The Independence Day weekend will  be hot and dry, sending hundreds of people to Western Montana rivers to cool off by boating, swimming or floating.

Vivaca Crowser is the Information and Education Manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She said on Wednesday, that even though river levels are down from their peak runoff levels of a few weeks ago, conditions in some areas may still pose a danger to the unprepared.

"Levels are still pretty high for this time of the season and the water, of course, is very cold," Crowser said. "I know it's hot outside and you can't wait to get into the water and cool off, but if you're in there too long, you can still get into trouble. The most important thing to remember is to always wear a life jacket whenever you're in the water. It can really buy you a lot of peace of mind. If you have that life jacket on, you can focus on getting yourself back to shore or back in the boat."

Crowser said familiarity with the stretch of river you'll be on is of utmost importance.

"The river you were on this year could be a great deal different than how the river was last year," she said. "There could be a great deal of debris from spring runoff that could be just below the surface, so stopping to scout a stretch of river could make a big difference. Another thing is to never be out on the water alone. Always let someone know where you'll be floating and when you're expected back, so someone will be watching for you when you return home."

Crowser said those who wish to tube in the rivers need to pay special attention to the stretch of river they'll be floating.

"Be especially careful about bridge abutments, and you want to pick a spot that will have the least amount of debris," Crowser said. "Pick a calmer stretch of water and go with a group of experienced river floaters, so that you'll have safety in numbers."

Crowser also reminds water lovers that jumping off bridges can lead to tragedy, such as what happened last summer when Corey Allan Hewitt jumped into the Clark Fork River and landed on Andy Hill, causing severe injuries.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Spokeswoman Vivaca Crowser