Trash lingers on the Clark Fork

Litter still remains in the Clark Fork river one year after train derailment. A guide’s perspective.

Remnants of the April 2023 train derailment along the Clark Fork river still remains. A guide's perspective.

It all started out as a normal spring fishing day on the lower Clark Fork river. The weather was overcast, cool, with a light breeze running down river.  Mayflies were strong and by noon trout were looking up for these miniature sail boat looking invertebrates. As luck would have it, I entered into a well known eddy in hopes of sneaking up on the larger than average trout feeding in the ever changing foam lines of the eddy. I say “well known” not for its prestige among fishing spots but rather its infamy for being the location of last year’s train derailment that put a small amount of fuel and lots of Coors light and Blue Moon beer into the river. 

Upon further inspection, I was surprised to find the unmistakable silver bullet appearance of Coors light from the railroad tracks to the bottom of the river. At that moment, my angler Bill Sugars as well as myself were momentarily disinterested in the rising trout off the bow of my drift boat. With fishing as an afterthought, it didn’t take long to fill up my lunch trash bag with beer cans and other debris left behind from the derailment. Unfortunately, it did not make a dent in the clutter that still remained on the banks and in the water. 
The clock was ticking. The river was starting its annual rise in flow from increasing air temperatures resulting in snow melt. It was only a matter of time until the Clark Fork river was bank full and most of the leftover debris would be swept down river depositing throughout the lower reaches of the river. On the drive home, I called any and all folks that might be able to help get the word out that there was still work to be done on the cleanup. 
Luckily, after calling local Flathead Valley news outlets, I was able to chat with  Monte Turner, a Clark Fork based reporter from the Mineral Independent who was happy to help out. Along with writing a news article titled, “Litter lingers from last year’s train derailment into the Clark Fork River“, he was able to contact Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for comment. Thanks to Monte’s inquiries into the persistent issue, BNSF quickly sent out a crew for more litter removal before waters got too high. 
I have yet to be back to the spot since the latest cleanup efforts but I look forward to stopping into the now famous eddy. This time, to do my job as fishing guide, helping anglers achieve their angling goals as well as marvel at beauty and resilience of the Clark Fork river. 

Thanks to all that were involved in the effort. 



One Comment

  1. Bill Sugars says:

    Glad to see your persistence paid off. Hopefully they removed a significant amount of aluminum before high water runoff. A truly great river where I was able to catch rainbow, cut bow, cutthroat and brown on this trip.
    Thanks for your commitment. Bill Sugars

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