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Little Bighorn Flood May 2011

May 21-22, 2011

Photos of Floods

Photos below courtesy of  Mike Donahue



Photos below courtesy of Sandy Watts



Photos below courtesy Custer Battlefield Museum, Garryowen,MT


Before and after photos

Reece photo shot in 2005. See farm house circled in red

Donahue's flood photo, see same house circled in red

Reece photo shot in 2005. See tree circled in red

Donahue's flood photo, see same tree circled in red

Photos of erosion damage to Deep Ravine Trail, photo courtesy

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument


Update June 21, 2011 --

Deep Ravine Trail should be open in time for anniversary.

Flood Update June 7, 2011 --

In an email, Acting Superintendent Barbara Johnson provided encouraging news regarding the temporary closing of Deep Ravine Trail due to damage from water erosion. She has her team working as best and as fast as they can to try and get the trail open in time for the anniversary.

I tip my hat to the continued great work that Ms. Johnson is doing in managing the battlefield during Ms. Hammond's maternity leave.

This flood may be a godsend for the location of a possible new visitor center as Ms. Johnson notes. NPS does not want to build in a floodplain.

Jump here for  photos of  the damage to the trail.


Ms. Johnson notes:

"I am working hard to see if we can get the trail open for Anniversary. We are working up gravel and matting quantities today and our maintenance crew is heading over to the gravel pit today to determine if we have a source available there. I also am working to determine if we can get a Montana Conservation Corps Crew out for a week to put the mat and gravel in. We need some longer term fixes - like water bars, better design, and perhaps a binder on top - but my goal is a short term fix for Anniversary that won't require a redo later. The entire length of the trail is impacted. We also sent our archeologist out already and have coordinated with the THPO on our emergency repair activities. Attached are a couple of compelling photos - the damage is the complete length of the trail. The flood exceeded the 500 year flood, which is good news only from the standpoint that we can GPS the high water mark and use that in our site planning for a replacement facility. I look forward to meeting you later this month."

Flood Update June 6, 2011 --

Just spoke with Mike Donahue. Heavy rains over the last month have wreaked destruction along Deep Ravine Trail with some areas washed out. Result is the trail is temporarily closed. Not sure for how long. Bluffs between Weir Point and Reno Benteen Battlefield have erosion in many places. Photo from Donahue above shows example of some damage. Many people who live along the river have a lot of property damage. Acting Superintendent Barbara Johnson told me in an email that last month’s flood “was the highest recorded...about a foot higher than 1978”. Donahue told me that he heard this flood was equivalent to a 500 year flood. We will keep you posted in regards to Deep Ravine Trail.

Update May 25, 2011 --

Acting Superintendent Barbara J. Johnson in an email stated, "I opened the park today - I see some limited vehicular traffic on I-90 and we have had some visitors. The water is receding. We have had non-stop calls from folks wanting to come in - it is a very popular National Monument!" Our prayers are for the residents that live along the Little Bighorn River and for their speedy recovery from this flood.

Update May 23, 2011 --

The battlefield webcam shows the water level of the Little Bighorn River has lessened. That is good news. I haven't heard from anyone at the battlefield yet today.

May 22, 2011 --

Mike Donahue told me that the Little Bighorn River is flooding due to snow melt and rain. I-90 is closed between Sheridan, Wyoming and Hardin, Montana. The interstate across from the battlefield is under water. However, Hwy 212 is still open. Flooding is bad in Lodge Grass. Original Friends board member, Linda Pease, told me that the water is up to the windows in the Lodge Grass post office.

Some of the staff cannot reach the battlefield. Crow Agency has volunteers filling sandbags. As a result, the battlefield is closed Sunday and Monday. Not sure when it will open.

I’ve never seen the LBH in flood stage at this level. Neither has Donahue. He said huge trees are floating down the river. Medicine Tail Coulee has water flowing in it; Donahue told me it looks like the LBH on a normal day. Trees have rammed into the Real Bird reenactment area. Do not know level of damage at this time.

Portions of the Deep Ravine bank have caved in.

Chief Curator Sharon Small told me that Sunday morning people could get through to the battlefield from Hardin via the frontage road going through Crow or the back road by the college, but by the afternoon it was impossible. The water is pouring over the interstate by the weigh station and across the frontage road. The Bighorn is full as well with water surrounding the fire works station off of I-90 exit into Hardin. Hwy 313 to Fort Smith is closed, HWY 314 Decker road is closed and it continues to rain off an on.

Retired Chief Historian John Doerner sent me an email this evening (Sunday May 22). He reported that "the Big Horn River is also flooding and my neighbor informed me that the local Fireworks Retail Store adjacent to the I-90 Bridge is an island now.  This is a major lesson for those that propose building the LIBI visitor center in the valley, which is on a floodplain!"

Note by Bob Reece: For me, I think a new visitor center should be built on the bench lands to the west of I-90. I've always advocated that the ideal location would be the old Denny property which is directly west of the Reno skirmish line area. From those bench lands (where the Indian village pony herd grazed prior to the battle) one can see a complete panorama of the battlefield from Last Stand Hill to the north and the area where Reno entered the valley to charge upon the village far south.

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