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Caution Recommended For Spring Rafting


Friday, May 25, 2001

Each spring in Montana, especially on Montana's western rivers, several drowning deaths associated with early season boating occur. "This spring's high temperatures will make raft and canoe enthusiasts anxious to go floating, though some rivers are still discolored and strewn with hazards that can be lethal," said Liz Lodman, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Boat Education Coordinator.

In some areas, early spring water levels are still hiding brush and snags underwater and along the river's edge sweepers, trees that have fallen over the river, can still sweep a person out of a boat if one tries to float under it.

Strainers are another springtime hazard, Lodman said. Strainers are obstacles, such as trees or logjams, that have part of their trunk or branches below the waters surface; a boat or person can be pushed by the current into the strainer and trapped against it. These obstacles can be extremely dangerous, even for boaters with properly sized personal flotation devices (PFD) who become entangled and unable to free themselves before drowning.

Boaters should play it safe this spring. "While everyone is concerned about drought, there are still swift currents, cold water, and hidden snags that add up to dangerous boating conditions that greatly increase the risk of drowning death," Lodman said.