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In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, initiated a dye-tracer study to determine travel times, streamflow velocities, and longitudinal dispersion rates for the Missouri River upstream from Canyon Ferry Lake. For this study, rhodamine WT (RWT) dye was injected at two locations, Missouri River Headwaters State Park in early September and Broadwater-Missouri Dam (Broadwater Dam) in late August 2010. Dye concentrations were measured at three sites downstream from each dye-injection location. The study area was a 41.2-mile reach of the Missouri River from Trident, Montana, at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers (Missouri River Headwaters) at river mile 2,319.40 downstream to the U.S. Route 12 Bridge (Townsend Bridge), river mile 2,278.23, near Townsend, Montana. Streamflows were reasonably steady and ranged from 3,070 to 3,700 cubic feet per second. Mean velocities were calculated for each subreach between measurement sites for the leading edge, peak concentration, centroid, and trailing edge at 10 percent of the peak concentration of the dye plume. Calculated velocities for the centroid of the dye plume ranged from 0.80 to 3.02 feet per second within the study reach from Missouri River Headwaters to Townsend Bridge, near Townsend. The mean velocity of the dye plume for the entire study reach, excluding the subreach between the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad bridge at Lombard, Montana (Milwaukee Bridge) and Broadwater-Missouri Dam (Broadwater Dam), was 2.87 feet per second. The velocity of the centroid of the dye plume for the subreach between Milwaukee Bridge and Broadwater Dam (Toston Reservoir) was 0.80 feet per second. The residence time for Toston Reservoir was 8.2 hours during this study. Estimated longitudinal dispersion rates of the dye plume for this study ranged from 0.72 feet per second for the subreach from Milwaukee Bridge to Broadwater Dam to 2.26 feet per second for the subreach from the U.S. Route 287 Bypass Bridge over the Missouri River north of Toston, Montana to Yorks Islands. A relation was determined between travel time of the peak concentration and the time for the dye plume to pass a site (duration of the dye plume). This relation can be used to estimate when the decreasing concentration of a potential contaminant is reduced to 10 percent of its peak concentration for accidental (contaminant or chemical) spills into the upper Missouri River.
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USGS Numbered Series
Travel times, streamflow velocities, and dispersion rates in the Missouri River upstream from Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana