In the heart of Milltown State Park, the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers has been restored. It now provides a wide range of recreational opportunities in addition to a rich cultural history.
This park has so much history that we won’t be able to cover it all in one blog, but here’s a brief rundown. The Milltown Dam was demolished, the Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site was rehabilitated, and the state park reopened in 2018.
The new state park, which is still in the planning stages, sprang out of a community-led Superfund cleanup initiative that began in 2003. The park is primarily funded by the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, with some additional funds supplied by the United States Housing along with the Urban Development Economic Development Initiative.
Now let’s dive into the more interesting facts about Milltown State Park!
Milltown State Park Stats
- Size (acres / ha) – 635 acres (257 ha)
- Largest lake/river: Blackfoot River joins the Clark Fork River from the left.
- Season – Park – Open All seasons (Day Use only. No Camping)
Although the park is open year-round, it is important to note that it is only open during the day. There are currently no possibilities for overnight camping. Furthermore, the gates to the confluence region are only open during the times listed below. Make sure you plan ahead of time for your visit.
Confluence Area gate hours
- October 16 through April 30: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm.
- May 1 through August 31: 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
- September 1 through October 15: 9:00 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Milltown State Park, which contains over 635 acres of terrain and many miles of river frontage, is actually made on the site of a federal Superfund dam removal and river restoration project.
There are several entrances to the park. Starting off with the Milltown State Park Overlook, which offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the rivers as well as picnic tables for your convenience. The Clark Fork River and its flood-plain walkways are accessible through three miles of hiking trails from the Overlook.
There are two park entrances across the river, at the Confluence and Gateway sites, which are connected by a concrete path along the lower Blackfoot River. The interpretive plaza and riverbank trails are the Confluence Area’s main features.
The Confluence and Gateway Areas allow river access for the well-known “tube hatch,” which draws hundreds of people each summer to escape the Missoula heat! Isn’t that a cool idea?
Other than the recreational options, Milltown State Park offers a historical exploration of the area just along the riverbank. If you read through the area’s history, one of the stories that you will find interesting is that the landscape of the area was greatly transformed by The Glacial Lake Missoula floods long ago.
Among other stories, Meriwether Lewis passed through the very same junction on the Fourth of July. After him, John Mullan and his employees suffered a harsh winter in the very same area.
The Salish and Kalispel recall the confluence as the home of bull trout, and it remains an important part of their old, ancestral home to this day. With the expansion of the timber industry in the 1880s, rivers were converted into dams to generate energy for mills and settlements, albeit at a high cost.
The optimistic narrative of the Milltown Dam removal and river restoration provides an educational opportunity to examine the nation’s evolving relationship to the landscape as well as the science underpinning river restoration and ecology.
Thousands of kids, from elementary to graduate school, have done so throughout the park’s brief history. Milltown State Park, Montana’s newest state park is currently a work in progress.
Additional acreage along the Clark Fork was purchased in 2020, and a new trailhead and route at the historic Bandmann Flats property are planned for 2021.
Milltown State Park has a lot to offer, whether you want to play or study, you must visit it to explore more about it.
Milltown State Park has a wide range of activities to keep you and your family occupied while having a great time. Bird watching, fishing, hiking, photography, picnicking, and, of course, River Overlooks, and Wildlife Viewing are just a few of the most popular activities here.
From the Overlook, almost three miles of hiking trails lead to the Clark Fork River and its flood-plain trails.
For up-to-date information on activities, you can follow Milltown State Park on its Facebook and Instagram pages.
The Milltown State Park Bluff Overlook has been available since the park and dam restorations and now allows hiking access to the flood-plain paths on the Clark Fork River’s south bank.
Two more popular paths are the Forest Loop Trail and the Overlook Trail, both of which are located on the bluff and are excellent for a brief visit if you’re not in the mood for a lengthy, grueling trek. While you’re there, we recommend bringing items and food for a picnic. Tables are positioned to provide great views of the surrounding region.
You can download a PDF map of the hiking trails here.
Places to Stay Nearby
102 On Catlin
102 On Catlin condominium provides visitors with everything they need to make their visit relaxing and fun. Inside, you’ll find this charming apartment to be completely furnished with all of the amenities & necessary for a calm evening in or as a base camp for various activities.
Situated in the heart of Missoula, right around the corner from the famed Good Food Store, in case you’re suddenly in the mood to make some fresh soup, this is where local fresh organic items are available and if you’re in the mood for a quick grab, don’t worry there’s delectable cafe only steps away.
Just a few streets away are the Clark Fork River Trails, accessible by foot or bicycle. You can traverse through downtown Missoula, the University of Montana, and everything in between very conveniently by making this place your campground!
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Missoula – Edgewater
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Missoula – Edgewater located just on the banks of Clark Fork River, four blocks from interstate 90 and a 5-minute walk from the University of Montana is for those who don’t want to miss out on the hotel luxury!
Apart from complimentary Wi-Fi, coffeemakers in every room, and hot water, there’s a riverfront all-day restaurant specializing in steak and seafood that serves meals on a riverbank deck. There’s also a fitness facility open 24 hours a day, an outdoor pool, and a hot tub!
Places to Eat
Bagels on Broadway
One of Missoula’s busiest bagel shops is called “Bagels on Broadway”. It serves over 15 distinct types of bagels, all of which are prepared fresh every day using their own recipes and innovations. There’s also a selection of handmade spreads and a wide variety of sandwiches for you to choose from.
Salads, soups, and desserts baked from scratch, as well as a full espresso bar and free Wi-Fi, are also available. The best part is that they are open seven days a week and offer plenty of seating.
If you’ve opted to stay downtown, they also provide complimentary delivery!
For almost 30 years, Bernice’s Bakery has been Missoula’s favorite bakery!
They are a bakery, a café, a coffeehouse, and a community gathering spot all at the same time. The main foundation of Bernice’s Bakery is to support and encourage organic ingredients, community gathering, and recycling. Many of Bernice’s goods are made with high-quality organic ingredients.
Their shade-grown, organic coffee is delicious and powerful, and it has a stellar reputation across Montana, paired with their best-selling pastries and sandwiches.
They have baked products available for you to sample at any time of day or night. They also serve lunch, and have delectable late-night snacks available!