Use of a WebGIS to Determine Boat Ramp Locations

on the Missouri River in Northeast Montana 

By Scot H. Dahms


To partially fulfill the requirements for Earth Science 551

Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas



PROPOSED SITES   Frazer     Oswego    Wolf Point    Poplar Ferry    Brockton    Big Muddy    Nohly (2)   




     The Lewis and Clark Voyage of Discovery Bicentennial will occur during 2005 and 2006.  Because of the high number of people predicted to travel along the same route as Lewis and Clark, the Fort Peck Reach - Upper Missouri River Access Committee was formed to create more boat ramps along the 187 mile stretch of river between the Fort Peck Lake Dam and the North Dakota Border in Montana.  This group consists of members from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Fort Peck Indian Tribes; National Park Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Bureau of Land Management; Missouri River Country Tourism Board; and Great Northern Development Committee.

Upper Image: the State of Montana, Lower Image: Northeast Montana.

    In the above image, Fort Peck Lake is just out of view in the lower left, the North Dakota Border is on the right, and the Missouri River is the black line that runs horizontally through the middle.  In this stretch of the Missouri River, there are only seven boat ramps, and of these, four are within four miles of the Fort Peck Dam.  The other three are located southeast of Wolf Point at the Highway 13 bridge over the river, west of Poplar at the intersection of Highway 2 and the Poplar River which feeds into the Missouri River, and south of Culbertson at the Highway 16 bridge over the river.

    The committee has proposed several sites based on common knowledge.  Members of this committee will review possible sites based on slope of surrounding area to the shoreline, proximity to an existing road, and property ownership (Fort Peck Reach - UMRAC 2002).  Finding sites that have gentle slopes, are close to an existing road, and are public or tribal property will decrease the amount of time and funds needed to establish a boat ramp.  Other criteria including cultural resources and threatened and endangered species will also be considered, but not included here.  The use of a WebGIS will accelerate the selection process for these sites. 

    The Montana Natural Resource Information System will be used to make recommendations on possible sites based on the above criteria.  The Thematic Mapper , a WebGIS, has access to roads, cities, rivers, elevations, ownership, and aerial photos.  This is all of the information needed to make a decision based on the above criteria and whether to visit specific sites or not.  The final decisions, as to whether the site becomes a boat ramp or not, will be made on site.  All images in this webpage were used by permission of the Montana State Library at Natural Resource Information System

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            Image 1.                                                                                                           Image 2.

    Image 1 shows Frazer and Highway 2 (red line) in the upper right and the proposed site is in the lower left, north of the river.  Image 2 is an enlargement of the proposed site.  The tan color block area is tribal property.  Image 1 shows that roads (black lines) do come close to the area and that the area is level.  The color blocks in Image 2 show that it is on tribal property.  This would be a good site to visit.  



             Image 3.                                              Image 4.                                               Image 5.

    Image 3 shows the location of Oswego and Highway 2 in relation to the river.  In Images 4 and 5, the possible site is located at the bottom center of the image north of the river.  Based on the topographic images, the elevation is level.  The site is close to roads as shown by black lines, and the site is on tribal property as shown by the block color layer. Based on these images, the Oswego site would be a good site to visit.

Wolf Point


             Image 6.                                               Image 7.                                              Image 8.

    These images show Wolf Point and Highway 2 in relation to the river.  The possible site is directly south of the dot representing Wolf Point.  The topography of the area is level and there are roads that go directly to the river.  The only concern here would be property ownership.  The Fort Peck Tribe owns on each side, but based on these images, it is unknown who owns the property.  The NRIS WebGIS does not show city ownership, but it could be reasonably deducted that the area belongs to the City of Wolf Point.  This would be a good site to visit to find out if the City does own it.  If not, the two areas owned by the Tribes would still be good sites to visit.    

Poplar Ferry


                    Image 9.                                                                     Image 10.

    Poplar is in the upper left of Image 9 and the possible site is in the lower right, north of the river.  Image 10 is an enlargement of the lower right corner of Image 9 showing property ownership with the proposed site in the lower right corner, north of the river.  Even though the topography is level, there are no roads that get close to the proposed site and the proposed site is not on tribal or public property.  Based on the criteria, this site should not be used. 



            Image 11.                                             Image 12.                                              Image 13.

    The possible site is located at the Picnic Area directly south of Brockton.  This would be an excellent site to visit because the topography is level, there are existing roads to the area, and the area looks to be on tribal property with the majority of the road coming in to the area being on City of Brockton property. 

Big Muddy

                    Image 14.

    The proposed site is where the Big Muddy Creek comes into the Missouri River from the north on the left side of the image.  Again, the topography here is level, but the area in question is private property and there are no roads leading to the area.  This site should not be visited.



             Image 15.                                            Image 16.                                            Image 17.

    North of Nohly there are two possible sites one is on State of Montana land (blue) and one is on Bureau of Land Management land (yellow).  In Image 15 and 16, the road goes along the river providing access, but on state land the slope would be too high based on the elevation lines being so close together.  This site should not be visited.  The site directly north of Nohly would be an excellent site to visit because the topography is flat, the road is close to the river, and it is public property.      

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    Based on the above criteria, five out of the eight sites would warrant a visit.  Using these recommendations, the person reviewing the sites would have saved three eighths of the time and expense of the field work to review the sites.     

     The images shown here are just a small sample of the many images that could be formed from this WebGIS.  WebGIS use by this committee will decrease the amount of time used to review possible sites and decrease the costs incorporated with purchasing software and data.  The use of a WebGIS is beneficial to similar groups because it has most of the information they need, has minimal costs involved, doesn't require specific training, and is easily accessed (Foote and Kirvan 1997).

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Daumiller, G. 2002. Written Permission to Use Images From The Natural Resource Information System. Unpublished, 1 p.

Foote, K. E. and Kirvan, A. P. 1997. NCGIA Core Curriculum in Geographic Information Science, WebGIS.  World Wide Web URL

Fort Peck Reach - Upper Missouri River Access Committee. 2002. March Meeting Synopsis. Unpublished, 6 p.

Montana State Library. Natural Resource Information System. World Wide Web URL:  Images retrieved on 4/28/02.