Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials are urging recreationists and anyone working on or near water to be on alert as high spring runoff and heavy precipitation combine to create unsafe conditions on many rivers and streams in Montana
“Some fishing access sites on the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers are closed due to high water and conditions are hazardous for anglers, floaters and boaters on many waters in the state right now,” said Ron Aasheim, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman in Helena.
Belt Creek that flows through Sluice Boxes State Park is also closed to floating due to a log jam.
Aasheim said anyone planning to boat or float at this time of year should research the current conditions on the water they plan to recreate on and should ensure their vessel is equipped with life jackets sized correctly for everyone on board.
“Recreationists should expect to see continued spring runoff and high, cold, discolored water and underwater hazards in the coming days," Aasheim said.
In some areas, high water levels hide hazardous brush and snags underwater. Or, people may be knocked out of their boats by strong currents that sweep them under trees that have fallen into the water.
Strainers are another springtime hazard, Aasheim said. Strainers are partially submerged obstacles such as trees or logjams.
A boat or person can be pushed by the current into the strainer and trapped against it. These obstacles can be a fatal trap. Even boaters with properly sized life jackets can be entangled and unable to free themselves from a strainer.
"A boater’s best bet, if there is any question about the conditions on the water, is to play it safe and wait it out," he saidAasheim advised anyone planning on recreating near water to check the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov under News for information on site restrictions or closures, or click on the map at the top of the FWP home page for regional updates. For water safety tips, check the website’s Recreation page.