July 3: Two Rivers


Interactive aerial of a large mountain valley

This view looks south from the confluence of the Clark Fork of the Columbia (lower center and right of center) with the Bitterroot River. The campsite of Travelers' Rest is at the mouth of the canyon on the north side of Lolo Peak. Lewis and his party followed the Indian road from there along the foot of the mountain to the confluence of the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork. On the horizon at upper right is the snow-covered Lolo Peak—actually two peaks on the same mountain. The nearer mountain, at right, for reasons uncertain, is today called Blue Mountain. Perhaps that was a synonym for "purple mountains' majesty" in the familiar patriotic hymn.



To see labels, point to the picture.

Fork in a river making a large island

Inscribed on the land are the the two rivers' memories of their long-past meetings, channels long since abandoned amid the chaos of riverine dynamics. Cottonwood trees owe their lives to rivers. Since their seeds take root and thrive at the margins of a river's maximum seasonal width, their orderly rows record the ups and downs of water levels within that century. Having a life expectancy of 80 to 100 years, they are the continuous, sweet-scented mementos of only the past century.


Funded in part by a grant from the Montana Cultural Trust.