillway at the Bitterroot's Painted Rocks Reservoir for several days now. And Flathead Lake is on its way to full pool. So, it looks like Western Montana is in pretty good shape, with the precipitation outlook expected to be normal for at least the next 10 days.
Eastern Montana, however, is still in drought, with officials concerned about reservoir levels there. Mother Nature has been throwing lots of curve balls at us recently.