With winter winds blowing and Christmas lights blazing, it's easy to forget that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will begin accepting applications to float the Smith River on Jan. 3, 2005. This popular float annually attracts about 3,500 applicants for about 700 float permits.
In 2005, Smith River float applications can be submitted over the Internet for a nominal transaction fee. Applications may also be submitted in person or through traditional mail.
"The Smith River application process will use the same automated technology that streamlined FWP’s annual big game drawings," said Doug Monger, Parks Division administrator for Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks.
Most applicants seek launch dates in May and June, the prime floating season, depending on winter snowpack and water levels, Monger said. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15.
Here are details on the three ways to apply:
* To apply on-line on January 3, 2005 or after, go to www.fwp.state.mt.us on the Parks & Recreation page under Hot Topics, or go to www.discoveringmontana.com under Licenses and Applications. Residents who haven’t already obtained an FWP automated licensing number will need to obtain an ALS number from an FWP office or license provider to use this new electronic application. Applicants will also need a credit card to pay the application fee. Internet applications do not need to be signed. An application receipt verifying your float date choices can be printed on your home printer.
* To apply on paper, go to the Internet and download the application from the FWP web site, fill it out, and submit it in person to any regional FWP office, or sign and mail it, including the appropriate fee, to: FWP, Smith River Drawing, 1420 East 6th Ave., P.O. Box 8009, Helena, MT 59604-8009.
* Or apply in person at an FWP office and have the application processed over FWP's automated licensing system while you wait. Permit applications processed at an FWP office include a receipt validating the selected float dates.While completing the Smith River application on FWP’s Smith River web page, take advantage of the other useful tools there including: a float section map, Smith River USGS flow data, trip planning tips and lists of services and available outfitters.