Montana Outdoors

May 12, 2012

Spring Creek

Here in the southeastern part of the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana a small stream flows down from the TeePee – Spring Creek Roadless Area at the end of KooKooSint Ridge below Big Hole Peak for about ten miles through tall old-growth cedars in a deep, steep and narrow canyon to where, in spring, it enters the Clark Fork River. In late summer, fall and winter, the stream disappears below ground several miles before it reaches the river.

This time of year however the stream is swollen with snow-melt and instead of simply flowing, it plunges, roaring, through several miles of steep cascades on its downward journey.

Here are a series of photos that were taken on the tenth of May of this year from the trail (USFS Trail 370) in the lower several miles of the canyon. The very first one though is from April of 2010 before the annual spring run-off when the stream flow was at a much lower level and was flowing at a much slower rate. It is posted by way of comparison.

I usually refrain from posting so many photos in a single post, but this is an attempt to provide the viewer with a visual feel for what it is like to walk the trail through the canyon.

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

Spring Creek


  1. I feel like I’ve actually walked there… so glad you outdid yourself! Love the sound of a roaring stream… I think I can hear it as well! Excellent photos and post.

    Comment by kcjewel — May 12, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    • I’m glad you got a bit of the feel of it! It was very windy that day and the wind was roaring through the trees, but when I entered the canyon the sound of the water completely drowned out the wind.

      Comment by montucky — May 12, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

  2. Such beauty and power in the water..

    Comment by Roberta — May 12, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

    • Indeed! This stream is pure and drinkable in its natural state. I contemplate all of the life that it and other such streams support, both plant and animal. Therein lies the real power of the water I think. Because most of this one disappears into the ground, I would not be surprised to find that it helps maintain the aquifer from which we get our well water at our house.

      Comment by montucky — May 12, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

  3. I’m sure glad you didn’t refrain this time. :-)

    Comment by jomegat — May 12, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

  4. A beautiful series of photos – I felt as if I was on the walk, too. I love the way you’ve captured the water and the shadowy woodland. I can almost feel the chilly air and smell the cedars!

    Comment by Jo Woolf — May 13, 2012 @ 1:35 am

    • Thanks Jo. I almost always hike alone, by preference, but I often wish that folks all over the world could share what I experience. We indeed live in a wonderful world.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  5. Beautiful series of photos. I’m sure the sounds of the water tumbling and flowing is beautiful too.

    Comment by kateri — May 13, 2012 @ 5:55 am

    • With that amount of water flowing it was very loud, but it was so pleasant to sit back and enjoy the sound.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  6. It looks like one very enchanting walk. I love the place names. So very western sounding.

    Comment by Teresa Evangeline — May 13, 2012 @ 5:55 am

    • I especially like these particular place names too because they are meaningful, at least to me. The Cabinet Mountains were named that because some of the early explorers thought they looked a little like huge cabinets with rocky, sometimes square ridges.

      The TeePee – Spring Creek roadless area got its name from two of the creeks that originate (TeePee Creek and Spring Creek) in it although most of their travel is not actually in the roadless area itself, rather along its eastern border.

      When the early explorer David Thompson made his journeys through the northwest he mapped them and therefore made frequent use of a sextant. The local indians called him KooKooSint, in their language, “the man who gazes at the stars”. The tall 20 mile long ridge was named after him.

      When you stand atop Big Hole Peak and look to the northeast you look out over what might appear to be a huge hole hole in the ground because the mountain drops off so suddenly and for so far, hence the name.

      The Clark Fork River is actually the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, named after William Clark of the Corps of Discovery or the Lewis and Clark Expedition when they actually traveled along the Columbia.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

      • Thank you so much for this information. I love the name the natives gave to Thompson. To pass through life known as “the man who gazes at the stars,” would be a really fine thing.

        Comment by Teresa Evangeline — May 16, 2012 @ 6:48 am

        • It would. I gathered that he didn’t mind the name. I’ve noticed that the minds and spirits of the Indians can be very accurate.

