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River Recreation Management
Big Hole River. View of the Big Hole River

On October 7, 2004, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission adopted administrative rules for river recreation management in Montana. The rules went into effect on Nov. 5, 2004. They will guide FWP when developing river recreation management plans or recommending rules to the commission.

The rules identify an analysis and decision-making process the department and the commission can use to prevent or resolve social conflicts on rivers. Citizen advisory committees will be appointed to help develop management plans and rules. Please click on the link below to view a copy of the rules and the comments made by the public during the rulemaking process.

River Recreation Rules and Public Comments (River Recreation Rules and Public Comments - PDF document 162 KB)

Rivers and streams are some of Montana's greatest treasures and offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities for Montanans and their guests. For some, it's a frolicking day of whitewater rafting in Alberton Gorge; for others, it's perhaps a peaceful morning of fly-fishing on the Stillwater River. Those seeking relief from the heat and the opportunity to socialize may choose to tube their way down a river. Rivers also offer opportunities to quietly observe wildlife and birds. Rivers in Montana are as diverse as the recreational use that occurs on them.

FWP manages rivers to provide a full variety of quality recreation for a diverse public and to protect natural resources in rivers and on adjacent lands. FWP operates under the premise that people prefer to recreate on rivers without controls on their recreational experience, other than regulations necessary for managing aquatic resources, such as fishing regulations.

As Montana's population grows, so does the popularity of river recreation and the demands on the natural resources and the social experience. FWP seeks balance between the quality of experience and unrestricted use of a limited resource. To help achieve this balance, FWP has statewide river recreation rules that guide development of management plans and rules.

River outfitters and guides, an important part of Montana's tourism economy, also enhance the recreational experience for some people. To manage this use, FWP has rules governing commercial use at fishing access sites and other department lands.

The public can do its part to preserve the outstanding recreational opportunities on rivers. It can be as simple as showing respect for other river users and practicing river etiquette. To play a more active role, contact FWP and ask about opportunities to participate in a river clean-up or serve on a citizen advisory committee. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "We are not building this country of ours for a day. It is to last through the ages." We can apply that same wisdom to rivers in Montana. Working together, we can ensure that our rivers and river recreational opportunities last through the ages.