Wade Lake Road looking out to the Madison Mountains in August 2020. PHOTO BY HANNAH KEARSE

Improving mountain lake roads

Reaching county standards

Madison County Board of Commissioners committed $139,000 to improve three county roads.

Most of Cliff Lake Road, Wade Lake Road and Horn Creek Road will be constructed to meet county road standards. The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Lands Access Program will cover between $900,000 and $1.3 million of the project’s total cost. The project is estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

“We’ll improve it as much as we can with as much money as we get,” Madison County Commissioner Jim Hart said.

Western Federal Lands has to approve the plans before the county can move forward. WFL will decide if it or Madison County will administer the project, according to Jeremiah Theys with Great West Engineering. Hart said he expected the approval to come in October, and the project’s bidding process will follow.

The federal assistance program, FLAP, was established to improve access to, along or within federal lands. The three county roads lead to Wade and Cliff Lakes in the Gravelly Mountains, which make up a southern corner of Montana’s largest national forest, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Over 40 tons of gravel will widen the roads to 28 feet with a 24-foot drivable surface. According to Hart, some spots will be a couple feet narrower due to the terrain. But the roads will better support safe two-way traffic.

Construction is expected to begin early next summer. Gravel will be laid on 13 miles of roads that meander through private and public property. Horn Creek Road, from Montana State Highway 87 past its southern turn toward one of Cliff Lake’s inlets, will be re-graveled. Horn Creek Road changes to Cliff Lake Road about halfway down the Horn Creek inlet and will also be re-graveled. Wade Lake Road’s construction will go from Three Dollar Bridge to Wade Lake.

“As you get closer to the lakes, much of the road is lower than the rest of the terrain,” Hart said. “Raising the road, we’ll have some engineering.”

FLAP emphasizes its grant funding for public roads or other transportation facilities on highuse recreation sites and economic generators. The county does not maintain the roads in the winter. But Wade Lake and Cliff Lakes are busy places, many recreationists enjoy the blue waters, hiking trails and campsites all summer.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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