Boat ride through forest fire on Missouri River

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Boat ride through forest fire on Missouri River

Meriwether Fire

Montana: Boat ride on the Missouri River through Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area 19-miles north of Helena

July 26, 2007.

We are staying in Lincoln Road RV-Park Helena, MT less than a mile west of I-15 at exit 200. Lincoln Road RV-Park is about 10-miles north of downtown Helena but in a very good position access everything in the area. $25.04 with Good Sam discount plus-taxes for FHU in nice gravel pull thru sites with some shade. Free wifi was available but no cable TV.


We headed to exit 209 on I-15 less than 20-miles north of Helena where we are going to take a boat ride into Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River a place made famous by Meriweather Lewis's description of it when the Corps of Discovery entered this canyon in 1805 on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. For us this will be more than a chance to see the canyon Lewis so eloquently described but we are also going to witness first hand a western wild fire that the nation hears so much about on national TV.

A big wildfire has been raging in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area a few miles north of Helena. We hear about it on the news every night and see smoke from it during the daytime. It is officially referred to as the Meriwether Fire.



The captain of our boat (and our docent) is trying desperately to tell us about this limestone cliff and Lewis and Clark's description of it. Yea right, no one on this boat was paying any attention to what he was saying. All eyes were on that fire we were heading into.








While our captain is talking and pointing out geologic features the helicopter is zooming past us on the river busily scooping up water to dump on that fire.







This picture looks back at the worst part of the fire, that we have just traveled through. It will not be long before we head back through that area.










These fire fighters were located in the Meriweather Campground located on the eastern bank of the Missouri River within the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.


It appears to me that these troops are here to protect infrastructure in the campground. Two pumps are operating on the dock and you can see two hoses leading inland. The pumps were running so I suppose firemen are dispensing water somewhere out of our sight. I wonder if they are "wetting" a perimeter around the campground or possibly running a sprinkler system on top of buildings.

I would appreciate hearing from knowledgeable individuals that can shed light on these activities.














These cliffs are located not far from that Meriweather Campground and these cliffs are what Meriweather Lewis described when he named this section of the Missouri River "Gates of the Mountains".






The entire side of this mountain is on fire but it is mostly ground fire that is creeping along rather than one of those super hot fires in the canopy.

Easterners that can not understand why these fires are so difficult to put out should get a better understanding of WHY by studying this picture.























It only takes a precious few minutes for this helicopter to scoop up a load of water and deliver it. I would have had to be in that chopper to get a better seat.











One bucket of water will put down those flames. By the way we are heading to that section of river.












It is time for the helicopter to swoop in with a load of water to put these flames down.
















From the looks of this smoke a helicopter may be dumping water on this spot shortly.














This looks like the beginnings of a "blowup".





If you do not know what a "blowup" looks like we took the next picture late one afternoon after stiff winds created a "blowup". This picture was taken about 9:30PM when the sun was setting behind the Rocky Mountains and only the top part of this large plume of smoke was being lit.










One afternoon the wind started blowing about 35-mph and that fire quickly esculated. With the wind supplying fresh oxygen flames quickly moved from the understory to the canopy this is the way things looked from our RV-park located on the north side of Helena. The fire is located around 15-miles northeast of the RV-Park. Forest officials are predicting that this fire will burn until it is extinguished by snow this winter.


Now, back to the Missouri River and what things look like up close and personal.






This is a nice picture of the helicopter as it descends over our boat on the way to making the replenishment run.










No comment necessary with this shot.












This helicopter has just joined the effort as it picks up a container of water to drop on the fire.







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