Recreational Trail to the Route of the Hiawatha

Photo by Aaron Teasdale

In 2007, Five Valleys joined the Forest Service in an effort to close the gaps along a thirty mile section of the former Milwaukee Road right-­‐of-­‐way to connect the wildly popular Route of the Hiawatha Trail via a recreational trail that would effectively extend the trail from close to St. Regis, Montana, all the way to Pearson, Idaho. Converting the former route of the Milwaukee across Montana to a recreational trail that may eventually traverse several states, linking the Midwest with the Pacific Coast is a dream held by many, and western Montana is currently the focus of much on-­‐the ground effort to realize that dream. Five Valleys was excited to be able to play an important role in accomplishing that.

Five Valleys secured options to purchase the privately held parcels and proceeded to identify potential funding sources to complete the purchase. In January 2009, Five Valleys closed on the purchase of the ten privately held parcels of land along the right-­‐of-­‐way that completed the trail link. Transfer of that land to the Forest Service was completed on August 5, 2009, with the help of vital funding from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Recreational Trails Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Once the land was secure in public ownership, the Superior Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest took on the task of getting the trail in shape for recreational use and working with the public through a collaborative group to craft a management plan to accommodate the variety of uses hoped for by the public.

The structural tasks were considerable, requiring special engineering and refurbishment work to assure that trestles and a tunnel were safe for public use. In the not too distant future, recreationists will be able to travel point-­‐to-­‐point for nearly fifty miles across the Bitterroot Mountains from Montana to Idaho.

Five Valleys is proud of its history of cooperative conservation efforts focused on securing recreational opportunities that generations of residents and visitors in western Montana will always be able to enjoy. This connection to the Route of the Hiawatha joins the public acquisitions of Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel, the Rattlesnake Greenway, the Alberton Gorge, and others as part of that proud legacy.

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