River surfing: Clark Fork cleanup, Brennan’s Wave put Missoula on the mapNews Type: State Source: Missoulian
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Missoula’s vibrant river surfing culture wasn’t created overnight, but two sizable community projects — one construction, one demolition, both born from a desire to heal from devastation — put a renewed focus on the health of local waterways and introduced a whole new generation to recreational opportunities.
On June 25, 2006, a crowd converged at Caras Park to dedicate a new whitewater park on the Clark Fork River called Brennan’s Wave. The underwater concrete structure forms a playful wave for boaters and surfers. It’s named for 32-year-old Brennan Guth, an expert local kayaker and teacher who died while paddling in Chile in 2001. He had long advocated for cleaning the nasty jumble of rebar, concrete and garbage in that highly visible stretch of river, and a coalition of community organizations rallied to make it happen in his name.
Not quite two years later, on March 28, 2008, the Milltown Dam just east of town was finally breached after a long and expensive cleanup to remove 7 million cubic yards of toxic sediment that had washed downstream from the mines and smelters near Butte for decades.