Montana Outdoors

October 15, 2016

Inside the Copper King fire area ~ Part 2

Most of the photos in the previous post showed badly burned places within the area of the Copper King fire. The photos which now follow show many areas within the fire area that escaped the flames and which will help the whole area in its recovery. All photos in these two posts were taken from within the northeast sector of the fire area. The snow-capped peak that shows up in several of the pictures is Thompson Peak which is in the area of the Chippy Creek fire which burned 150 square miles in 2007.

Copper King Fire 21

Copper King Fire 22

Copper King Fire 23

Copper King Fire 24

Copper King Fire 25

Copper King Fire 26

Copper King Fire 27

Copper King Fire 28

Copper King Fire 29

Copper King Fire 30

Copper King Fire 31

Copper King Fire 32

October 5, 2016

Where did it go?

This Whitetail doe was meandering along in the burn area of the Copper King fire with her head down, sniffing the ground. I suspect she was searching for a favorite trail that no longer exists. The photo was taken in the northeastern part of the burn, along USFS road 887 about three miles up Todd Creek.

White tail deer

September 27, 2016

And yet the stream still flows

Yesterday the large area that has been closed for nearly two months because of the thirty square mile Copper King fire was re-opened and all access restrictions have been removed. Today I was able to hike into the Spring Creek canyon and found that the stream is still flowing just five miles downstream from the fire area and the water is still clear and cold. It was so good to see the stream and its canyon again! In the next week or so I will hike into the burned area and see what it now looks like there.

Spring Creek

Spring Creek

August 2, 2016

Copper King fire, western Montana

On Sunday, July 31 a wild fire started up at the west end of KooKooSint Ridge about 8 miles east of the small western Montana town of Thompson Falls at about 3:00 PM. In the first few hours it grew to 200 acres.

Meanwhile, a close friend was working with a contingent of volunteers on the restoration of the lookout cabin on Big Hole Peak which is located about three miles from the fire and directly down wind from it. At about 5:00 the restoration crew was evacuated from the lookout so my friend (who had hiked up to work in the morning) had the pleasure of another three mile hike back down to the staging area and return to the valley leaving most of his equipment behind.

On Monday morning the Forest Service sent a crew by helicopter up to the Big Hole Lookout to retrieve all of the equipment and wrap the cabin with fire resistant material. By then the fire had grown to 700 acres.  While we had nothing much else to do we decided to see if we could go get a good look at the fire, and made the drive up to the Eddy Peak lookout which is on the other side of the Clark Fork Valley about two miles due south of the fire. That lookout is manned and has a road up to about half a mile from the lookout itself. We arrived at the tower just in time to see an air tanker drop its entire load of retardant on the fire. I had barely enough time to change my camera to a telephoto lens before the retardant run began. It was a great opportunity for a few photos and a rare opportunity to photograph a big air tanker run from above. (The fire was at an elevation of about 5500 feet and the Eddy Peak lookout sits at about 7000 feet.) The photos of the tanker run were taken from the lookout tower.

The air tanker is a four engine jet I believe to be owned by Neptune Aviation in Missoula Montana and it’s a BAe 146 (#02) aircraft which carries a load of 3000 gallons of retardant (about twelve tons).

Photos from the base of the Eddy Peak lookout overlooking the Clark Fork Valley:

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Clark Fork Valley from Eddy Peak

Copper King fire

Sequence of photos of the air tanker retardant run:

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

Copper King fire

Copper King fire


Copper King fire

Copper King fire

July 2, 2009

The restoration

A few days ago, while searching for a location in which to cut next winter’s firewood supply, I chose to visit the area burned by the Chippy Creek fire in the Cabinet Mountains of western Montana. It burned for nearly all the month of August in 2007 and blackened an area of 150 square miles, 10 miles wide and 15 miles long. This photo was taken on August 4 of 2007 from a distance of about 6 miles only a few days after it began.

Chippy Creek Fire

The area I visited on Tuesday was located over the ridge and just about under the center of those tall smoke columns and was pretty thoroughly burned. As She always does, Nature immediately began the process of healing and regeneration, and in admiration I see that She has not forgotten how important the beauty of wildflowers is through the process.

One of the first wildflowers to grow in a burn, Fireweed beginning its blossom period:


Penstemons at the base of a burned Douglas Fir:


Fireweed in it’s bud stage and Penstemons with a section of the fire-killed trees in the background:


In a couple of our lifetimes or a brief moment in Nature’s eternity the forest will be completely whole again.

May 31, 2009

Elegant Mariposa Lily

Elegant Mariposa Lily

Northwest Mariposa Lily,
Elegant Cat’s Ear
Calochortus elegans

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