Feature Article: Paddlefish: The Oldest Surviving Big Game Animal in North America
Article 1: This Date in History: May 11, 1910
Article 2: Plan Your ULTIMATE Summer Vacation!
Article 3: Southeastern Montana’s Agate Hunting Season Begins!
Paddlefish: The Oldest Surviving Big Game Animal in North America
(Located near Glendive)
On Montana’s far southeastern border with North Dakota lies the Confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. Each Spring, swollen with mountain runoff, the wild and murky Yellowstone swells and rushes head-long to spill its waters into the wide Missouri, unchanged from its discovery by Lewis & Clark.
The Confluence site has played a major role in the history of the American West. It is just one-half mile from Fort Buford, where Sitting Bull surrendered to the U.S. Army in 1881; the Little Bighorn wounded were brought here by steamboat; and it’s just two miles from the reconstructed Fort Union, where John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company conducted a thriving business. Between 1829 and 1866, whites traded peacefully their guns, knives, pots, cloth, and beads to Indian Tribes (Assiniboine, Cree, Crow, Blackfoot, and Sioux) in exchange for beaver, buffalo, and other valuable furs. Today, Fort Union holds perhaps the most complete collection of original trade beads in North America.
It is in this area that the ancient Paddlefish comes to spawn each year, swimming against the mighty current to deposit their eggs on flooded gravel bars in the Yellowstone. The largest females snagged each year are between 15 and 50 years old. Plankton feeders, paddlefish are thought to use their “paddle” (rostrum) to help keep them level as they move through the water with their mouths open, filtering food through filament-like gill rakers. The rostrum also helps detect food organisms through tiny sensory pores.
Modern paddlefish (Polyodon Spathula) are classic examples of millions of years of ecological fine-tuning. Paddlefish have adapted remarkably to their environment since they were introduced into the Yellowstone River in 1963. They may be the oldest big-game animal surviving in North America!
Paddlefish skin is tough, smooth, and scaleless except for the upper portion of its tail. The most striking feature of the paddler is its elongated paddle-shaped snout which is used as an antenna for detecting concentrations of food and helping the fish react to the changing water current. Adult paddlefish can weigh from 60 to 120 pounds! The state record paddlefish was 142 pounds, caught in 1973.
The Intake Diversion Dam 17 miles north of Glendive, Montana is famous for paddlefishing and the production of caviar. Glendive is considered the “Paddlefish Capitol of the World” and draws over 3,000 anglers annually to this short stretch of the Yellowstone River.
It takes a special fishing skill and a heavy duty tackle to challenge this senior denizen of the river. Because paddlefish feed on microscopic organisms, they cannot be caught by conventional fishing methods. Live bait and lures are useless against these formidable foes…they must be snagged! Despite the unconventional fishing methods, their prehistoric origins, and rather homely appearance, paddlefish are an excellent tasting fish. They can be prepared as you would any other fish. A paddlefish can yield a large quantity of top-quality meat. The meat can be frozen, canned, poached, steamed, smoked, baked, or sliced into steaks and grilled.
In recent years, paddlefish roe has been harvested, processed into caviar, and shipped from Glendive. Fisherman are encouraged to donate the roe to the Glendive Chamber of Commerce who, in turn, process the roe into world-class caviar. The proceeds from the venture are used to improve fisheries and recreation in Eastern Montana, as well as provide grants given to area organizations for historical and cultural projects. And here’s the best part, if you donate your roe they will clean your paddlefish for you!
Paddlefish season runs from May 15th through June 30th every year. You will need a Montana fishing license and a special paddlefish tag. Tags are two for $5 for Montana residents and $7.50 for non-residents.
Reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encylopedia”
This Date in History: May 11, 1910
Montana’s Scenic Wonder Receives Official Status
Encompassing over a million acres of some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery, Glacier National Park finally received Congressional attention after wading through nearly thirty-five years of public appeals. The campaign to set aside this scenic wonder began as early as 1876 when George Bird Grinnell, Editor of Forest and Stream magazine began documenting the area’s beauty in his publication. When the Audubon Society was established in 1886, Grinnell again intervened to promote the area as one worth preserving for future ages. Despite teaming with Theodore Roosevelt the next year in forming the Boone and Crockett Club, Grinnell’s pleas went unheard.
Finally, when the Great Northern Railroad (GNR) headed westward and started planning a route near the grand mountains about which Grinnell had long been exclaiming, national attention was drawn to the matter. Railroad officials saw the establishment of a national park as a lucrative means of driving traffic and profits to their newly established line, and before long, the GNR was on board with Grinnell’s petitions. Finally, on May 11, 1910, President William Howard Taft signed a Congressional bill that created Glacier National Park. As America’s fourth largest national park, Glacier features 1,000 miles of hiking trails, over 200 lakes, and mile after mile of pristine roadless areas.
Plan Your ULTIMATE Summer Vacation!
As the first traces of spring arrive in Montana over the next coming weeks, it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation. Although trips to fantastical, far flung places across the world certainly sound appealing, many tend to forget that the great Rocky Mountain region is a vacation destination in and of itself. For those who need help in exploring all that the Treasure State has to offer, pick up a copy of The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia. This essential reference guide helps readers discover every corner of Montana mile by mile, offering more information than nearly a dozen other top Montana guidebooks combined! Perfect for planning a weeklong vacation, this bestselling guide also lets readers turn every weekend into a mini Montana getaway!
If you think you’ve already visited every interesting site in Montana (although you’ll quickly discover you haven’t with the help of this handy guide!), then consider exploring the Cowboy State. The Ultimate Wyoming Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia offers the same comprehensive information and easy to use format used in the Montana book. This summer, explore the mountains, deserts, hot springs, state parks, and history of this neighboring western state!
Last but certainly not least, be sure to watch for the first edition release of The Ultimate Idaho Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia due out this summer! Showcasing blue-ribbon trout fishing, arts and culture, and the most mountain ranges and largest wilderness area in all of the lower 48 states, Idaho definitely offers more than just potatoes!
Rely on the expertise of these ultimate guides, and make summer 2005 your season to get out and explore the beauty and wide open spaces of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho!
Southeastern Montana’s Agate Hunting Season Begins!
Agate hunting is a popular sport along the banks of the Yellowstone River, and it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon. The agates found in this area are popular worldwide, due to their high quality.
Agate is translucent and often has unique patterns imbedded into the interior of the rock. The outside of the rock is rough, and the rock is usually tan or gray in color. Most of the rocks are found in gravel deposits in the hills surrounding the Yellowstone River and on the gravel beds in the river. The Agate hunting season is from early spring through the fall.
Agate is formed when the igneous rock layer cools and leaves behind gas bubbles. The bubbles are later filled with mineral rich water and silica solution that hardens and creates a colored layer. The layers build up creating the agate.The agates found in Montana are often referred to as Montana Moss Agate or Plume
For more information on where to begin your hunt, contact the local area Chambers of Commerce in southeastern Montana (Baker, Broadus, Colstrip, Ekalaka, Forsyth, Glendive, Miles City, North Cheyenne, Terry, or Wibaux) or call Travel Montana at 444-2654. Guided hunts are also available.
Reprinted from “The Ultimate Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia”