Like many other parts of town, the river also runs through East Missoula. The Clark Fork makes a gallant turn near the Sha-Ron fishing access and under the Deer Creek bridge before it continues its journey into town. The bend provides a natural border for the Canyon River Golf Course, located on the river’s south side. A walking trail traces this border and is a wonderfully accessible place for neighbors to enjoy the water, get some exercise, and even spy some of the resident birds. Bald eagles are majestic and frequent visitors to this part of the river, swooping high above the water to survey their domain before landing among the tall pines along the banks. Osprey too like this part of the river and share it with plenty of mallards and Canada geese. A familiar blue heron can also be spotted at certain points of the day, balanced on one spindly leg near the whites of a riffle, just waiting for the next trout to come by.
Anglers can access the river at Sha-Ron or find a spot upstream to wade. Following the removal of the Milltown Dam in 2008 the Blackfoot River now flows freely into the Clark Fork just a few miles from East Missoula. It’s not unusual to see trucks towing drift boats or brightly colored fishing rafts up Highway 200 into the Blackfoot Canyon. It’s also not uncommon to see cyclists in wind-defying garb heading that way as well. There are many hunters that live in East Missoula too. In season, you’ll often see trucks hauling recently harvested elk or deer coming down the highway from the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks checkpoint at Bonner. In the off-season, many practice their marksmanship at the Deer Creek Shooting Center nearby. While the highway is a recreation corridor through the neighborhood, some walkers and hikers prefer to take the high road and climb the trails and roads on Mount Jumbo. If you’re ambitious, you can even hike over the saddle and end up in the Rattlesnake Neighborhood. There are other hikes up Marshall Canyon where a now-closed ski area still exists and is used for special events – including hosting the Hell’s Angels motorcycle rally. And while it’s not as closely accessible to the neighborhood as other walking and hiking trails, the Kim Williams Nature Trail extends from the UM campus all the way to the intersection of Deer Creek Road and the railroad tracks in East Missoula.
When they’re not playing hard, East Missoulians are hard working people, who pour energy into remodeling their homes and beautifying their yards. Mature trees and established gardens grow happily in the sunshine here. Neighbors also enjoy spending time with their families. Extended family members live near one another and people get together to visit, barbeque, and take walks along the river. Neighbors gather for special events at the East Missoula Community Center, including an annual spaghetti dinner where vats of red sauce are stirred ceremoniously with a boat paddle. The Annual East Missoula Easter Egg Hunt draws hundreds to the community to search for eggs and join in a community barbeque. And of course there’s Missoula’s “other” fireworks display that takes place on the Fourth of July in East Missoula. Neighbors who aren’t putting on their own pyrotechnic presentations are sitting out in their front yards in lawn chairs taking in the show. For picnics or play dates, Canyon View Park is a quaint neighborhood respite on a quiet residential street. The playground at the old Mount Jumbo School is also a gathering place with picnic shelters and playground equipment, including swings made from old T-bars that were likely salvaged from the Marshall Mountain Ski Area. The school’s baseball diamond is particularly hopping during Mount Jumbo Little League games in the summer.
From all-American traditions like baseball and fireworks to simple pleasures like petting the friendly neighborhood dog as you walk to the park, East Missoula embodies the idea of neighborhood. It may not be quite as connected to the rest of town, but East Missoulians are still connected to Missoula with a shared appreciation for the beautiful and comfortable place we call home.