From Palisades Recreation Site north through the Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area, the Madison River flows almost completely through public land.
With a new settlement between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and a group of private landowners, an easement through the only small piece of private land along this stretch has been clarified.
The history of the easement goes all the way back to 1958, said Jerry Walker, regional parks manager for FWP out of Bozeman.
More than 50 years ago, the Butler Development Company granted the state a road easement through their stretch of property along a bend of the Madison River.
Over time the easement languished in obscurity until a landowner became concerned about it and looked at challenging the easement, Walker said.
In a settlement agreement finalized this past winter, the easement was modified to become a non-motorized easement along the Madison River for about 500 yards. The easement connects two pieces of public land.
“I believe with that little connection there and BLM land that’s found further to the north, that completes about a five or six mile stretch of the river that’s totally open to recreationists without having to use the stream access (law),” he said.
The easement is along a bend in the river north of the Palisades Recreation Area. There’s no fences or signs marking the easement, Walker said.
“We’re asking people to stay as close to the water front as they can,” he said.
If landowners in the area find that people won’t stay close to the river, FWP will have to go in and mark the easement, Walker said.
Public access along the upper Madison River is really a hallmark of the area and the river, said Richard Lessner, executive director of the Madison River Foundation, which supported the settlement agreement on the easement.
“From our point of view it was a good resolution,” Lessner said. “We were just pleased that all of the parties involved were able to sit down and get an agreement that satisfied everybody.”
Big game hunting won’t be allowed on the easement without landowner permission, Walker said.