Sunday, June 16, 2024

Volunteers ready Wild Horse Island trails for summer

Hagadone News Network | May 15, 2024 12:00 AM

Around 14 volunteers loaded on a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks boat in Big Arm State Park on Saturday to clean up the Wild Horse Island trails for the season. 

They divided into two groups and made quick work of revamping water bars and improving trail visibility throughout the park with guidance from ranger Zack Story and land improvement specialist Kalle Fox. All told, the volunteers spent about five hours on the island. 

As far as conditions go, the island’s wildlife appears in abundance. All five mares of the wild horse herd were seen, as well as bighorn sheep and a bald eagle in Skeeko Bay. Wildflowers are starting to bloom, with arrowleaf balsamroot, shooting stars, and Oregon grape identified. The park’s orchard, with apple and pear trees planted by early settlers, is starting to flower. More wildflowers are expected to take off in the coming weeks. 

Boat access is required to reach the island. While volunteers left from Big Arm this weekend, paddlers may try a shorter trip to Skeeko Bay via access from the Dayton Public Boat Launch, about a two-mile stint. Hiking trails are short and sweet, with around a three mile loop and several offshoots available to view the historic Johnson homestead and barn, orchard, and sweeping views of the lake. 

Montana state residents who pay their state parks fee with their annual vehicle registration can visit the island for free, a fee of $4 each is collected for nonresidents. Camping is not permitted on the island, and a tribal fishing license is required to fish. Pets are not allowed to avoid conflicts with wildlife. 

Upcoming, volunteers will be needed for trail work Saturday, June 1 at the Big Arm Archery Range. For more information, call 406-837-3041 or email FWP land improvement specialist Kalle Fox at

    A Bald Eagle watches over Skeeko Bay on Wild Horse Island Saturday, May 11. (Avery Howe/Bigfork Eagle)

    Volunteers revamp the new overlook trail, which had become overgrown, on WIld Horse Island Saturday, May 11. (Avery Howe/Bigfork Eagle)
    Arrowleaf balsamroot blooms on WIld Horse Island Saturday, May 11. (Avery Howe/Bigfork Eagle)
    Volunteers climb the overlook trial on Wild Horse Island to clean it up Saturday, May 11. (Avery Howe/Bigfork Eagle)

    Volunteers leave Wild Horse Island with tidier trails via an FWP boat Saturday, May 11. (Avery Howe photo)