The Best in the West: Stream Access in Montana

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By Brent Zundel

This document provides a history of stream access in Montana, beginning with the original conflicts on the Dearborn and Beaverhead Rivers and continuing to the recently decided battles over access at bridges and the most recent challenge to the Stream Access Law.

Whether you are fishing one of the state’s blue ribbon trout streams, kayaking or canoeing through its cold, clear waters, or just “tubing” a lazy stretch of river with friends, Montana’s stream access laws are the envy of the nation, the “best in the west.”

But it was not always this way. The benefits that we enjoy today stem from the tireless work of many individuals who began fighting for better public stream and river access in the late 1970s. This group of dedicated citizens — mostly living in or around Butte at the time — left a legacy of the best and most egalitarian stream access law in the country…


Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA,
is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.
The Internal Revenue Service has made a determination that PLWA qualifies as a tax- exempt
organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that it is a public charity.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice.
Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.