Friday, May 27, 2011


Snowpack was already well above normal.   April brought several storms with heavy wet snow.  Then we got a couple of heavy rains in May, with 7 inches of rain falling in the last week.  The ground could hold no more!
On Wednesday there was more water coming down Elges Creek than the culverts could carry - it was coming over the banks at the horsebarn, and what remained in the creek was spilling over the top of the pond in front of the house.
The overflow coming down past the shop had already washed around the culvert so badly that we had to run the tractor two miles west and come back down the county road to feed the cows below the house.  It was gushing down the road so badly that it had eroded a track four feet deep.
There wasn’t a lot that could be accomplished at the ranch in such weather, and Ted was there to look after things, so I loaded up some tools to head for home on the Shields River to take care of a couple of projects there.  But with the road washing out below the house, I had to detour out through the hayfield and ford the creek further down to get out to the county road.  I’d been warned by a neighbor that morning that water was coming out over, under, around, and through the county road into Livingston, so I opted to take the long way around through Big Timber – a route that added 35 miles to the trip - but most of it on pavement.
I hit the interstate at Big Timber - which should have been smooth sailing.  But traffic was down to one lane where Peterson Creek crossed under to empty into the Yellowstone River.  It was rain-melted snow in Elges Creek that was flooding our ranch – Peterson Creek is the next drainage west of Elges Creek, and it was in flood from the same rain-melted snow.  I noted several trains stopped along between Big Timber and Livingston, and later heard that the railroad was washed out in several places between Livingston and Billings.
By Thursday our whole world was in flood.  All of the roads back toward the ranch were closed, so I had no choice but to stay home and work around the house.  But a phone call from a neighbor downstream summoned me to help place sandbags to divert some of the water on his property along the Shields River.
The steady rain had ended on Wednesday, with only occasional showers on Thursday; and the water was slowing on Friday.  I still had a few tasks to accomplish at “home” on the Shields River and in town, then I headed back up to the ranch this afternoon.  The roads out of Livingston were officially closed, so I came by way of Big Timber.
I noted that there was still one train sitting on the tracks, but there was a unit making progress westbound, so the tracks must be clear.  There were several places on the both the Main Boulder and West Boulder roads where water had been washing across. 
I made it back to the ranch, where I relieved Ted, who took the opportunity to escape for his other home in Bozeman.  And so I am immersed again in the “romance” of the cowboy life on the West Boulder River in Montana.

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