With all the uncertainty around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those lucky enough to have drawn a Smith River permit can look forward to getting away from it all with the kick-off of the Smith River floating season May 5.
The season is starting a few weeks late this year because of the pandemic, but with spring finally coming on strong in Montana, floaters can expect a great experience.
On April 10, FWP suspended float recreation on the Smith River. On April 24, after Gov. Bullock announced a phased approach to easing restrictions, FWP decided to resume float recreation May 5 with a few changes.
To comply with current directives from Gov. Steve Bullock on social distancing and for the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, floaters should prepare for some changes to their float experiences and expectations. No overnight camping will be available at the Camp Baker launch site.
Permit holders and commercial outfitters will be contacted via email or phone about modifications to the registration process and changes to other aspects of their float. These include:
- Rangers will call permit holders, in a randomly selected order between 1 and 3:30 p.m., two days in advance of the permit holders’ launch date. Permit holders will be asked to provide names, ages and state of residence of the members in their float group; the choice of boat camps; the number and types of watercraft; and a credit card payment for the balance of permit fees.
- Groups must arrive at Camp Baker prior to noon on their launch date to receive the ranger-led orientation and safety talk, which will be conducted outside.
- Registration form, boat tags, maps and floater log for each group will be placed into a zip lock bag and will be available for pick-up in the self-registration box at the kiosk upon arrival at Camp Baker.
- Groups will need to practice proper social distancing at Camp Baker, choosing a location a safe distance away from other groups to stage boats and equipment.
- Groups will be asked to depart on their float within two hours of their arrival at Camp Baker to avoid overcrowding.
All floaters are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer. Facilities at Camp Baker and along the river will be cleaned regularly, but Montana State Parks cannot eliminate the possibility of COVID-19 exposure. Pit toilets along the river will be sanitized once per week, during weekly river patrols. Float groups should leave facilities as clean as possible.