THE LAST WET PLACE!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: February 24, 2024

Montana has many wet assets. There are 18 large rivers in our state. That adds up to 169,829 miles of flowing water. 408 of these river miles are labeled as “Wild or Scenic”. Many of our waters flow thanks to Winter snows and rain. Without a gradual runoff each Spring, some of these waters dry up later in the Summer. 

The longest river is the Missouri River at 2,340 miles. This river was named by local Indians as “people with wooden canoes”. Like Lewis and Clark, navigation was done by making dugout canoes form logs on their long trek.

There are also 9,498 smaller creeks or streams. That means a lot of names. These waters were named after many different people, places, critters, or other reasons. Rattlesnakes, porcupines, buffaloes, deer, cows, antelopes, elk, moose, sheep, bulls, trout, skunks, wolves, and birds helped name plenty of waters. There is over 40 Beaver Creeks, 25 Blacktail Creeks, and many Otter creeks. Lots of dead, fast, big, or small “Horses” named waters.  If there were more than one critter, the creeks reflected 2 Bears, Dogs, or Bulls. 

Geology also helps to name waters. Their names are Sandy, Quartz, Gypsum, Powder, Yellowstone, Ruby, Salt, Lime, rocks, and Golden.16 creeks must have loaded with Quartz!  Politicians inspired the naming of the Madison, Jefferson, and Gallatin. Native names and tribes also are shown across the state. 

The direction of water flows named a boatload of places. North, South, East, West are part of hundreds of water names.  1,467 creeks are “Southern”. Odd for a state where most waters flow east. Some creeks are just in the “Middle” or simply “Lost”.

Waters were also muddy, fast, clear, straight, rough, crooked, still, swampy, dry, dammed, lazy, cold, and warm. Only one Montana water was named “Slippery” Every angler in the state knows that isn’t true. 

Plants provide ideas for many waters. Plums, Pines, Flowers, Grasses, Willows, and so many more grow on us when we look at the maps.  Native trees make a name for themselves as “Cherry, Cottonwoods, Willows, Sage, Cedar, Timbered, or just “Wood” was used in naming especially if there was plenty or little.

The weather may have also been a factor. Creeks were “Windy, Stormy, Snowy, or Smokey”. Some of our waters were probably named during weather events or during Earthquakes, avalanches, or droughts. 

Distances also help to name our waters. The shortest creek is just 2 miles long. There are many creeks that are 3, 6, 7, 9,10, and lots of “Short” creeks. The “Roe River” is the shortest river in North America. Lots of creeks are Upper and Lower.

Pioneer activity labeled creeks as Mills, Mines, Sawmills, Teepees, Trailheads, Camps, Corrals, and Battles. People’s names reflect many waters. There are plenty of creeks named after “Tony, Jim, Ray, Mike, Tom, John, Jocko, and several Johnsons. “There must have been a boatload of “Smiths” in the region. 

Some odd names also make a name for themselves. There are several “Jack and Jill” creeks. “Bloody Dick” must have had a tough time near the “Beaverhead”. There must have been a great party along “Wahoo Creek” in the Flathead. 

Only a few creeks start with the letter Z. “They are “Zimmer, Zook, Zulu “and “Zero”, Zimmer and Zook must have been people. A Traveler from Africa must have been in Lincoln County and someone with a low IQ was trying to sleep on a really cold night, ZZZZ. 

I always wondered what was on original people’s minds when they decided to name our watersheds. “Wet Fork” was surely wet, some “Dry” creeks must have named in the late Summer, “No Name” was a no brainer. “Solo Joe” must have been by himself when he named a creek. There are a lot of “Dicks” in creek names. I am not sure if they are named after people, behaviors, nouns, adjectives, or body parts but some creeks are also “Prickly” and “Big Horned’. There is only one “Schwartz” creek in Montana! “Tootsie” must have been cute and fun. No one must have ever been up “S–T” Creek in Montana. 

“T and A” creek must also have some special meaning. 

Montana Grant

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