What We Do

The past 35 years have brought unprecedented changes to the Missouri River. Chiefly among these changes has been a dramatic alteration of insect and plant life as well as the immediate threat of invasive species introduction. UMOWA is committed to documenting and mitigating these changes to create a healthier river system.


We commission professional, independent, science-based studies of river health indicators to establish baseline data and monitor trends.


We cultivate collaboration and support for evidence-based management practices and policies among the multiple stakeholders. (e.g., flushing flows.)


We support on-the-ground projects that protect, enhance, and restore valuable river resources (e.g., .streambank restoration, boat wash stations.)

Scientific Studies & Monitoring

Our Commitment to Monitoring Water Quality

The Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance has undertaken water quality studies in the main stem of the upper Missouri river since 2015. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT DEQ) has supported these studies through a grant each year. We are definitely concerned about the significant increase in two important nutrients in 2017; nitrogen and phosphorous when compared to the 2016 study. We intend to expand our studies and determine the trend of this increase as well as the potential impact on the river.

Macroinvertebrate Studies

We have completed three consecutive years of scientific studies to determine the health and presence of the macroinvertebrate population of the upper Missouri river from Holter dam to Cascade as well as selected sites on the Smith river. David Stagliano has conducted these studies in a scientifically professional manner. This has enabled UMOWA to use these studies for presentations to state and federal agencies in order to impress upon them the state of this bug life and its impact on the fishery.

Concern About Excessive Aquatic Plant Growth in The Missouri River

There has long been concern regarding the excessive, heavy aquatic plant growth in the Missouri river, especially in the late summer and fall. UMOWA is planning to initiate an extensive, scientifically sound analysis of this phenomenon by hiring a professional plant researcher to design and implement the study. Water quality studies in 2017 revealed an increase in levels of nitrogen and phosphorous compared to 2016. We suspect that these elevated nutrient levels may be contributing to plant growth. As many of you have experienced, the plant growth can be so profuse in sections of the river so as to prohibit fishing in those area. UMOWA is committed to working on this issue and we will keep you posted as the project develops.


Coming Soon

Aquatic plant studies are in the works. Check back for results.

Flushing Flows

Our macroinvertebrate studies support clear evidence that the insect hatches on the upper Missouri have changed and dramatically diminished over the last few years. Both the caddis fly and mayfly populations have been significantly impacted. We have determined the most likely cause for this phenomenon is a lack of high water flushing flows in the spring/summer. This has allowed excessive weed growth and increased siltation of the riverbed gravel necessary for the successful reproduction of these insects. In response to the problem, UMOWA has organized meetings with the Bureau of Reclamation which controls outflows from the Canyon Ferry reservoir as well as Northwestern Energy, which operate both Holter and Hauser dams. Our hope is that our negotiations will result in planned, periodic flushing flows of the river.

Current Missouri River Flow Data -->

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Streambank Restoration 

2019 Report on the Wolf Creek Bridge Riverbank Restoration Project to Northwestern Energy’s Madison and Missouri Stewardship Program


Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance

prepared by Joe Kerkvliet, PhD

February 2019


Planting and nurturing

Beginning May 2018, the Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance (UMOWA) began implementing its portion of the Northwestern Energy’s Madison and Missouri River Stewardship Program Project, known as the Wolf Creek Bridge Riverbank Restoration Project.  UMOWA’s portion of the project is to plant, fertilize, protect, and nurture 140 native shrubs along 1200 feet of the Missouri River bank below Holter Dam and above Craig, Montana.  The projects’ aims are to restore native vegetation and ecological function to this quarter mile of riverbank that has been impacted by ungulate grazing and, to a lesser extent, and has been impacted by angler use. 

