Miller Creek

From all outward appearances, this is a special place that you might not even know about.

On the southwestern corner of Missoula, there is a hidden neighborhood tucked behind the commercial intersection of Reserve Street and Highway 93. Drive up a steady draw and parking lots immediately give way to thick vegetation, hearty growth that comes almost up to the road. Every so often, through the leaves and pine needles, you’ll see a driveway or a mailbox. You’ll encounter a fork in the road. Take a right where the trees break and sunshine illuminates horse meadows and large plots of land. You are heading into Linda Vista. Some homes are spread out like miniature farmsteads, but there are also more densely built neighborhoods. Views extend south into the breathtaking Bitterroot Valley. Keep moving upwards and you’ll find yourself at the Maloney Ranch. If you choose to take the left fork and head into Lower Miller Creek, the wooded wilds persist and will lead you to Forest Service recreation land.  Other surprises await you in this neighborhood including kids’ activities, recreation, and a popular golf course. There is something truly special and intimate about this haven beyond the boundaries of Missoula as you may know it. Ranch and country homes complement traditional residential comforts. Neighborhood takes on a different form, yet the Missoula community is alive and well in Miller Creek.

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While Miller Creek is somewhat hidden, that certainly doesn’t mean the rest of Missoula is shut out.

miller-creek-live-hereMiller Creek is a family place with children’s activities centered around the Cold Springs Elementary School. The original school was built in 1930 and is named for the natural springs that flow just three blocks away. There is a community spirit that energizes the school’s activities and many come out to share their support, particularly at the annual Fall Carnival. Winter brings a tradition that has thrived since the first Miller Creek kid received his first wooden toboggan. Tearing down the fresh blanket of snow on Rainbow Park’s sledding hill is the best way to officially ring in winter in Miller Creek. And when the snow cover begins to dwindle and birds start to chirp again, the annual Nicole Court Easter Egg Hunt welcomes in the springtime. The sun shines longer and the warming earth gives way to green sprouts, then full-fledged plants in many a Miller Creek garden. After that final school bell rings signaling summertime, kids flock to the nearby Spray Park in Linda Vista’s Marilyn Park to cool off from a day of adventure. These parks, officially called “spraygrounds,” are Missoula Parks and Recreation’s effort to keep kids cool in the city’s parks. The spray features are like built-in water guns with on/off sensors that kids can activate. Water treatment, filtration, and the park’s construction on a drained surface make for endless fun for kids while also conserving water.

miller-creek-live-here-2The Missoula community shares in the recreation activities available in Miller Creek, including access to the Lolo National Forest. Snowmobile and cross-country ski trails are readily accessible and many Missoulians make it a tradition to bundle up and pack in hot cocoa as they search the area for their Christmas trees. In the summer, these trails give over to hikers and mountain bikers. It’s also no surprise to see families and fishermen congregating in the summer and spring on the Bitterroot River beach off Oral Zumwalt Way, just upstream from the confluence with the Clark Fork. Golfers also migrate toward Miller Creek with the first signs of spring. The Linda Vista Golf Course is a beautifully situated nine-hole executive course open to the public.

This is simply how living here is. Residents of Miller Creek live in contentment, surrounded by a rural way of life with fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and winter recreation all nearby. The long-time Miller Creek residents remember the area as less of a neighborhood and more of a collection of farms and ranches surrounded by wilderness. Today you can still experience much of that same feel.

While certainly not as sensational as reading “Man Bites Dog” when you open your local newspaper, it’s nonetheless something you don’t see everyday. “Teacher OK after crashing into bear on bicycle,” happened in the Miller Creek neighborhood, on Bear Run Creek Road to be exact. The early morning collision left both involved scraped up and shaken, but doing fine – although the bear was not available for comment. The story, which ran in the Missoulian, also left a lasting impression on the national media and even made it onto VH1’s “Best Week Ever.” Check out the story here.

Upper Miller Creek residents, the city, and the county have come together to give one of the neighborhood’s wild residents a more permanent place to call home, at least during the winter. A resident elk herd has used a portion of the Spooner Ranch to move from the Bitterroot Valley to the north during their winter migration. Working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the ranch’s owners and the city and county of Missoula have set aside a 207-acre sanctuary protecting a favorite winter range for the 200-plus elk. To learn more about Miller Creek’s elk haven, click here.

The Miller Creek name has taken on a new meaning for music fans in the Northwest. The Missoula-based band, Miller Creek, rocks shows locally and throughout the region. Find out more about Miller Creek here.

Many of us remember the various ways we kept up on the comings and goings of our hometowns and neighborhoods. Whether it was through the grapevine, a community group, or the weekly newspaper, we had a resource for information and an outlet to share our thoughts. The LiveMissoula! neighborhood blogs revisit that concept in a new way by providing an open, online destination where neighborhood stories can be posted and shared. To contribute to the discussion, we encourage you to add your comments. If you have an idea for a story, contact the Neighborhood Volunteer Advocate listed under each neighborhood’s Fast Facts pages.