Many hands make light work

Volunteers get dirty in effort to restore Moose Creek Campground

It wasn’t even noon, and nearly 200 plants were already in the ground at Moose Creek Campground. That’s thanks to the efficient volunteers who lined the banks of the Gallatin River, plonking small pine trees and native bushes into holes.

Light rain didn’t damper the experience, and spirits were high as the work progressed and Canada geese honked overhead. And while moving, planting and watering 200 plants might have seemed like a daunting task, many of the organizers and volunteers couldn’t help but notice how quickly and easily the work was completed.

One volunteer, “Grumpy” Dan Mahony, returned to help out with the restoration project after getting involved last year doing water quality studies and substrate work. On May 1, he was working a little spruce tree out of its plastic container, then planting it in a strategically placed hole labeled for that species.

Mahony said he didn’t have much experience with plants.

“My wife and I have planted a few things at our house in Bozeman, and we only killed two out of 14 trees over the last 10 years,” he joked as he dropped the small pine tree into its spot. “You just have to be careful with them.”

But he does have experience with rivers. Mahony retired a couple years ago after working in Yellowstone — “that little park down the road”— as he put it, for 31 years. There he worked in various roles from fisheries to biology, looking at water quality and streamflow in geysers and studying cutthroat trout habitats.

Once retired, Mahony figured he should volunteer for something.

“Most volunteer things want you to build houses or something like that, that I don’t really know how to do. So, this was an interesting thing for me,” he said.

The Moose Creek Restoration Project is put on via a partnership with the Custer Gallatin National Forest and the Gallatin River Task Force. Due to increased usage by a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts, the river bank was quickly deteriorating at the Moose Creek Campground.

Work began last year, with a concrete boat ramp, kayak launch, willow planting, rock terrace to the river and much more—all of it successfully completed last fall. Now, thanks to the ongoing efforts of the national forest and GRTF—along with a crew of dedicated volunteers—the riverbank can continue to be enjoyed by many while it returns to a more natural state.

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