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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5221

In cooperation with the National Park Service

Hydrologic, Water-Quality, and Biological Characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River, Montana, Water Years 2007–2008

By Taylor J. Mills, E. William Schweiger, M. Alisa Mast, and David W. Clow

Thumbnail of and link to publicationAbstract

In water year 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, began a 2-year study to collect hydrologic, water-quality, and biological data to provide a baseline characterization of the North Fork Flathead River from the United States-Canada border to its confluence with the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Columbia Falls, Montana. Although mining in the Canadian portion of the North Fork Basin was banned in 2010 by a Memorandum of Understanding issued by the Province of British Columbia, baseline characterization was deemed important for the evaluation of any potential future changes in hydrology, water quality, or aquatic biology in the basin. The North Fork Basin above Columbia Falls (including Canada) drains an area of 1,564 square miles, and the study area encompasses the portion of the basin in Montana, which is 1,126 square miles. Seasonal patterns in the hydrology of the North Fork are dominated by the accumulation and melting of seasonal snowpack in the basin. Low-flow conditions occurred during the late-summer, fall, and winter months, and high-flow conditions coincided with the spring snowmelt. Substantial gains in streamflow occurred along the study reach of the North Fork, 85 percent of which were accounted for by tributary inflows during low-flow conditions, indicating unmeasured streamflow inputs along the main stem were 15 percent or less.

First posted April 13, 2012

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Suggested citation:

Mills, T.J., Schweiger, E.W., Mast, M.A., Clow, D.W., 2012, Hydrologic, water-quality, and biological characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River, Montana, water years 2007–2008: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5221, 67 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Hydrologic Characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River

Water-Quality Characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River

Biological Characteristics of the North Fork Flathead River

Summary

Acknowledgments

References Cited

Appendixes


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