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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.🙂
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Thank you. It was so dark in the canyon that I didn’t have as much control as I would have liked but most of the photos turned out fairly well. My camera doesn’t like high ISO’s so I had to shoot a little slower than I wanted.