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Ravalli County Sheriff Warns – Bitterroot River One of the Most Dangerous in Montana

Diversion Dam
photo from Montana FWP

The Ravalli County Sheriff’s Department and the Ravalli County Public Health Department want to remind all river users that the Bitterroot River is statistically one of the most dangerous rivers in Montana.

Sheriff Chris Hoffman said the holiday weekend will bring many residents to the Bitterroot River for recreation,

“The sheriff’s office and the county health department wants everyone to know that the Bitterroot river can be extremely dangerous, and the high water conditions right now make it even more hazardous,” Hoffman said. “The general character of the river changes dramatically from year to year, and floaters need to be aware of downed trees, new obstacles and irrigation dams.”

Hoffman draws particular attention to one part of the river that has caused several accidents and even taken a life.

“We’re particularly concerned with the supply ditch diversion dam located about three miles downstream from Woodside,” Hoffman said. “It’s a low-head dam built to divert water for irrigation and this dam creates dangerous currents that have caused several boating accidents over the past several years, including an unfortunate fatality in 2013. The stretch of river where the dam is located is current;y scheduled to be reopened on July 7th, and we’re advising floaters to follow the signs, exit the river on the left and go around the dam.”

Hoffman also advises all river users to wear a life jacket, scout the river for obstacles, and and to never over estimate their skills on the river.

“This river is very deceptive and deadly,” he said. “Especially during runoff.”

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman

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