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Bitterroot River Closed in the Same Area Where Numerous Fatalities Occurred in Previous Years


Diversion Dam
Photo courtesy of Montana FWP

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks put an emergency rule in place Friday that closes the Bitterroot River near Corvallis to all floating from Woodside to Tucker Fishing Access Sites. FWP spokeswoman Vivica Crowser said the closure is due to flow conditions that make portage around the Supply Ditch Diversion Dam extremely difficult:

“That’s due to a diversion dam structure that’s in that stretch of river,” Crowser said. “Up to this point, we’ve had it signed, but the flow conditions right now are such that the portage can be difficult to make if you don’t know exactly when to pull over, and even if you do, the current is just strong enough right now that it’s tough. We are asking that folks stay off that entire stretch of river until the flow conditions improve.”

The Supply Ditch Diversion, located approximately three miles downstream of Woodside, is a low-head dam built to divert water for irrigation. It creates dangerous currents that have caused several boating accidents over the past several years.

Crowser said that this is the same location where a 6-year-old girl drowned in a boating accident just last year.

“It’s a spot where three plus years ago, the river channel used to be more in the west channel there on the Bitterroot and boaters could avoid that channel altogether, so it was never an issue,” Crowser said. “Now there is not enough water in that west channel and it forces boaters to go down the east channel of the river to the spot where the diversion dam is, so now it is an issue.”

FWP has been working to make the dam safer for boaters after the previous rescues and fatalities in the same area.

Crowser said the emergency closure will be lifted once conditions for boat portage around the dam improve.

For more information on the closure, contact FWP at (406) 542-5500.

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