Milk River Watershed

Milk River Watershed

  • The Milk River Watershed spans about 23,800 square miles, encompassing Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan
  • The Milk River is approximately 729 miles from start in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the confluence of the Missouri River
  • The Milk River has 30 tributaries
  • The highest peak in the watershed is in Glacier National Park at an elevation of 8,737 ft.
  • The lowest point of the watershed is at the confluence of the Missouri and Milk Rivers at an elevation of 2,031 ft.
  • The climate of the watershed is semiarid, meaning moderately low rainfall, low humidity, hot summers, and cold winters.
  • The Milk River Watershed is the only one of it’s kind to start in the U.S. (Montana), go up into Canada, cross back into the U.S (Montana), and empty into the gulf of Mexico.elevation_2013-05-23_final

Municipal Use

The listed towns use the Milk River for their municipal supply of water

  • Havre a town with an estimated population of 10,000
  • North Havre a town with an estimated population of 650
  • Chinook a town with an estimated population of 1,250
  • Harlem a town with an estimated population of 830
  • Fort Belknap and Blackfeet Nations have Federal Reserved Water Rights Compacts


  • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has a contract to irrigate 110,000 acres from the Milk River, an additional 30,000 are privately irrigated
  • Major crops grown in the watershed include primarily dry crops like wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Other crops that tend to be irrigated are tame hay such as alfalfa, and wild hay
  • The St. Mary’s diversion system in Babb, MT can allocate up to 90% of the Milk River flow during irrigation season
  • Storage facilities that hold Milk River water include Fresno Dam and Reservoir, Fort Belknap Diversion Dam, Dodson Dam, Nelson Dam and Reservoir, Lake Bowdoin, and Vandalia Dam
  • Milk River Project Story Map


  • The Milk River provides the spawning area for the endangered Pallid Sturgeon below Vandalia Dam
  • The habitat for the endangered Piping plover
  • Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge
  • State and federal wildlife preserves


  • 40+ species of fish ranging from Trout-Catfish in the Milk River
  • Stocked fisheries in Nelson and Fresno Reservoir
    • Walleye, Yellow Perch, Northern Pike, Lake Whitefish
  • Ice fishing
  • Game bird hunting
  • Big and small game hunting


  • Boating opportunities on reservoirs
  • Kayaking, canoeing
  • Swimming, wading
  • Hiking
  • Biking
Milk River Bank2