S. Fk. Deep Creek
Pine Creek H,C
Passage Creek Falls
Big Timber Area
Creek Falls H,C,V
Boulder Meadows H,C
Twin Lakes H,C
Lava Lake H
Little Belt Mountains
MT Railroading V
Gap Wind Farm V
The Yellowstone River
Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness
Rocks Rec Area V,C
Lake State Park V,C
Warm Springs Ponds Wildlife
The Warm Springs Ponds Wildlife
Management Area is one of the most unique wildlife viewing places in
all of Montana. These are ponds are completely artificial and were not
for their wildlife value. In fact, they were constructed to try and
mitigate environmental damage resulting from mining in nearby areas.
The Warm Springs Ponds
are located on the north side of Interstate 90 about 20 miles west of
Butte, MT and a few miles north of
Anaconda, MT. There is good signage on I 90 and the entrance to the
Ponds is right next to the highway. Four creeks come together at Warm
Springs Ponds. Silver Bow,
Mill, Willow and Warm Springs Creeks merge and just below the
Clark Fork River begins.
Mining was king in the early days of Montana's
development and the entire Butte and Anaconda area was
intensively mined. Silver Bow Creek was the recipient of mining,
smelting, industrial and municipal wastes for more than a
hundred years. (note: Butte is one of the most historic mining towns in
the US. If you are interested in the history of MT or of mining you
will enjoy this book about The
Mining History of Butte, MT).
Beginning in 1911 the Warm Springs
Ponds were constructed to serve as
"settling ponds" where the heavy metal pollution carried by Silver Bow
would settle out before joining the Clark Fork River. While this was
effective, a lot of pollution still made its way into the Clark Fork
River. To address this problem, in the 1990's the
filtering capacity of the ponds was improved and today they are quite
effective at removing the heavy metals from the water.
The diversity of habitat types found at Warms Springs Ponds
homes for many different creatures, especially birds. Many types
waterfowl are found in the ponds but a lot of other bird species are
also common. Be sure to bring your binoculars to aid in viewing.
The habitat improvement
projects that have been constructed along with the pond improvements
resulted in excellent habitat for many bird species. Many
different waterfowl species are abundant but you are also likely to see
birds. The USGS has produced a bird checklist for Warm Springs Ponds
that lists more than 140 different species. Each season brings a
different variety of birds so any time is a good time to visit.
Despite the fact that the primary
purpose of the
ponds is to purify polluted waters, they offer excellent fishing
opportunities. Many anglers know of the large trout that are routinely
caught in the ponds and they are a popular destination for fly
anglers. The Ponds have been known to produce some true trophy fish so
come prepared to fight a big fish!
There are hiking and biking possibilities at Warm
Springs Ponds and they are used a lot by local area runners as they
provide a great place to take a run. In the fall, waterfowl hunters can
be found at the site and fishermen are encountered year round. As
already mentioned, the bird watching is always productive and many
birders try to make frequent visits.
Warm Springs Ponds are a very unique
area. Having originally been created to reduce the toxic mining waste
washing downstream, today they effectively purify the water and provide
an excellent habitat for wildlife and fish. The fact that the area is
right along I 90 and is located right at an exit makes it easy to visit
the area quite easily. I often plan a little extra time when I drive
through this area to allow for a quick visit and a good dose of the
outdoors. Be sure to stop if you are in the area and enjoy this
In late March through mid April is is not unusual to see
flocks of Snow Geese migrating through the area. There were thousands
of birds flying overhead this day.
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