Lewistown, like several Montana communities, was constructed in a floodplain. The fertile soil and flat land made it an ideal place to develop a community. As the town flourished, developers rerouted a portion of the picturesque Big Spring Creek into straight channels and tunnels to make room for housing and infrastructure development. Evidence of these changes can be seen through a porthole in the floor of a downtown drinking establishment where the creek makes it way under the town.
The region just upstream from Lewistown, is an area known as Brewery Flats. Earning its name from a brewery that once occupied the space, this site, since the early 1900s, was also home to a railroad yard and a feedlot. In 1998, a restoration project was underway to move the creek back to its meandering route and restore natural habitat in the area. Today the new channel resembles the creek that flowed there before the settlement of the town and follows a course that is 50 percent longer than the original. With calm, deep pools at each creek bend, rainbow and brown trout now linger and natural aquatic life can thrive.
The 23-acre area is prime for outdoor recreation with grassy flats, riparian habitats full of cattails and willows thickets bordering the stream banks. A popular location for wildlife viewing and nature enthusiasts, walkers and runners, the mile-long smooth, flat trial is suitable for users of all ages. Local school teachers have adopted it as an ideal outdoor classroom and in the summer months the creek is a scenic route for floaters. The Brewery Flats Fishing Access Site is located 1 mile south of Lewistown on Highway 238 and is for day use only.
With year-round access, the Brewery Flats trail connects with a larger trail system that weaves it way through Lewistown, following the former railroad bed of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Written by Abby Majerus.