Water-quality, bed-sediment, and biological data, for streams in the upper Prickly Pear Creek watershed, Montana, 2001

Open-File Report 2003-32




The upper Prickly Pear Creek watershed encompasses the upstream 15 miles of Prickly Pear Creek, south of Helena, Montana (fig. 1). The headwaters of Prickly Pear Creek and its tributaries (Beavertown Creek, Clancy Creek, Dutchman Creek, Golconda Creek, Lump Gulch, Spring Creek, and Warm Springs Creek) are primarily in the Helena National Forest, whereas the central part of the watershed primarily is within either Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or privately owned property. Three mining districts are present in the upper Prickly Pear Creek watershed: Alhambra, Clancy, and Colorado. Numerous prospects, adits, tailings piles, mills, dredge piles, and mines (mostly inactive) are located throughout the watershed. These districts contain polymetallic (Ag, Au, Cu, Pb, Zn) vein deposits and precious-metal (Au-Ag) vein and disseminated deposits that were exploited beginning in the 1860’s. Placer Au deposits in the major streams were extensively mined in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

As part of a cooperative effort with Federal land management agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is currently using an integrated approach to investigate two mining impacted watersheds in the western United States (the Animas River in Colorado and the Boulder River in Montana). These studies provide the USDA Forest Service and BLM scientific data for implementing informed land-management decisions regarding cleanup of abandoned mine lands within each watershed. A similar integrated-science approach will be used to characterize the upper Prickly Pear Creek watershed with respect to water and streambed sediment chemistry, aquatic biota, and geologic framework. This integrated database presents data that will be used to identify important pathways of metals movement and biological impacts, thereby guiding resource management decisions of land-managers in several publications that are in preparation. Watershed-level characterization in terms of water quality, streambed sediment chemistry, and fish health will facilitate determinations of whether removal of contaminated materials or other cleanup activities are necessary, planning of short- and long-term restoration efforts, and development of a monitoring plan to document cleanup effectiveness.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality, bed-sediment, and biological data, for streams in the upper Prickly Pear Creek watershed, Montana, 2001
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Columbia Environmental Research Center
103 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Upper Prickly Pear Creek Watershed