Good vibrations set at Libby Dam’s Souse Gulch Recreation Area


Left to Right: USACE Libby Dam Maintenance Crew members Ryan Witmer, Brent Williams, Don Baney, and Gene Sprague were joined on Wednesday, September 9, by Col. Alexander Bullock, Seattle District Commander, and Rick Spiger, Libby Dam Operations Project Manager, in cutting the red ribbon over the newly completed musical play round at the Souse Gulch recreation area.  Not pictured, but also a part of the maintenance crew which completed the work, Bob Fiscus. Photo by Stacy Bender, The Montanian.


By Stacy Bender


According to a recent article shared by the United Service Organizations (USO), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) currently oversees more than 400 lake and river projects across 43 states, 12 million acres of public lands, and over 93,000 campsites and recreation areas within the United States.  One of those sites, tucked away just north of Libby and on the Southern end of Lake Koocanusa, has been undergoing a carefully pitched transformation for several months now.

On Wednesday, September 9, a symphonious celebration nearly a year in the making echoed forth to anyone within earshot of the Souse Gulch recreation area. A red ribbon was then officially cut atop the musical platform now added to the outdoor playground space adjacent to the Libby Dam. “In a time when we have not been able to have visitors in our indoor areas,” shared Susan James, Park Ranger at the Libby Dam Visitor Center, “it has been a real boon to have a new outdoor attraction for families to enjoy while visiting the Souse Gulch recreation area.”

During an average summer season, the Libby Dam sees approximately 175,000 visitors throughout its various public spaces. This year has reportedly seen those numbers rise, although official records are not yet complete.  Given the influx of traffic as people seeking solace in outdoor spaces, James noted, “It’s been nice to have something here that sparks fun and creativity and brings some smiles to people’s faces.”

The ring of instrumental stations became complete this past spring. Once in place, the USACE Libby Dam Outdoor Maintenance Crew later rose to the task of fabricating a foundation to withstand the multitude of meandering maestros now expected to visit the site for years to come. Between mowing, irrigation duties, clearing and patching roads, maintaining vehicles and boats, cleaning recreation sites and managing trees downed by recent storms, time was limited.  Yet the crew was dedicated to the finishing improvements and construction somehow began.

With years of experience between them, laying the rebar for the platform itself came as second nature to the team. Creating forms for the decorative concrete such as the USACE’s trademark castle, however, was a first-time challenge for the team. A challenge to which they rose right in tune with the USACE motto, “Essayons!” – meaning “let us try.”

Just days before the ribbon cutting, the finishing touches were complete.  The newest addition to the Souse Gulch recreation area now also aligns itself befittingly to the concrete work which Libby Dam Architect, Paul Thiry achieved.  Thiry’s angular fixtures and features such as trash cans, restrooms and picnic shelters can be found flanking the public spaces alongside the dam.

“Regardless of your favorite outdoor activity, recreation enriches people’s lives,” reads the USACE’s website.  “A visit to a USACE recreation area can strengthen family ties and friendships, create unforgettable memories and connect people to nature in ways that will last a lifetime.”

In keeping with the USACE’s mission to provide such spaces, the new playground round will remain open and available to explore year-round from sunrise to sunset.  All are invited, young and old alike, to be inspired by their surroundings and play with the instruments pre-tuned to augment the outdoor experience.  “No matter how much or little ‘talent’ a person might have, they can always sound great,” James quipped.

According to Rick Spiger, Libby Dam Operations Project Manager, as the Souse Gulch playground area continues to develop, the ground now surrounding the musical platform is expected to be raised once a rock reinforcement wall is first constructed.  Additional grass and picnic tables will then be laid out for families to further enjoy while visiting Libby Dam.

More information on the Souse Gulch day use area including picnic shelters, camping, fishing, disc golf and more can be obtained by calling Libby Dam Visitor Center, 406-293-5577 or by visiting   Videos of spontaneous symphonic experiences are welcome and may also be uploaded to the dam’s Facebook page.

First Annual Pickleball tournament serves up support for local courts

By Stacy Bender


Inside specially drawn lines on the lower courts of the Libby outdoor tennis complex, nineteen players equipped with specially designed paddles convened for the First Annual U Serve Pickleball Tournament on Saturday, September 19, raising $330 for the local non-profit organization.

Pickleball is sport which combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and two or four-player tennis using solid paddles for play with a perforated polymer ball.  Local interest has gained momentum at the Libby courts where open play is now held four times per week.

All are welcome to join in the round-robin style play held at the Libby courts starting at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays and beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Outdoor play will continue until weather and daylight conditions are no longer feasible, at which point indoor arrangements will be solidified. Paddles are available for use by those wishing to give the sport a try.

“This is an addictive sport where exercise and good fun and lots of laughter is found,” said Pickleball coordinator, Lisa Sooter.”Everyone from beginner to advanced comes to play.  Most of us have only been playing a year or so.”

Monies raised at this weekend’s tournament will go towards site maintenance and future court resurfacing needs. For more information on pickleball, local tennis activities and/or the U Serve organization please email or contact Dave Nelson at 293-7069.

The first ever Pickle Ball Tournament was held on Saturday September 19 at the Libby Courts. The tournament raised $330 for local non-profit. Photo courtesy of  U-Serve.

LHS student headed for 2021 Miss Teen Montana USA Pageant

By Stacy Bender


LHS Student Headed for 2021 Miss Teen Montana USA Pageant Rylee Boltz, a sophomore at Libby High School, will be joining sixteen other contestants from across the state to compete in the 2021 Miss Teen Montana USA Pageant this coming weekend, September 26 & 27. Boltz will join her fellow competitors in a weekend to include various group seminars and self-esteem enhancing discussions as they vie for cash, prizes, awards and scholarships while competing in three rounds of competition: interview, evening gown and fitness wear.

Boltz is an ambitious student at LHS who hopes to one day attend law school. Involved actively in several Logger Sports, she reports herself focused on working towards earning a basketball scholarship one day. “Determination. I continue working for what I want no matter how hard it is,” Boltz wrote, defining her secret to success upon applying for the Miss Teen Montana USA pageant. When reached for comment, Boltz seemed excitedly open to discovering what the coming weekend’s experience might bring. “I’m not really sure what is going to happen. I’m sure I’ll have more to say after the competition,” she shared, “I do know I really love my dress!” Boltz also shared on her pageant application that she hopes for her generation to one day be known for their ability to adapt well to changing environments. Something she seems to already be mastering in exploring a wide-range of teenage opportunities. Boltz is respectably poised as a contestant in this her first pageant experience and has agreed to fill us in once the weekend comes to a close. We look forward to hearing all about it.

LHS Student Headed for 2021 Miss Teen Montana USA Pageant Rylee Boltz, a sophomore at Libby High School. Photo courtesy of Apple and Fawn Photography .