For Business Icon, Saving the Smith River is Personal

Today’s guest blog is a part of the America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series highlighting the Smith River in Montana. Our guest blogger is K.C. Walsh, angler, entrepreneur, and owner of Simms Fishing Products, based out of Bozeman, Montana.

Join us as we celebrate the Smith River in Montana throughout August, and be sure to take action!

Smith-River---ScottBosse The Smith River, Montana | Scott Bosse

Simms business requires me to travel extensively, frequently interfacing with anglers from around the globe. Wherever I am, it’s not unusual for the Smith River to come up in conversations about fishing in Montana. Those who have floated it smile, and typically exclaim that it was their most profound outdoor experience in the Rocky Mountains. Or, others ask about whom I might recommend to outfit them on a trip, or ask me how hard it is to get a permit for non-residents.

My personal journey with the Smith began in 1995 when a small group of friends invited me on a late May float down the river. We did a long first day to the Sheep Wagon campsite, and I still mark that as the most memorable day of fishing that I have experienced in Montana. We hit the salmonfly hatch, and had extraordinary fishing all day. Legendary Smith guide and Trout Unlimited champion, Jim Belsey, whose ashes are scattered at the Table Rock campsite, dryly remarked to me as we were tying up our raft, “Look, it’s not always like this…” And, indeed, I’ve never experienced the hatch in that way since.

I have since done nine trips down the Smith, and whether the fishing is on or not, it is always a high point of my year. Depending on permits, I now go on an annual trip with my kids, who are finally old enough to help out with the camping and rowing. There is always a lot of planning, menu decisions to be made, discussions about our favorite camps, and lots of speculation about water flows and fishing potential. This year, we also discussed the proposed copper mine.

Mackenzie, K.C., and Henry Walsh | Simms Fishing ProductsMackenzie, K.C., and Henry Walsh | Simms Fishing Products

As both a Montanan and professional in the sport fishing industry, I hope that the recreational value of the Smith River corridor is clearly valued when our state agencies are evaluating the potential for mining at the headwaters of this beautiful resource. When I read about the recent tragedy on the Animas River in Colorado, my first thought was that this might someday happen on the Smith. We just can’t let that happen, and it’s very hard to find examples of responsible mining projects that haven’t negatively impacted surrounding river systems. It’s also hard to find mining projects that have provided a positive social result for the surrounding communities.

I am strongly opposed to the proposed copper mine along Sheep Creek in the Smith’s headwaters, and hope that we can find more sustainable opportunities to create jobs and economic vitality in White Sulphur Springs and the surrounding areas.

Today, you can take action to help save the Smith River in Montana! Please urge Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock to protect this special place by directing his state agencies not to issue any permits for mining unless it can be developed in a manner that eliminates any possibility of degrading the river’s water quality and wild trout fishery.

8 Responses to “For Business Icon, Saving the Smith River is Personal”

Jhara Carter

We have lost to much already to enterprises that are long since defunct, their owners long deceased,and the riches gained long gone. But the scars on the land, the rivers decimated and the negative impact on people still remain. Let’s keep what little we have left unmolested.


I am strongly apposed a mine anywhere along any river or on any watershed. I suggest that there is no safe mining practice and a quick look at the history of “safe” mines across the country bares this out. Any agency that sights off on thee projects will have to carry the responsibility for the destruction that will follow.


A nice story and certainly a beautiful river. For the sustainable jobs, maybe Simms is willing to relocate to White a Sulphur Springs? Environmentalists have already ruined the logging industry in Montana, including WSS. Now you are after mining.

I remind you that it was the EPA that devastated the Animas River. If you asked the locals, it is the outfitters and floaters that are destroying the Smith River.

    Luke Wheeler

    No it was not the EPA that devastated the Animas River, it was the reckless mining activities of unregulated 19th and 20th century private interests that have long leached toxic metals into invaluable watersheds, and continue to do so. Blaming the EPA for the Animas River pollution, which has had numerous other less-publicized spills (not to mention the smaller-scale, but continuous daily leaching of these mines), is akin to blaming an emergency room doctor for the death of a patient who arrives at the hospital in already critical condition….

Judy Shaw

Steve, please deny all mining requests that would pact the Smith River.

Joel Doub

As K.C Walsh states above it is exceedingly difficult to find examples of responsibly operate mines with minimal environmental impact. I urge you to protect the jewel that is the Smith River for current and future generations. I fear that future generations will shake their heads with sadness and frustration when they see the damage we have wrought to our world in the name of financial gain or business first agendas. I trust you will do all you can to protect and steward the fantastic natural resources available to us in the great state of Montana.


Joel Doub


Hi TL,

While I do respect your opinions, could you please tell me how the handful of commercial outfitters that are licensed to fish the Smith, and recreational floaters and fisherman are “destroying” the Smith? I would love to hear why you think that is the case, please elaborate. Are you a local resident of WSS, or just speaking on their behalf about recreation on the Smith?