Drinking Horse Trail and the 20th Annual Watershed Festival


June 09, 2018
9:00am - 2:00pm


Bozeman Fish Technology Center

Written by Elizabeth Green - Drinking Horse Trail is arguably one of the more popular hikes in Bozeman, especially for families. It has everything: water features, a cool bridge, gorgeous wildflowers and amazing views. But there is a lot more going on for families here during the summer!

The Bozeman Fish Technology Center, which is situated below the trail’s parking lot, celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. My husband and I spent years taking my son to feed the trout at the pond in the middle of the Fish Tech grounds without ever really knowing what takes place there. The buildings all around the pond host scientists who work for the Fish Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The long fenced-in areas near the ponds are fish runs that frequently host real science experiments whose outcomes directly affect fish populations here in Montana. One experiment involved finding the correct angle at which to build a fish ladder in a local river to ensure the health of the fish population after a dam was built. Inside the Fish Hatchery, many species of fish are raised, including a school of endangered pallid sturgeon that will hopefully be released into the wild. How cool is that? Inside the foyer of the more modern building, the Piper Building, there is a wall of really neat tanks housing local fish species. Montana Outdoor Science School is also located directly behind the pond, and visitors are welcome to stop by during the day to check out the animals and artifacts used in programs in schools throughout the state. During the summer, you will see kids enrolled in MOSS summer camps enjoying the area as well.

The highlight of the summer at Drinking Horse Trail will be the 20th Annual Watershed Festival, an event co-hosted by MOSS and the Fish Technology Center. It is being held on June 9 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on the grounds around the fish pond. Jess Haas, Executive Director of MOSS, describes the Watershed Festival “as the perfect kick-off to summer!” The festival celebrates the amazing diversity of the watersheds of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which we are lucky to call home. My family looks forward to this event every year and my son even caught his first fish at the fishing derby when he was 2 years old! Each kid has the opportunity to catch two rainbow trout from the pond, and the amazing people from Fish Tech will clean the fish on site for you! I’ll never forget how proud my son was when we took the fish home and cooked it for dinner. The Watershed Festival, and the fish fry that follows at home, have now become a beloved family tradition.             

The fishing derby starts at 9 a.m. with an official countdown, and then the casting begins! Fishing poles and worms are provided, but you are more than welcome to bring your own. After your children catch their limit, visit the interactive booths from local organizations such as the Bozone Ozone Bus and the Raptor Center. Take home a plant, experience a massive stream table, get in on a duck race, meet a raptor, get up close and personal with aquatic macro invertebrates and even have your face painted like a local animal! There is so much to do at this family event. Parking is limited at the Drinking Horse Trail parking lot, so you should consider taking the free shuttle from the fairgrounds.

Every summer, Gallatin Valley Land Trust hosts Discovery Walks at various locations around the valley. Many of them are led by a MOSS instructor and feature different themes for each walk. All ages are welcome, but these walks are geared toward preschool age and pace. They are the perfect introduction to local trails with little ones! This summer, there will be three separate Discovery Walks held at Drinking Horse: May 28-Hiking Basics, June 8-Bugging Out and June 18-Habitat Hunters. Check out the GVLT website for a full menu of hikes for all ages.

In addition, GVLT will be hosting a Drop-In Trail Maintenance Project on July 19 at 5 p.m. This is the perfect opportunity to help keep one of your favorite trails in top shape! GVLT asks that participants wear sturdy shoes and bring gloves and water. They will provide the tools. Please go to the GVLT website and RSVP under the Drop-in Trails Project link and meet the crew at the Drinking Horse Trailhead. 

I think we are all itching to have many amazing adventures with our families this summer. Hopefully you will plan on having a few close to home at Drinking Horse Trail. See you outside!

Elizabeth Green is the Education Director at Montana Outdoor Science School. MOSS’ mission is to promote an awareness, understanding and appreciation of the natural world through quality educational experiences. She lives in Bozeman with her amazing husband and super cool mini-scientist.