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Crow Creek Pump Unit
Photo of Irrigated Crops
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Parent Program/Project
Pick Sloan Missouri Basin Program
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

The Crow Creek Pump Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program was developed at the request of the Commissioners of Broadwater County for facilities to irrigate an acreage of land equal to that inundated by Canyon Ferry Lake before the land in the reservoir area was taken out of production. This acreage is part of the 23,400 acres of new irrigable land in the Crow Creek Unit of the Three Forks Division and the Broadwater-Missouri Unit described in Senate Document 191. Features include Crow Creek Pumping Plant, the Toston Tunnel, Toston Canal, Lombard Canal, and the lateral and drainage systems.

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Water is pumped from the west bank of the Missouri River by the Crow Creek Pumping Plant and flows through the Toston Tunnel to the Toston Canal, thence to the Lombard Canal for distribution to project land.

The controlled water surface at the Broadwater-Missouri Diversion Dam approximately 1.5 miles below the pump site maintains a water depth at the pumping plant of more than 5 feet. The 6,248 acres of land in the Crow Creek Pump Unit that can be irrigated require an average annual diversion of 16,800 acre-feet at a maximum rate of 100 cubic feet per second.

Facility Descriptions
Pumping Plant

The Crow Creek Pumping Plant is on the left bank of the Missouri River about 6 miles upstream from Toston, Montana. The plant contains three units. Each 33.3-cubic-foot-per-second pump is driven by a 900-horsepower synchronous motor operating against a total dynamic head of 180 feet.

Toston Tunnel and Canal

The 6.5-foot concrete-lined, horseshoe shaped Toston Tunnel has a design capacity of 100 cubic feet per second. It is 2,044 feet long, with 120 feet of 6.5-foot covered conduit inlet. The outlet transition is 15 feet long and connects with the 100-cubic-foot-per-second Toston Canal, which is 7.8 miles long.

Lombard Canal

The Lombard Canal diverts water from the Toston Canal about 1.5 miles from the tunnel to irrigate lands in the northern section of the unit. The Lombard Canal is 3 miles in length and has a capacity of 60 cubic feet per second.

Lateral and Drainage systems

The lateral system has a total length of 10 miles with capacity to irrigate 4,510 acres. The drainage system is 4.7 miles in length.

Operating Agencies

Operation and maintenance functions are performed by the Toston Irrigation District.

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The first trading post in the vicinity was established at Three Forks in 1810, and the first settlement on Crow Creek was made in 1865. Following the discovery of gold at Radersburg, several large ranches were established along Crow Creek between 1865 and 1880. The area was homesteaded between 1912 and 1914 under the Homestead Act, which allowed 160 acres to each entry. Because of small units and drought conditions beginning in 1918 and continuing into the early 1920`s, many of the settlers moved away and the lands were idle until 1944, when 100 acres were put into wheat production. By 1949, about one-fourth of the irrigable acreage was used for the production of wheat.


The Reclamation Service made the first investigation of the area, including the Crow Creek Pump Unit, in 1905 and 1906 for a Madison River project. The plan proposed construction of a reservoir on the Madison River and an expensive diversion canal along steep sidehills requiring numerous tunnels, flumes, and deep cuts. In 1920, a private firm employed by the former Crow Creek Irrigation District made a second report. This plan envisioned the irrigation of 18,000 acres from a proposed Glendale Reservoir located on Crow Creek. It was later expanded to include a diversion canal from the Jefferson River with a total project area of 65,000 acres.

A reconnaissance made by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1942 on the Missouri River Basin from Three Forks to Canyon Ferry estimated the total irrigable area at 32,800 acres within the Crow Creek Unit, including the 8,000 acres along the main canal in the Jefferson River Basin. The initial plan of irrigation by gravity diversion from the Jefferson River was revised and the irrigable area was reduced to 23,400 acres of new land and about 5,300 acres of supplemental land to be served by water diverted from the Madison River.


This unit was authorized by the Flood Control Act of July 24, 1946, which extended the original Basin Act of 1944. Construction was initiated in connection with the Canyon Ferry Unit under a specific provision in fiscal year 1949 and in subsequent appropriation acts for the Department of the Interior.


Construction began in 1952 and was substantially completed in 1954.

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Grain and livestock predominate in the area, but the establishment of irrigation produced an increase in the crops of potatoes and hay.

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Last updated: Sep 17, 2012