          Comment by montucky — May 16, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

  7. Awesome photo’s. Rushing water lifts my soul!

    Comment by Debby — May 13, 2012 @ 5:58 am

    • It does for me too! As does the wild country setting.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

  8. Oh man, you’re making me homesick. I could spend hours just sitting on a mossy stone or stump looking at whatever came my way. What a treasure you have.

    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — May 13, 2012 @ 6:02 am

    • As far as I’m concerned, that’s a truly excellent way to spend a few hours! Just the experience of being there!

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

  9. What a great spot. It looks like the kind of place that will be full of wildflowers.

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — May 13, 2012 @ 6:41 am

    • There are many species there, but only species that tolerate cooler than ordinary temperatures (it’s always cold in the canyon) and fairly deep shade. Far above the sides of the canyon the mountainsides are full of the other species.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

  10. Terry:

    Delicious! Better than a cold Alaskan Amber.


    Comment by Chad — May 13, 2012 @ 7:11 am

  11. Good series! Well done.

    Comment by Cornel Apostol — May 13, 2012 @ 7:25 am

  12. I have a true fondness for mountain creeks. Thank you!

    Comment by Bo Mackison (@bo_mackison) — May 13, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    • I do too. A reverence for them. It began in the early 40’s.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

  13. All of the photos are beautiful, but those with the “feathery” effect are stunning. I’ve seen that done with some waterfall photos – it’s just lovely. Running water is the best in the world.

    The series made me remember an old, old song by Holly Near, called “Water Come Down”. It’s not on youtube, unfortunately – I’m sure most people know her only for her more recent, social issues songs. I’m going to poke around and see if I can find it as an mp3. Thanks for the photos and the memory!

    Comment by shoreacres — May 13, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    • Thanks Linda. I do like the ability to “slow down” the water in a waterfall of a running stream: the dynamics of moving water are just fascinating. This water though was moving so fast and the canyon was so dark I had very little control over the appearance of the stream. Later in the summer it is slower and I like the appearance of the water better.

      Thank you for sending that mp3! I love that song and I’m very happy for the introduction to Holly Near’s music!

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

  14. gorgeous, each and every image!
    as are the two posts below!

    Comment by Tammie — May 13, 2012 @ 10:11 am

  15. Absolutely stunning photos!!

    Comment by allbymyself09 — May 13, 2012 @ 11:44 am

    • Thanks Barbara! They give you just a taste of what that canyon holds.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  16. beautiful im always impressed with your pictures.thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Jeff Price — May 13, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    • Thanks Jeff! And thanks for visiting and commenting!

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

  17. Just lovely, Montuck. Did you choose to have the water motion blurred or was it a consequence of the slow shutter speed necessary to capture enough light in the shady woods?

    Comment by Kim — May 13, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    • On that day it was mostly the latter, Kim. The stream is swollen with snow-melt and traveling very fast, so it would take a fast shutter to stop it. In summer when the stream is lower and slower, as in the first photo, I often choose to smooth the water a bit with a longer exposure time. Thanks to digital it’s quick and easy to experiment.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  18. These pictures are beautiful and my favor4ites from you. Places like that are like heaven to me.

    Comment by Ratty — May 13, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

    • They are like heaven to me too, Ratty. Those wild natural places are very precious!

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

  19. I love the way you captured the movement of the water, once can feel it flowing. I like all those mossy rocks, too. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever drank water in its pure and natural state from a stream. I bet it’s especially refreshing.

    Comment by Candace — May 13, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

    • I’m glad that there are still streams like this around that are still pure and drinkable. I remember when I was a kid, along the highways through the higher mountains, especially through the passes, there were signs posted at many of the streams telling travelers that they were safe and good for drinking. Those have been gone for a long time now, but some of these wild natural places still exist. The water is just about as cold as water can get and tastes wonderful.