In late May 2018, UMOWA spearheaded the effort to plant, fertilize, and protect 140 native shrubs, using 1-2 foot plants in 6’ to 12’ inch pots as planting stock.  The plants were an approximately even mixture of six native species: chokecherry, three-leaf sumac, buffalo berry, currant, snowberry, and wild rose.  The plants and fertilizer were donated by Gardenwerks, a nursery in Helena, Montana.  Planting and fertilizing were done by 4-6 volunteers from UMOWA and 20-25 volunteers from Scouts of America troops from Helena and Montana City, Montana (see photos). 

Planted scrubs were randomly assigned to one of three protective treatments.  About 40 percent of the shrubs were planted in 5-foot by 10-foot exclosures made with 8-foot t-posts and 6-foot metal utility fabric.  These exclosures are expected to provide protection from grazing by ungulates, including domestic cattle, elk, and mule and whitetail deer, as well as protection from cambium grazing by rodents (muskrat, beaver, and mice) and rabbits. 

Another 40 percent of the shrubs were protected from rodent and rabbit grazing by using 4-foot utility posts attached to 3-foot poultry wire.  The remaining 20 percent of the shrubs were planted without protection, only marked with a 4-foot u-post. 

All 140 planted shrubs were watered June 1, 2018 to September 14, 2018 at 6-10 day intervals.  UMOWA volunteers conducted the watering using water gravity feed from a 100-gallon plastic water tank mounted on a Ford 250 pickup.  Water was provided by Headhunters Flyshop in Craig, Montana.  The water tank was purchased by UMOWA and Bill Ryan, a UMOWA board member, provided the ugly yellow Ford 250 pickup. 

In July 2018, UMOWA volunteers conducted a weed pull in the project area and pulled several 50 gallon trash bags of Russian and spotted knapweed.


In December 2018, the contractor chosen by Northwestern Energy complete construction of a barbed wire fence along the entire length 1200 foot length of the project site to protect the planted shrubs and the riverbank from grazing by cattle, horses, elk and deer, and two water gaps to allow livestock to access drinking water from the river.  In addition, the contractor built   two water-gaps to provide access to water for domestic stock (see photo). 

Interim Results

As of October 12, 2018, about 85 percent of the planted shrubs have survived and grown (see photos).  The surviving shrubs have added one-inch to three-feet of new growth.  Especially noteworthy is the 1.5 to 3-feet of growth of some of the wild rose specimens and the presence of rosehip berries on some of the new plants.  Of the 15 percent mortality, the majority seems to have been planted closer to the riverbank and many plants were submerged for many days during the high water flows of June 2018. 

Future actions

The fencing discussed above did not occur in time to prevent some damage to the plantings after livestock was release into the adjacent field.  In spring 2019, UMOWA volunteers repair the damage done by livestock to the exclosures and other plant protections.  UMOWA volunteers will also conduct and monitor the survival of the shrubs planted in 2018 and replace those plants which did not survive livestock grazing prior to the completion of the fence. 

In addition, UMOWA will build a stile to provide anglers’ access to the fenced portion of the Missouri riverbank at the upstream end of the project site.

UMOWA will continue to water the surviving shrubs during Spring/Summer 2019 and monitor survival and growth.  After spring 2019, UMOWA will analyze survival and growth data to estimate the statistical correlations between species’ survival and protection treatments. 


UMOWA acknowledges and thanks the following individuals and organizations for help in the Wolf Creek Bridge Riverbank Restoration Project:

Pete Peterson, Bill Ryan, Joe Kerkvliet, Pat Hunter, Jason Mullen, Alan McNeal, Alan Shaw, Gardenwerks, Scouts of America, Stevie Neumann, and Steve Leath.

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Boat Wash Stations


This last summer, MT FWP discovered the first invasive quagga mussels in Montana. UMOWA has begun a response to the crisis with a plan to install the first boat wash station in the region in Craig. The wash station will be in the Trout Shop parking lot and is will be operational in the summer of 2018. We will develop an educational program to inform river users about the importance of proper cleaning of their boats to prevent the spread of invasive species.

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