Floaters and Rafters Beware!

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Montana’s annual spring high waters are flooding some rivers as snow pack in the mountains melts and spring rains continue in June. The resulting high waters,   especially on Montana’s western rivers, increase the risk of downing deaths for early season floaters.

  “Spring took its time coming. Now higher temperatures are tempting raft and canoe enthusiasts to get out and float even as rivers are experiencing spring run off, cold, discolored water and underwater hazards,” said Liz Lodman, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Boat Education Coordinator.

In some areas, early spring water levels hide brush and snags underwater. Along the river’s edge sweepers, trees that have fallen over the river, can sweep those who try to float under them out of a boat.

Strainers are another springtime hazard, Lodman said. Strainers are obstacles, such as trees or logjams, that are partially submerged.

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, or personal flotation devices, have been known to become entangled in a strainer and unable to free themselves.

Also, on some rivers, the river channels erode and change from year to year. The route you took last year may not be the best or safest this year.

“Swift currents, cold water, and hidden snags will make boating dangerous in the next few weeks and greatly increase the risk of drowning,” Lodman said. “A boaters’ best bet, if there is any questions about the conditions, is to play it safe by waiting until after the spring runoff.”