New pavement near Chisholm

A photo of new pavement near Chisholm day area in Hyalite Canyon.

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Crews finished paving the upper portion of Hyalite Canyon Road and some campgrounds nearby this week as the Forest Service continues work on three separate projects around the canyon.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest on Friday lifted temporary closures and restrictions in the area above Hyalite Dam and the Hood Creek and Chisholm campground now that the road has been paved.

Starting on Aug. 23, bicyclists and roller skiers weren’t allowed to travel up Hyalite Canyon Road from the mouth of the canyon through the construction area on weekdays during the day. The Forest Service also closed the Hood Creek and Chisholm Campgrounds to the public at that time.

Most of the major construction associated with the Upper Hyalite Canyon Road and Recreation Enhancement Projects has been completed, said Corey Lewellen, Bozeman District ranger for the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The goal of the projects is to remove the need for frequent grading along the upper road, make the road safer and more user-friendly and minimize sedimentation in the watershed, Lewellen said.

As construction along upper Hyalite Canyon Road wraps up this summer and fall, visitors may still see some delays, but Lewellen didn’t anticipate there would be more closures associated with the projects.

Hyalite Canyon is one of the most popular destinations for recreation in the state of Montana, according to the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Friends of Hyalite, a local nonprofit that tracks traffic in the drainage, and the Bozeman Ranger District recorded a sharp uptick in the number of visitors to the canyon between 2019 and 2021.

During summer months, counts showed the number of vehicles traveling up the road increased by up to 20% per month from 2019 to 2021.

Work along the upper stretch of Hyalite Canyon Road, which addresses the impacts of rising visitation, is occurring alongside two other major projects in and around the canyon.

One is a slope stability project about 1 mile up Hyalite Canyon Road. The other is the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project — a forest thinning project aimed at protecting the city’s drinking water.

Crews working on the slope stability project want to fortify a retaining wall about 1 mile up Hyalite Canyon Road, Lewellen said. The slope above the wall is naturally unstable, so officials want to make sure the wall isn’t.

Visitors may see some short-term delays around the lower section of the canyon this fall, but the majority of the work should be completed by the end of the season, according to Lewellen.

Work on the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project so far has involved some thinning of small-diameter trees by hand crews. Crews have also been preparing for thinning of large-diameter trees and doing some maintenance along Moser Road, Lewellen said.

Moser Road leads to Moser Ridge — the area where much of the municipal watershed project is set to occur, he said. The ridge separates the Bozeman and Hyalite Creek drainages.

The watershed project calls for about 4,700 acres of logging, thinning and prescribed burning in the Gallatin Range between the Hyalite and Bozeman Creek drainages.

It’s an effort by the Forest Service to reduce the risk of a severe wildfire cutting off the city’s drinking water. Around 80% of Bozeman’s water comes from Hyalite and Bozeman creeks.

The city of Bozeman is doing its own logging project on about 400 acres of city land near the mouth of Sourdough Creek. During a portion of the project this fall, helicopters carrying timber will fly over the Sourdough Creek Trail. The city plans to temporarily close the area at that time.

The Forest Service and the city hosted public meetings on the projects this spring and summer, and another one is coming up in late summer or early fall, Lewellen said.

“We are certainly appreciative of all the patience and support of the community,” Lewellen said. “We recognize there are some short term impacts, but the long term benefits provide better access and recreation opportunities.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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