Few things are more popular during Missoula's hot summer days than grabbing an inner tube and floating down the river. But not every stretch of water is safe to play on.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is particularly concerned about reminding people that the stretch from the Blackfoot's Weigh Station Fishing Access Site to Milltown State Park is too dangerous for boaters, tubers and swimmers. The 1.5-mile closure begins on Highway 200 near Bonner and extends southwest below the I-90 bridge.
"Not every stretch of river is safe for tubing," says FWP park manager Mike Kustudia. "We have some nice places in and around town that are probably pretty darn good, but stretches that are meandering or have brush in and around the banks are horrible places to tube."
FWP reports no injuries this year on the Clark Fork or Blackfoot, but last July an Anaconda woman was killed just below the Weigh Station Fishing Access when the current pushed her inner tube into a logjam.
Recreators are allowed to wade and fish from shore, but ongoing removal efforts of the Bonner dam, sunken logs and submerged bits of angle iron make the Blackfoot stretch too dangerous for floating. The Clark Fork through Milltown is open to floaters, but bank access is closed anywhere above the high water mark. This is meant to give the Superfund site's recently planted vegetation time to grow.
Trespassers could be cited, but Kustudia doesn't expect that to happen very often.
"There are a few river rangers out there but it's not like we're setting up a sting operation or anything," he says.
FWP extended the Blackfoot closure in April and will review it again next year.