VTC - Sapphire WSA

Photo by Meg Killen

Project: Sapphire WSA

Landscape: Sapphire Mountains

Partner: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (MT Chapter)

Dates: June 25 - 28, 2020

Location: Kent Lake Trails - Bitterroot Natl. Forest, Darby R.D.
Project Work: Clearing & Trail Maintenance
Camping: Frontcountry Car Camping
Project Difficulty: Strenuous
Volunteer Limit: 8
Volunteer Slots Available: FULL
Meeting Time: Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m.
Meeting Place: Exact Area TBD





Project Description

For the third year in a row, MWA is partnering with The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to open and maintain remote trails on our public lands. We will be headed into the Sapphire Mountains to work on trails leading to and around Kent Lake, a scenic highlight of the Sapphires. Kent Lake lies below Kent Peak, which is the range's highest point at 9005'. The crew will be working on trails #87, #83, #102, and #313.

We will spend days logging out deadfall on area trails. We will also perform spot maintenance tasks on the trail as we progress. These tasks include re-treading the trail, brushing the corridor, and clearing drainage structures. Each day's coverage will vary depending on how many trees have fallen, the size of the down trees, and what work we find along the way.

This project is a great opportunity to explore the wild backcountry of the Sapphire Mountains while helping improve access for hunters, anglers, hikers, and equestrians. Clearing deadfall is one of a trail crew's most rewarding work tasks. If you are up for the challenge, join us to experience the wild Sapphires and make a positive contribution to Montana's world-class network of public trails.

About the Area

"The Sapphire WSA is located about 25 air miles southeast of Hamilton and southwest of Philipsburg in Ravalli and Granite County, Montana. The WSA can be accessed from State Highways 38 or 472 and from forest roads in Rock, Copper, Moose, Martin, and Skalkaho Creeks. A network of trails and several roads provide access within. The area has a north-south orientation of about 25 miles with a width varying from 2 to 10 miles. Road corridors in Copper Creek and the West Fork of Rock Creek extend toward the crest of the Sapphires. These intrusions reduce the width of both the northern and southern portions. Practically the entire boundary is mid-slope, lying above existing roads, timber harvest or mineral development.

Glacial scouring has produced steep, rocky cirque basins and trough walls along the crest and southern boundary. Remaining lands, primarily in the West and Ross Forks of Rock Creek are rolling hills with flat creek bottoms. Glacial deposits reworked by flowing water characterize most valleys east of the crest. Elevations range from 5,000 feet at some points along the lower boundary to 9,000 feet at Kent Peak. Sixty percent of the area is above 7,000 feet. Prominent landmarks include Bare Hill, Kent, and Congdon Peaks, and Signal Rock. Drainages flowing to the east are Copper Creek, and the Ross and West Forks of Rock Creek, a nationally recognized “blue ribbon” trout fishery. Moose, Martin, and Skalkaho Creeks flow to the west and are tributaries of the Bitterroot River. Twenty-four small lakes and numerous potholes occur along the crest.

Geology is primarily granite intrusions. Landforms have been modified by past alpine glaciation with soils derived from the parent geology. Streamside meadows break the forested landscape at lower elevations; exposed bedrock and rubble predominate along the Sapphire crest, Whetstone Ridge, and the southern portion bordering the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness. Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine are the primary tree species with whitebark pine and subalpine larch at the highest elevations. Bunchgrass with scattered Douglas-fir occupies severe south to west-facing sites. Douglas-fir is common on north exposures at lower elevations and lodgepole pine is common elsewhere. Ground cover is mainly snowberry, ninebark, and beargrass on drier sites, willow and redosier dogwood on cool moist sites, and grouse whortleberry or wood rush on severe cold sites at higher elevations."

Description excerpted from USDA Forest Service, "Sapphire Wilderness Study Area Wilderness Character Assessment," May 2006. Full document available online here.

Meeting Time & Place

Thursday, June 25, 7 p.m.
Exact meeting location is TBD. We will be meeting at our camp for the week, which will be finalized closer to the project start. Generally, camp will be within a few miles of the Mosquito Meadows Trailhead located off FSR #75.
Directions to Mosquito Meadows TH from Hamilton:

  • Head south on Highway 93
  • Turn Left onto MT-38 East (Skalkaho Pass Road)
  • Continue east on MT-38 for 13.5 miles
  • Turn Right onto FSR#75 (Skalkaho Rye Road) shortly after passing the Black Bear Campground
  • Continue South on FSR #75 for 20 miles

Camping Details

We will be dispersed car camping at an undeveloped site for the duration of this project. Exact location TBD. Expect no vault toilet or water. It is unlikely we will find a place large enough for people to bring any tow-behind campers or trailers. Camp will be located near the trails we are working to minimize time spent driving to the trailhead. 

Project Difficulty

This will be a Strenuous project. Our primary worksite will change throughout the weekend, but all the trails in this area have steady elevation gains. Daily hikes will vary depending on trail conditions - less down trees means more hiking. Expect to hike a minimum of 5 miles every day. Maintenance tasks require digging and will get tiring. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate safely in this project.

*Note: project work is subject to change. Our tasks may become easier or more challenging. Your flexibility in the field is appreciated as we adapt to changing conditions. 

Food and Water

MWA will provide all meals and cooking equipment. However, please arrive Thursday evening having already eaten or prepared to make your own supper. Your first meal provided will be breakfast and lunch fixings on Friday. The last meal provided will be lunch on Sunday. Dinner is not provided on Sunday evening.

Volunteers are expected to help with food preparation and clean up on a rotating basis, but your crew leader will handle primary kitchen responsibilities. Since no potable water is available at the campground, please help by bringing drinking water with you for the weekend.

More Information