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Mission Statement

To understand, conserve, and enhance the unique ecological and recreational resources of the Upper Missouri River Watershed.


Board of Directors

Board Chairman
Dr. Alan Shaw
Big Sky, Montana

Vice Chair
Sherry Meador
Helena, Montana

Board Secretary 
Pat Hunter
Wolf Creek, Montana

Board Treasurer
Bill Ryan
Butte, Montana

Executive Committee
Kevin Cumley
Helena, Montana

Bailey Sory
San Francisco, California

Joe Kerkvliet
Corvalis, Oregon

UMOWA’s Work in Unprecedented Times

I am Dr. Alan Shaw, Chairman of the Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered the meaning of normal in our lives. It is important in these trying times for all of us to adhere to the recommendations from medical experts regarding social distancing and staying at home to help lessen the effects of the Coronavirus. As a result, and in the interest of being fully responsible, we are cancelling our Annual Rendezvous scheduled for June 27 in Craig. As an alternative, we are contemplating a series of raffles with excellent prizes as a way of raising monies to continue our work. We will keep you posted as the summer progresses. UMOWA continues to work on issues that impact the Upper Missouri:

This will provide objective scientific and technical guidance for the collection and utilization of ecological data. The committee members are David Stagliano (Chair), Sherry Meador, Bailey Sory, Joe Kerkvliet, Tom Woolf (FWP AIS Bureau Chief), and Ann Schwend (MTDNRC).

In May 2020, UMOWA will begin the second year of this project, to compare the 2019 findings to determine the nature, and prevalence of these plants (native as well as invasive) and work with all stakeholders to determine the cause of this phenomena. Your continued support of this project is vital to its success. 

Please read Dave Stagliano’s article summarizing his work on water quality analysis. This is an alarm that should create a sense of urgency as to the health of the river. UMOWA is working diligently on this issue.

If you are not a UMOWA member please consider joining and supporting us by signing up on the website;

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or suggestions. Click the following link to view the newest UMOWA video that I know you will find interesting:

Thank you for your support and generosity;

Dr. Alan Shaw, Board Chairman
Email:     Phone: 406-995-2792

UMOWA Documents Troubling Nutrient Trends During the Missouri River Water Quality Project
Dave Stagliano, Montana Biological Survey 

2019 marks the 4th year that UMOWA has been collecting Water Chemistry (WQ) samples at 7 sites from Wolf Creek to Cascade in the Upper Missouri River.  We have been able to gather scientifically rigorous data on Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and nutrients (Total Nitrogen {TN}, Phosphorous {TP} and Inorganic Nitrogen {NN}) during a variety of river conditions, from low discharge years (2016) to one of the highest (2018).  WQ Samples were usually collected seasonally in April, July and October to coincide with irrigation season, but because of early high water in 2018, they were collected in June, July and October.  Only October WQ samples were collected in 2019.

Since October of 2017, most UMOWA WQ sites have exceeded the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) recommended screening and nutrient standard values for NN and TN concentrations, respectively, and 6 of 7 sites exceeded the nutrient standard for TP concentrations, especially in October of 2018 and 2019 (Figures 1 and 2).

         Figure 1. Total Nitrogen levels across the UMOWA sites in 2018 and 2019.

         Figure 2. Total Phosphorus levels across the UMOWA sites in 2018 and 2019.

Only Missouri River sites downstream of tributaries, Little Prickly Pear (MO_LLPC_DS) and the Dearborn River (MO_DEAR_DS), were not consistently reporting elevated nutrient levels.  Since the initiation of this study in April 2016, these were the first observed instances of nutrient concentrations (Total Phosphorus) exceeding the MDEQ nutrient standards and screening values (Figure 3).

         Figure 3. Total Phosphorus levels at the UMOWA site near Craig from 2016.

This trend in nutrient levels exceeding MDEQ nutrient values is a significant cause for concern for the health of the river. These high levels are likely one of the causes of the excessive aquatic plant growth. 

UMOWA is turning science into action to help guide the future health of the Upper Missouri Watershed and we need your support to continue our efforts.

Unwelcome Aquatic Visitors Invade Montana’s Water
Liz Lodman, AIS Information Officer, Montana FWP

An unwelcome visitor from New Zealand has invaded Montana’s prime fishing rivers.  New Zealand Mudsnails (NZMS) were detected in Montana in 1995 and are now found in the Beaverhead, Bighorn, Jefferson, Madison, Missouri, Ruby and Yellowstone rivers. NZMS have a tiny cone-shaped shell averaging 1/8 inch in length and varies from brown to black in color. They are found on mud, rocks and aquatic plants. 

This small critter can have a big impact on our rivers.  NZMS can outcompete or displace native snails and aquatic insects that fish depend on for food.  Large colonies of NZMS can consume up to half the available food in a stream. They are not a food source for fish since 

NZMS have no natural predators and can rapidly reproduce by cloning. One snail can produce 230 offspring annually. The high reproductive potential of NZMS enables it to reach extraordinary densities in some locations.  Researchers at MSU have reported densities up to 750,000 snails per square meter in Yellowstone National Park. 

They can survive for many days on a damp surface. The opening of the shell has a retractable cover which allows the snail to seal itself inside when it is threatened or if exposed to pollutants or chemicals. When consumed by fish they can pass through the digestive system unharmed.

To stop the spread of NZMS and other aquatic invasive species, boaters and anglers should remove mud, vegetation and water from their boats, waders and fishing gear every time they leave the water.  It only takes one tiny snail hidden in some mud to start a new invasion. UMOWA has helped by installing a boat washing station in Craig and everyone is urged to utilize this service.

We treasure our water. It’s up to everyone to help protect it for future generations. You can learn more at

Water Flow and Insect Predictions for 2020
Mark Raisler, Headhunters Fly Shop

As we reflect on a solid 2019 water season, we are using the best data to forecast the 2020 fishing and recreation season. Examining the most recent year will help to better predict what to expect this season.

Last year we had a dry start to early winter, a colder, wetter spring with water levels peaking at 11K resulting in variable flows and erratic catch rates. June and July brought relatively average flows of 5-6K along with 
excellent dry fly fishing. The Missouri finished the year with higher than average flows into winter 2019-2020.

What is the 2020 Missouri River Forecast? 
Tipping the scale towards a bit above average precipitation levels always makes us feel better. As of March 18, 2020, Missouri river drainage numbers are at 108% Snow Water Equivalent of Median and 97% of average precipitation. You can view that information by clicking the link

Stephanie Micek, the Bureau of Reclamation manager for Canyon Ferry reservoir, reported recently that we can expect peak flows in May and June of 7K-9K with average flows of 4100 cfs for the remainder of the summer. All of this, of course, is dependent on precipitation from now until the end of the summer.

Relative to the insect hatches, average water years translate to Midges in March, BWOs in April, March Browns in May, PMDs and Caddis in June, Tricos in July/August, Terrestrials in August/September, Caddis in September, and BWOs in October.

If the river flow predictions hold, we can expect banner insect hatches and excellent dry fly fishing this spring, summer and fall. It is noteworthy that the macroinvertebrate studies performed exclusively by UMOWA have accurately predicted this phenomenon. Many thanks to the Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance for their continued work.
Copyright © 2020 Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance, All rights reserved., The Voice of the Missouri

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 377
Helena, MT 59601

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Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance · PO Box 377 · Helena, MT 59624 · USA

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