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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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Painted Rocks Reservoir

Painted Rocks 2.jpg

Reservoir Operations

The operation of Painted Rocks Reservoir involves three main parties: DNRC, the Painted Rocks Water Users Association (PRWUA), and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). Painted Rocks Reservoir stores approximately 32,362 acre-ft (ac-ft) of water, with 25,000 ac-ft marketed to the FWP and PRWUA. In addition, the Bitterroot River Water Commissioner manages the river to insure the apportionment and diversion of decree and contract waters.

DNRC owns the dam and the reservoir area. It is DNRC’s responsibility to insure that the reservoir is filled and operated safely and that water is available for delivery to the contract holders when it is called for.

The shares marketed to the PRWUA (10,000 ac-ft or 2/5th) is primarily used for agricultural purposes. This water can only be released when called for by the PRWUA. If you have any questions regarding the releases of contract irrigation water, please contact the PRWUA.
The shares marketed to FWP (15,000 ac-ft or 3/5ths) are used for in-stream flows. This water is released when called for by the FWP. If you have questions regarding the releases of contract fisheries water, please contact the FWP. The local FWP contact in the Bitterroot Valley is Chris Clancy (406-363-7169).

Date Last Updated:


Reservoir Elevation (FT_MSL)


Current Storage (ac-ft)


Inflows to Painted Rocks

Stream Name


Flow Rate (cfs)

Blue Joint Creek



West Fork Bitterroot River



Overwich Creek



Slate Stage



Little Boulder Creek



Total Inflow


76.3 cfs

Outflows from Painted Rocks Reservoir

USGS Gauge (ft)


Outflow before gate adjustment (cfs)


Outflow after gate adjustment (cfs)       


Water Contracts


Current Flow

Previous Flow Rate

Volume Delivered to Date

Volume Remaining

Days Remaining at Current Flow

Irrigation   Contracts







In-Stream Fisheries   Contracts









All contract water has been delivered and reservoir outflow adjusted to equal inflow. The next outflow adjustment is scheduled to be made prior to the drilling program during the last week of the month. Outflow will be reduced by about 25 cfs for one or two days during the drilling program then outflow again set to equal inflow.

Exploratory Drilling

The DNRC will be conducting some minor work below the dam as we gather geotechnical information for the design of the proposed bridge across the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. The bridge will provide access to the toe of the dam for safety and maintenance purposes, and for future rehabilitation work on the dam. The bridge construction work is tentatively set to begin late summer or early fall of 2021. The bridge will be crossing the river downstream of the current boat launch area.

In order to accomplish the drilling, equipment will have to ford the river at the boat launch location. To help facilitate the river crossing, the river flows will be temporarily reduced to the 50 cfs range when the equipment fords the river. After the drilling has been completed on the far side of the river, the river flows will be returned to match reservoir inflows.

Annual Dam Safety Inspection

The annual safety inspection of the dam will occur on October 14th. This will require that the outflows from the dam to be temporarily terminated for a few hours. 

In preparation for the inspection, the outflows will be reduced to the 35-50 cfs range on October 13th

After the inspection has been completed on the 14th the outflows will resume and will be set to match the inflows. 

I want to take time to remind everyone how Painted Rocks Reservoir is managed, and how releases are made. 

  1. The DNRC does not determine when contract water is delivered. The DNRC insures that the reservoir is filled in a timely fashion and kept full until water is requested by the contract holders.  Whenever possible, gate adjustments are made mid-week, however they are conditions/contract delivery dependent.

  1. Decisions regarding the timing and size of the contract water releases are made by:

If you are interested, here are the online gages for Blue Joint Creek
( ) and the West Fork of the Bitterroot above the dam
( )

Painted Rocks Dam outflow information
The USGS gage link information for the gage immediately below the dam:  This site has flows that are recorded/displayed every 15 minutes and can be assessed by anyone at any time. Therefore it will give you the most up to date outflow information available for Painted Rocks Dam.


Water Projects Bureau
1424 9th Ave
Helena, MT 59620-1601
(406) 444-6646

Missoula Office
(406) 721-4284

PRWUA Directory