Blacktail/ Wild Bill OHV

This is an edited version of a document written by Rob St. Clair.

The Blacktail/Wild Bill OHV Trail is a trail that by now many of you have heard of, and in a couple of years it is our goal to make this trail a destination hopefully ranked in popularity with the Rubicon, Holy Cross Trail, and many others across the U.S.

What makes this trail unique among others is how it came about. Back in the late '70's it was simply another forest system road that was slated for closure due to the perceived lack of need for it.

The local 4X4 club, the Mission Valley Skyliners, working with the Forest Service and other users, managed to get it designated as a National Recreation Trail (one of the first of its kind).

Over the years the Skyliners maintained water bars on the trail, as well as trimmed back the alder that would overgrow the trail in 2 years if left alone.

Life was good, we had a place to go wheeling that we didn't have to worry about being closed, and in wintertime when the snow is 2 feet plus deep, it offered some challenge.

But something was missing. In the dry months it was just a bumpy 2 track trail and offered little challenge, being completely passable in a 2WD.

While it had breath taking scenery and picturesque beauty, it offered little else except firewood. Then in 2004, my life took a dramatic turn when I received a phone call from a hydrologist from the Swan District of the Flathead National Forest.

It seems that some of the users on the trail were not being responsible. They were mostly firewood cutters that were making many haphazard and improper trails off of the main trail in search of easy access to suitable firewood.  The hydrologist wanted to know if our club would be willing to sign on as collaborators on the stewardship grant she was applying for. Well the project was approved, pending available funding.

This trail is in the middle of an island of National Forest land covering about 65 sections of land. This equals to about 42,000 acres, and the nice thing about it is it is mostly rocks.

Not big ones like on the Rubicon or in Moab, but all the same, the ground is so rocky that the runoff from snow and rain basically disappears, erosion and the accompanying water quality issues are virtually non existent.

Basically what we have is a huge rock pile that nobody wants. There weren’t the issues of the endangered species, nor concerns that the water quality specialists and the preservationists generally have. The lack of above ground water also makes this area not very suitable for wildlife, so that is another thing in our favor. So we said we would take it.

We came back with a proposal to the hydrologist who initially contacted me. We said that we could make this happen even without the Forest Service money. At that point she got the District Ranger and the Resource Specialist involved and we began the process of negotiating what we could do to enhance the recreational opportunities and accomplish the initial objective of eliminating the misuse at the same time.

Well, three years and two Resource Specialists later (retired), we had a plan. This is where the story gets really good. Initially, the trail was about 15 miles long, but now we have mapped out additional loops (closed logging roads) so that when we finish phase II in two years, the trail will be approximately 45 miles long and there are still about 150 miles of closed roads that are potentially new loops.

The partnership agreement we drafted with the Forest Service gave us a key to the locked gates for exploration purposes, so we can define potential new routes. We have almost unlimited control over what is done to the trail system, and our only stipulation is that where we can create a challenge feature on the existing trail, it must have a 50" wide bypass so a novice ATV rider on an ATV can pass.

Our success on this trail system has been phenomenal in a time when closures are happening all around us.