FWP Urges Floaters to Use Caution on Cold Fast Running Rivers
With temperatures into the 80’s in western Montana, the temptation to grab the float tubes and hit the river can be irresistible, however, officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks urge caution after the just finished flood season.
Christine Oschell, FWP Region Two River Recreation Manager said on Monday that the rivers you floated last summer have changed in several very important ways.
“The big message to the public is that a lot of things have shifted and changed from last year because of the high water and the flooding,” said Oschell. “We’re seeing channel shifts and a lot of debris in the river, so my biggest advice is to increase the amount of scouting you’re doing on the route you’re going to take. Talking to other people and especially the river guides and outfitters will help you get a better feel of the rivers. Because it’s so dynamic, I can’t guarantee that any one stretch is safer than another.”
Oschell specifically called out the Clark Fork as a river to be especially careful on while recreating.
“The Clark Fork, for instance, has a lot of debris in it, especially between Clinton and town and there’s a very big channel shift on that section,” she said. “Rivers are inherently dangerous, however, I think we’re getting into flows that are safer for floaters then they were say, just a few days ago.”
Oschell said there are still areas that are closed to all boating and recreation.
“The Clark Fork from Reserve Street to the upper end of Kelly Island is still closed,” she said. “There are power lines still in the water in that section. The power has been turned off, however the lines are still in the river.”
The Blackfoot River was closed from the weigh station to the confluence of the Clark Fork because it flows under I-90 where the new bridge is being built, however, that is now open.
In addition, the Sha-Ron fishing access site is still walk-in only due to logs in the river, however, they are being removed and the vehicle access should be restored by Wednesday. The Cyr boat slide that takes visitors into the Alberton Gorge was severely damaged by the floods and FWP will be repairing that section on Tuesday.
Finally, Oschell reminds all boaters and floaters to wear safety approved life vests, and since rivers are still running fast and cold, to watch out for signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, confusion or lethargy. Any of these symptoms are a sign to get off the river as soon as possible.