MCALLISTER — One of the only sounds that breaks the serene stillness of Bear Trap canyon is the chaotic white noise of thousands of gallons of water slamming into the lower Madison River from the century-old Madison Dam. But the reason for the dam’s existence, the generation of hydroelectric power, hasn’t occurred in two years.
Despite being unable to perform its energy-generating duty while the dam’s generators and turbines are upgraded, it still conducts a vital function for keeping water temperatures in the lower Madison stable for fisheries: pulse flows.
The dam has conducted more pulses this year than ever before. One of the challenges has been balancing an increased usage of water for the pulses while also maintaining water levels for recreation in Hebgen Lake far upstream, which feeds the Madison River watershed.