Two recreationists were caught in a hazardous spot on the Gallatin River in separate incidents last week where a cottonwood tree recently fell into the river. Both boaters were uninjured, but their boats — a canoe and a paddle boat — became stuck in the log jam.
This hazard is new and appeared recently between Logan and Missouri Headwaters State Park, but similar hazards exist in all rivers across the state and, like this one, are altered by constantly changing river flows.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds boaters to use caution everywhere they recreate. Boating, while enjoyable, is inherently dangerous.
Historically, boating accidents are not uncommon in Montana. Between 1998 and 2018, 134 people died in boating accidents in the state. Of those fatalities, 71 occurred on a river. And in 73 percent of Montana’s drowning deaths, the victim was not wearing a life jacket.
Here are several recommended precautions boaters can take to avoid accidents and injury:
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• Always wear a life jacket. Make sure the type of life jacket is appropriate for the activity. Montana law requires that children under age 12 wear a life jacket when they are in any boat shorter than 26 feet.
• Avoid downed trees and other visible hazards in the water. Practice situational awareness and know that dangerous conditions can appear and evolve without warning.
• Abide by Montana’s boating regulations. A copy of these regulations can be found online at fwp.mt.gov or at any FWP regional office.
• Follow vessel safety checklists provided by FWP and the U.S. Coast Guard, including an inventory of necessary rescue equipment. These checklists can be found online at fwp.mt.gov/recreation/safety/boating.
• Consult the U.S. Geological Survey for daily streamflow conditions. Avoid recreating on rivers during high flows.