      Comment by montucky — May 13, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

  20. Absolutely beautiful scenery- excellent photography!

    Comment by Watching Seasons — May 14, 2012 @ 10:24 am

    • Thank you. Yes, it’s a very pretty canyon and a nice place to be cool during mid-summer!

      Comment by montucky — May 14, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

  21. Is there a better symbol for freedom that a brook running full? I do not know of one!

    Comment by Wild_Bill — May 14, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

    • I agree, Bill! And it’s wonderful to me to know that there are still wild and clean ones like this around!

      Comment by montucky — May 14, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  22. Glad you included all the shots you did!!! I can hear and taste the water from here! Ahhhhh

    Comment by dhphotosite — May 14, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    • The water is ice cold and the roar of the stream is just wonderful!

      Comment by montucky — May 14, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

  23. I was glad to see every photos. A wonderful series, thank you.

    Comment by sandy — May 14, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    • Thanks Sandy. I visit this creek quite often because it is quite close to home and yet has hardly anyone visit it. A nice retreat on a hot summer day!

      Comment by montucky — May 14, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

  24. Wow-wee! Now, that is what I call a creek and these photos are a feast for the eyes. What I would give to see such a creek. I just love the photo series… beautiful. I especially like the first and second photos.

    Comment by Anna Surface — May 15, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    • I wish you and Preston could have a couple days to see this stream, especially when the heat of summer hits. It’s still a little cold there in the canyon and the water is a little high, but in a few more weeks it will be gorgeous and the devil’s club should be blooming.

      Comment by montucky — May 15, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

  25. These water shots are spectacular! I’ve been trying to convince my husband to explore the Cabinets as we generally recreate in and around the Flathead Valley including Glacier Park. Thank you for sharing. I don’t think it is too many shots to post at all. :)

    Comment by Marlene — May 15, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Marlene! If you like to hike a bit, you might take a look at the Four Lakes trail head on the west fork of the Thompson River. It’s a nice hike to Cabin Lake. I don’t know what the snow situation is there this early though. Haven’t been up there this year yet.

      Comment by montucky — May 15, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

  26. Lovely. I can hear it just looking at your photos. What a treat to have near you. Makes me want to head to the North Shore as soon as school gets out to visit similar places.

    Comment by bearyweather — May 15, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    • The trail head to this one is about 5 miles from my house and so I can visit often (when the snow isn’t too deep), and the full trail is about all I would want to hike in a day.

      Comment by montucky — May 15, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

  27. Thank you for taking us on this walk with you. Montucky, these photos are simply splendid! Each one is captivating and I can almost hear the rush of the water, feel the coolness of the air and a little spray of water when you get so close to the stream, and smell the freshness in the air and the wonderful woodsy odor of the forest. Every photo is beautiful but I am especially drawn to the very first one.

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — May 16, 2012 @ 9:18 am

    • Thank you for the feedback! That’s exactly what I hoped you would see from the photos. that is the type of country that I love very much and I spend as much time in such places as I possibly can.

      Comment by montucky — May 16, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

      • Your hopes were fulfilled! I forgot to say that after gazing at your pictures and thinking about the senses they invoked in me, I feel like I need to go visit the woods because I haven’t been there in so long! Well-done, my friend!!

        Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — May 17, 2012 @ 7:25 am

  28. Your extremely lovely photos invite me to walk in this nature. To walk there in the “silence” of the nature slowly and admiring the beauty of wild nature is something which my soul misses.

    Comment by Sartenada — May 17, 2012 @ 11:33 pm

    • I am just glad that there are still wild places like this where folks can see part of the natural world as it has always been. It satisfies the link that exists between us and the world that we are ultimately a part of.

      Comment by montucky — May 18, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  29. I enjoyed this “stroll” along the trail! thanks!! really gorgeous!

    Comment by skouba — May 18, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    • I’m sure you would enjoy the sights, but you would have to bundle up; the temperature there on that day was still in the 30’s.

      Comment by montucky — May 18, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

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