About the Big HOle River Drought Management Plan

Shared Sacrifice, Shared Success

The Big Hole River Drought Management Plan designates target river flow and temperature conditions for fish health in five river sections of the Big Hole River. The plan includes voluntary conservation targets for all water users, MFWP fishing restriction criteria, and information tools. Conservation actions are designed support the health of the fishery.

The plan outlines voluntary conservation actions and relies on Shared Sacrifice, Shared Success – if all users sacrifice, we can all be successful in protecting the fishery. The plan also designates MFWP fishing restrictions when drought conditions reach critical levels.

The BHWC DMP originated in 1997. The plan is reviewed annually by a committee made up of irrigators, fishermen, conservation groups, and agency representatives as well as the entire BHWC.


River Conditions

Streamflow Forecast

Provided by Matt Norberg, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation as of September 18, 2019

Streamflow: Streamflows in the upper basin generally were average to below average during the spring and summer months.  Streamflows in the lower basin overall were average; however periods of below-average flow and above-average flow (precip) helped normalize conditions. Starting the year off, snowpack in the basin was approximately 100% of average, however below normal precipitation (Wisdom area) resulted in streamflows rapidly declining post runoff.  Localized precipitation events briefly increased flows throughout the summer.

PrecipitationJune, July, and August precipitation levels were below average for the Wisdom area.  Below-average precipitation in the upper basin caused streamflows to rapidly drop after runoff. Early September produced a measurable storm throughout the basin which helped elevate stream flows and decrease water temps.

TemperaturesTemperatures through the summer were slightly below average with the exception of August which was slightly above average. Daily high temperatures in the Big Hole Valley were about 2 degrees below average and daily low temperatures were about 2 degrees below average.

Forecast: ENSO-neutral conditions are favored during the Northern Hemisphere fall 2019 (~75% chance), continuing through spring 2020 (55-60% chance). Given the ENSO-neutral conditions, be sure to closely watch upcoming forecasts as we move into the fall and winter months. The outlook through September currently favors average precipitation and above average temperatures.

View the Forecast Details

2016 Fundraising


2018 USGS Gage Bill:

Water Temperature at Big Hole River @ Wise River (Dickie Bridge), Maiden Rock, and Notch Bottom (Glen):

USGS Flow Gages for Upper Big Hole CCAA program:

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Wise River Real-Time Gage

Success Story

The Wise River real-time gage was installed near the mouth of the Wise River October 2015. The Big Hole Watershed Committee sought installation in order to continue flow and temperature monitoring in the Wise River, as well provide information for Wise River irrigators. The gage reports flow, stage and water temperature in real-time via Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Surface Water website. The gage is part of the 2015 launch of DNRC & Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology real-time monitoring system for small streams, who installed and operates the gage. Funding was provided by Big Hole Watershed Committee, The Nature Conservancy, and Montana Trout Unlimited and is graciously hosted on the PKR Ranch. The Big Hole Watershed Committee in partnership with DNRC, MFWP, and Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology have been conducting monitoring of the Wise River surface and groundwater since 2011.

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