The Fort Belknap Indian Reservation includes an area of 970 square miles in north-central Montana. At its north edge is the Milk River valley, which is underlain by Recent alluvium of the Milk River, glacial deposits, and alluvial deposits of the preglacial Missouri River, which carved and occupied this valley before the Pleistocene Epoch. Rising gently to the south is an undulating glaciated plain broken only by three small syenite porphyry intrusions. Underlying the glacial till of the plain are Upper Cretaceous shale and sandstone of the Bearpaw and Judith River Formations. At the south end of the reservation, 40 miles from the Milk River, an intrusion of syenite porphyry in Tertiary time uplifted, tilted, and exposed the succession of sedimentary rocks overlying the Precambrian metamorphic basement. The sedimentary rocks include 1,000 feet of sandstone and shale of Cambrian age; 2,000 feet of limestone and dolomite of Ordovician, Devonian, and Mississippian age; 400 feet of shale and limestone of Jurassic age; and 3,500 feet of sandstone, siltstone, and shale of Cretaceous age. Extensive gravel terraces of Tertiary and Quaternary age bevel the upturned bedrock formations exposed around the Little Rocky Mountains.
Ground water under water-table conditions is obtained at present from alluvium, glaciofluvial deposits, and the Judith River Formation. The water table ranges in depth from a few feet beneath the surface in the Milk River valley alluvium to more than 100 feet deep in the Judith River Formation. Yields to wells are generally low but adequate for domestic and stock-watering use. Quality of the water ranges from highly mineralized and unusable to excellent; many wells in the Milk River valley have been abandoned because of the alkalinity of their water. Potential sources of additional ground-water supplies are the alluvial gravel of creeks issuing from the Little Rocky Mountains and some extensive areas of terrace gravel.
The uplift and tilting of the sedimentary sequence around the Little Rocky Mountains and the minor intrusions in the central plain have created artesian conditions within aquifers. Wells obtain artesian water from sandstone aquifers in the Judith River, Eagle, and Kootenai Formations. Other potential aquifers, near their outcrop areas, are the Ellis Group and the Mission Canyon Limestone.
Most wells that flow at the surface have small yields, but discharges of as much as 150 gallons per minute have been noted. Quality of artesian water ranges from poor to good. Well depths range from less than 50 to more than 300 feet.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology and hydrology of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Montana