Posted: May 24, 2012 9:56 AM by Katy Harris (KAJ News)
Updated: May 24, 2012 9:58 AM
WEST GLACIER- Rivers in the Flathead Valley are coming alive with high spring runoff and with the long Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, people will be recreating on those waters. Reporter Katy Harris spoke with some local experts to get some tips on staying safe on the river.
While other states in the western United States are drying out, Northwest Montana is right on par with its precipitation as the Flathead River Basin is 3% above its average snowpack. A high snow pack means rivers are running high and experts say it's a good idea to check river levels and weather conditions online.
"That really helps you prepare appropriately based on the type of gear that you're going to be using and going to want to bring with you," Glacier Outdoor Center Marketing Director Ryan Thompson advised.
Before you get on the river you should also check your raft for any holes. Blow it up the night before you head out and let it sit for a while and if one side deflates you know there's a hole that needs patching.
Meanwhile, when you're on the river, steer clear from trees or debris that have been carried downstream. You should also think about a dry suit or wet suit with dry top since the rivers this time of year are dangerously cold. If you're wearing a dry suit and go overboard, you'll at least be able to stand against the cold water temperatures better.
That brings us to our next and most important item to have- a life jacket. The rivers are running so fast and high this time of year that going overboard without a life jacket could be fatal. And if you fall into the river, be sure to carry a throw bag in your raft to pull someone back in. Thompson also says you should practice throwing it out before you need it.
He also recommends taking a river water safety class to learn swift water rescue techniques.