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Key to Aquatic Ecological Systems

1 Northwestern Great Plains Ecoregion Go To 2 Below
1 Northern Glaciated Plains Ecoregion Go To 4 Below
1 Montana Foothills and Valleys Ecoregion Go To 5 Below
1 Middle Rockies and Isolated Mountain Ranges Go To 7 Below

Northwestern Great Plains Ecoregion

2 Stream 1st-2nd order or <30 miles long Go To 3 Below
2 Stream 3rd-5th order or 30 - 100 miles long Great Plains Prairie Stream
2 River >5th order or >100 miles long Medium Prairie River
2 River >5th order and >200 river miles long and a direct tributary to the Yellowstone or Missouri River (Little Missouri, Tongue, Bighorn and Powder Rivers) Large Prairie River
2 Yellowstone River downstream from Billings or the Missouri River downstream from Great Falls Large Valley River
3 Perennial 1st or 2nd order stream above 1000m elevation in the Wolf Mountains, Powder River Basin or Missouri Breaks Great Plains Perennial Spring
3 Small (< 100m2 in area), low gradient intermittent pools separated by long breaks of dry stream bed, typically lacks downstream connectivity to a large mainstem river Great Plains Intermittent Stream
 

Northern Glaciated Plains Ecoregion

4 Stream 1st-2nd order or <30 miles long Northern Glaciated Intermittent Stream
4 Stream 3rd-5th order or 30 - 100 miles long Northern Glaciated Prairie Stream
4 River >5th order or >100 miles long Medium Prairie River
4 River >5th order and >200 miles long and a direct tributary to the Missouri River (Milk or Marias Rivers) Large Prairie River
4 The Missouri River downstream from Great Falls Large Valley River
 

Foothills and Valleys Ecoregion

5 1st order, origin from Valley Floor groundwater output Spring Creek
5 1st-2nd order or <30 miles long Headwaters Foothills River
5 3rd-4th order or >30 and <60 miles long Go To 6 Below
5 4th-5th order, >60 miles long and a direct tributary to the Yellowstone or Missouri River Intermountain Transitional River
6 Cool-cold water tributaries that originate in the foothills and flow out to prairie rivers that are too warm to support coldwater fisheries Small Transitional Foothills River
6 Coldwater tributaries that flow to foothills and valley intermountain transitional rivers that maintain coldwater fisheries Small Foothills River
 

Middle Rockies and Isolated Mountain Ranges Ecoregion

7 1st - 2nd order or <15 miles long Go To 8 Below
7 3rd - 4th order or 15 - 60 miles long Mountain Stream
7 5th order or >60 river miles and a direct tributary of the Intermountain Transitional River Small Transitional Foothills River
8 1st or 2nd order, elevation >2400m, hydrology driven by alpine snowmelt Alpine Stream
8 1st order, elevation from 1500 to 2400m, hydrology fed by ground water discharge Mountain Spring
 

Ecoregions are based on Omernik’s Level III Ecoregion delineations (see Woods, A.J. et al. 2002. Ecoregions of Montana. 2nd edition poster).The Northwestern Great Plains are the Northwestern Great Plains Level III Ecoregion (#43).