Sixteen Mile Creek (also known as Sixteenmile Creek), is a tributary of the Missouri River, in western Montana. The canyon through which it travels is known as Sixteen Mile Canyon. The abandoned grade of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (“the Milwaukee Road”) parallels the creek through the canyon. Milwaukee Road abandoned this line in 1980.
Sixteen Mile Creek begins in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, in the Crazy Mountains, in southeastern Meagher County. It flows generally west (through Gallatin County) and joins the Missouri River, 6 miles southeast of Toston (Broadwater County), at the site of Lombard, an old ghost town.
There have been a number of access issues along Sixteen Mile Creek over the years.
Currently on the east side of Sixteen Mile Road (Sixteenmile Road), the 71 Ranch, owned by the Galts, have a locked gate and prohibitive signage to block public access. This portion of Sixteen Mile Road is on the northwest side of the Crazy Mountains, Meagher County, leading into Custer Gallatin National Forest public lands. Per the USFS Travel Plan and Motor Vehicle Use Map for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, Crazy Mountains, FS Road 991 is a “Road open to all vehicles”. FS Road 991 extends west beyond the Forest Service boundary, through private property owned by the Galt’s 71 Ranch, connecting to the Sixteen Mile county road.
South Fork – ACCOMPLISHED
The South Fork of the Middle Fork of Sixteen Mile Creek, there was a private land parcel without a Forest Service easement. FS Road #642 allowed motorized access, winding through Forest Service and private lands in the Bridger Mountains, just southeast of Horse Thief Mountain. In 2012, John Logan from Prentiss, Mississippi (owner of Brinson Farms LLC) bought 130 acres of land within the Bridgers. He then set up an outfitting business on it: Big Sky Outfitting. A locked gate was then installed, blocking the public from accessing the public lands further up FS Road #642. After a number of public complaints and unsuccessful landowners negotiations for an easement, the Forest Service decided to reroute the road, away from Sixteen Mile Creek, totally onto Forest Service land to restore access and a better quality road (away from the creek). In October 2016, the FS began the Middle Fork Sixteen Mile Road Relocation Project Environmental Assessment. In June 2017, the FS published their Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. Thanks to the public sending in comments to restore access, the Forest Service moved ahead with the FS Road #642 rerouting to restore public access.
Proposed FWP FAS
Efforts began, in 2006, to acquire 5 miles of railroad right-of-way stretching west from Ringling along Sixteen Mile Creek. On July 18, 2012 Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks put forth a proposed action: Decision Notice for – Sixteenmile Creek Fishing Access Site Proposed Acquisition and Development Draft Environmental Assessment. The proposal was to acquire 89.16 acres of land along a five-mile stretch of abandoned Milwaukee Railroad right-of-way approximately one mile west of Highway 89 and one-half mile west of Ringling, Montana, for the purpose of developing a day use fishing access site (FAS) on Sixteenmile Creek. FWP also proposes to construct a parking area for approximately eight vehicles at the eastern end of the property, an access road to and fencing around the parking area, installation of a vault latrine, and directional and informational signs.
During the 2010 and 2012 comment periods, FWP received a total of one hundred and forty six (146) comments regarding the proposed action; one hundred and twenty three (123) comments supported the proposal, and twenty three (23) comments opposed the proposed action. Based on the Environmental Assessment, public comment, and FWP evaluation, Region 3 Supervisor Pat Flower’s decision was to proceed with Alternative B, the proposed action of acquiring 89.16 acres of land for purposes of establishing a fishing access along Sixteen Mile Creek.
However, there was an issue with a clear title for the property, no record of the easement was found and the proposal fell to the wayside.