Officials urge holiday recreatonists to use caution on Montana rivers


HAMILTON, Mont. - The Ravalli County Sheriff's and Public Health Departments issued a press release Thursday reminding river users to use extra caution when going out onto the water.

The press release said the Bitterroot River is statistically one of the most dangerous rivers in Montana. It said high water conditions at present make the river even more hazardous.

The release reminds people that the general character of the Bitterroot changes from year to year and floaters need to be aware of downed trees, new obstacles and irrigation dams.

Of particular concern, said officials, is the Supply Ditch Diversion Dam, located about 3 miles downstream of Woodside. It is a lowhead dam built to divert water for irrigation.

The dam creates dangerous currents that have caused several boating accidents over the past several years, including a fatality in 2013.

The stretch of the river where the dam is located is scheduled to re-open July 7. Floaters are advised to follow the signs, exit the river on the left, and go around the dam.

Floaters are advised to always wear a life jacket, scout the river for obstacles, and never over-estimate their river skills.

The press release said the river is deceptive and deadly, especially during runoff.

The Woodside Fishing Access site west of Corvallis is a popular spot for recreationists.

NBC Montana met a young couple enjoying the sun and the Bitterroot River on Thursday. But the young man and woman made sure they enjoyed the scenery from the river's bank.

The water flowing under the Woodside Bridge northward isn't wasting anytime. It's moving dangerously fast.

"It's a really fast moving river that's pretty cold," said Donnie Light."I could see how it could take you away."

He said "seeing the river up close" shows just how much power all that water packs.

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