The Milltown Dam was built in 1908 at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot to bring hydroelectricity to the sawmills in Bonner. But mere months after the dam was constructed, a record-breaking flood washed tons of heavy metals from the Butte and Anaconda mines and deposited them behind the dam. By the early 1980s, Bonner residents were finding arsenic in their drinking water and the Milltown Dam site became part of the largest Superfund complex in the western U.S.
This story has a happy ending, though. Beginning in 2003, the state of Montana began implementing a “Three Rs” plan—remediation, restoration and redevelopment—to the area, including the creation of a new state park. Thanks to a joint effort by state groups and volunteers, the overlook at the newly minted Milltown State Park is now open to the public and the rest of the park is slated to open later this year. Fishing, hiking and picnics in a former Superfund site? We consider this to be a wonderful example of humans working together to restore the damage wrought by humans. Once the park opens for picnicking, let’s each raise a toast to teamwork.