The Bitterroot River has been within a couple of feet of flood stage this year. And even if it's not at flood stage, the waters are muddy, high and fast-moving.

May 12, the river at Bell Crossing was at 8.95 feet with a flood stage of 11 feet. Upstream at the Conner river gauge, the level was 6.3 feet with a flood stage of 7.5 feet.

The weather is the main factor affecting the rise and fall of the water level. But the river and creeks in Ravalli County are alll at their yearly highest levels.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks education coordinator Liz Lodman had a number of tips to stay safe.

  • Always wear a well-fitted Personal Flotation Device if you're on or near the river.
  • Don't boat alone.
  • Let someone know your boating plans, including when you expect to return.
  • If the water is in a stage you wouldn't think of swimming in, don't launch your boat.
  • Of course, those who do enter the water have other factors to consider.

    If you boat, watch out for debris in water, often hidden by murky, muddy water. Look out for bridge abutments than catch debris and create odd currents.

    Especially in the Bitterroot River (year-round), be aware of log jams that can appear almost anywhere, creating a hazard that water can get through, but rafts or boats cannot.

    If you do fall in, get out of the cold water quickly, get dry and warm as soon as possible to avoid hypothermia.

    At KLYQ, we always advise you to stay off the river during high water. There's lots of summer floating times coming our way.