Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Fort Peck. The town

Fort Peck is a tiny town that sits basically below the giant earthen dam.  It was originally built for all the workers while the dam was being built.  Most everyone has left now except for a few engineers who maintain the dam as well as folks sticking around for the tourist fishing and hunting in the area.  Everyone I have talked to around here has said Ft Peck Reservoir is probably one of the best fisheries in the lower 48.  Lets keep in mind that those are technically fish stories told by actual fishermen... but I did see a lot of fish jumping and everyone I talked to was super happy about the amount and size of what they had caught that day.  So... take that for what it is worth.  It is basically a huge unmolested lake with no one on it at all.  I do believe there are probably a fuck ton of huge fish in there.

I however did not put a line in at all.  Shit!  Last thing I want to do is actually catch a fish!  Then I'll have to clean and cook and eat the damn thing.  Everything I use that pan for for the rest of ever will taste like fish...

Anyways, I got to the dam in the evening and slept in my hammock in the marina.  The next day as I was standing there trying to figure out how to get my boat over the giant man made mountain of a dam a guy named Kenny offered to use his truck and trailer to take me over.  (Actually I think his girlfriend saw what I was trying to do and volunteered him. Could have been his dog Duchess too... I think she just liked the words painted on the side of the boat.)

So there we were!  (Hands in the air fighter pilot style...) backing the boat and trailer down into the river on the other side... when a lady fishing with her kids on the ramp says, "Hey, what are you fishing for today?  Bass?"

My response was of course, "I am not fishing for anything, I am just going for a boat ride!"

With a quick look over the the boat that was obviously set up for voyages she says, "well, it will be a short one!"

Because of all the dredging and earth moving that happened to build the dam there are now a number of small pools and ponds right below it... that are very NOT the Missouri river!

I had almost put the boat into a little dredging pond that is about a quarter mile long.  The next day I would have been about four minutes down the water when I would have been very very confused... and probably gotten to use that winch I have mounted on the stem to drag the boat through a cotton wood grove to the actual river.  Thank god for talkative locals!

After the boat was safely in the actual Missouri river, I walked back up into town to look around.  There is an old hotel that was built during the dam building that is worth it to stop in just to look at the pictures hanging in the hallways.  It is the kind of place that as you walk in you feel like it should smell of leather bound books... and antlers.  Also, there was a Jamaican lady in there named Darcia who seemingly happily endured all my questions about everything... As it turns out, according to her, in Jamaica, where run is number one... most people's favorite rum drink is still just the rum and coke. (sometimes pepsi) Can't beat a good thing I guess. Also there was a Kazakh lady named Mika who I think I tricked into thinking I can speak Russian! Luckily our conversations went perfectly according to the language example conversations I learned while studying it twenty years ago... though she might have thought it odd I asked where was library and if Michael has on a red shirt.

As crazy as it may seem, there is very big theater scene in Fort Peck! All summer a professional theater troop forms there and they put on plays every Fri, Sat, and Sunday.  I went through on Tuesday... and was very very tempted to stay and watch a play Friday, but I my desire to get back on the river won and I couldn't just sit for three days with good weather and not move.  Also, they were putting on what is probably my favorite musical, "Man of La Mancha" which was especially tempting.  (Though I having the Man of la Mancha stuck in my head for the next 200 miles would have made me an actual crazy person!)

About a block from the boat ramp on the down stream side there is a little coffee shop.  I went in just before I shoved off.  There was only one customer and when I walked in he asked if I was with the theater troop.  This is the first time I have been mistaken for a thespian but I explained that I was a different kind of weirdo than that and that I was floating the river.  I took it as a complement that I must be weird and interesting and "not from around here."

If you put a museum or "interpretive center" as the kids call them these days, within walking distance of the river... I am going attend!  Right under the power houses of the dam there is an interpretive center.  So I rowed over, threw my anchor in the grass and walked in from the wrong side.  It is very well done.  Talks about the building of the dam, the animals in the area... and if you want to swim with nightmares... has an exhibit featuring prehistoric giant carnivorous fish that lived in the area umpteen long time ago.  Just imagine giant fanged fish the size of a bus and you are about there except they are real.  "Just look at the bones!"

The dam as viewed from Fort Peck the town.  It is the flat mountain in the distance.


Erin said...

"Bucking the Sun" by Ivan Doig is an interesting (fictional) read about the building of Fort Peck Dam. I haven't been to Fort Peck, but it's on my list.

Notorious said...

I'll put it on my short list now too! They moved a hell of a lot of dirt with barges and hoses! There isn't a whole lot out there, but it is worth the trip if you go and stay for the theater. The interpretive center is cool too... but check the hours on everything before you make your plans. You might end up hosing yourself if you plan hours of everything when it is open poorly.