VTC – Southern Cabinet Trails

Home Discover the Wild Volunteer Trail Crew VTC – Southern Cabinet Trails
Photo by Meg Killen

Project: Southern Cabinet Trails

Landscape: Cabinet Mountains

Dates: June 3 - 6, 2021

Location: West Fisher River Drainage – Kootenai Natl. Forest, Libby 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 3 at 7 p.m.
Meeting Place: Oscar Miller Camping Area



Project Description

MWA is excited to celebrate National Trails Day in the Cabinet Mountains for a trip to the beautiful West Fisher River country. We'll base camp for the weekend in the southern Cabinets along the West Fork of Fisher Creek. The crew will spend workdays logging out deadfall on trails near the Fisher River. We'll clear each trail until we hit the snowpack, then hike back down, shuttle to the next trail, and do it all over again. We will 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 where we find the snowline. No matter what we're sure to do plenty of hiking along the way. Come explore the remote southern Cabinets with us to help improve trail access!

About the Area

"The Cabinets obtained their name from early French explorers who noted that the rock formations along the Clark Fork looked like boxes or cabinets. Most of these rock formations are now under the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir but some are still visible. Variety best describes the Cabinet Mountains, ranging from the high, rocky peaks often snowcapped year-round to groves of huge cedars in the canopied valleys. Hidden in the peaks and ridges are scores of deep blue lakes, feeding clear, cold streams that tumble to moose country below.

"The Cabinet Mountains have had use through time. The Kootenai Indians used the area to hunt big game. The mountain goat was prized for its pelt and was a rich food source. Many plants adapted only to high altitudes were gathered for food and medicines. Beginning in the 1880s the area was used by Euro Americans. The earliest and most extensive historic use has been mining activity. Mineralization was discovered in the southeast part of the Wilderness and since has become known as the Snowshoe Fault. Mining at some scale has occurred along this fault sporadically since the early 1900s. Clean and pure are the simplest and most accurate ways to describe the water that comes out of the Wilderness. Past studies have rated this water among the top 5% purest water in the lower 48 states." – Wilderness.net.

The West Fork of Fisher Creek, a tributary of the Fisher River, has its headwaters in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Our crew will camp along the West Fork, just below its confluence with Lake Creek, and work trails in the roadless area to its south. Barren Peak is the defining landmark of this roadless area. There are two main access points to the summit of Barren Peak, where an old lookout tower sits abandoned. We will work on these trails, as well as the trail up Porcupine Creek if time allows. This is beautiful foothill country providing views of the soaring peaks in the nearby Cabinet Mountain Wilderness, as well as the Fisher River. 

*Due to the distance between our campsite and worksite trailheads, volunteers will have to drive their vehicles a few short miles and commute each day.

Meeting Time & Place

Thursday, June 3, 7 p.m. at Oscar Miller Camping Area
Directions from Libby, MT:

  • Follow Highway 2 east for approximately 25 miles
  • Turn right onto W. Fisher/Libby Creek Rd 231.
  • Continue for approximately 4.7 miles.
  • Turn right into the Oscar Miller Dispersed camping sites. (No sign marks the location on the road, but you can see the vault toilet thru the trees) 

Camping Details

We'll be camped all three nights at the Oscar Miller Camping Area. This is an undeveloped, frontcountry campground with a vault toilet. There is no potable water at the campground.

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 and higher snowlines 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.

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