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Popular river access sites open as waters drop to enjoyable levels

Cyr Boat Launch

High waters delayed the float season, but rivers in western Montana are finally ready to enjoy. This week, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks finished a lot of repair work and reopened the Cyr boat launch near Alberton and the Sha-Ron Fishing Access Site in East Missoula.

“The water is flowing very fast and very high. Rapids are running great,” said Row Adventures guide Erika Kelly.

She said they started taking tours last week -- later than usual, because the water levels were high. She was at Cyr Wednesday, taking a family from Puyallup, Washington, down the Alberton Gorge. She said the boat launch repairs were essential to her guests’ safety.

Christine O’Shell, FWP river recreation manager, said the bottom half of the boat launch had been ripped apart from flooding and there was debris hung up on it.

“Before they fixed it up it was all broken down at the bottom. There was a bunch of stairs that were broken, so it was very dangerous for us guides and our guests to go down there,” said Kelly.

Upstream, the Sha-Ron Fishing Access Site was covered in big logs, so FWP hired contractors to remove them. It officially reopened Wednesday as well.

Even farther upstream, at the Tamarack Road underpass, floaters are starting to get out as well.

Missoula residents Toni Mischke and Matthew Ridings were about to launch. They had noticed other people going down the river on tubes and figured it must be ready. So they asked around and friends confirmed it was safe.

“Now that we’re here, it’s like exciting to get on the water. I’m worried about how cold it’s going to be, but it’ll be good either way,” said Mischke.

FWP says the stretch from Tamarack into downtown Missoula is safe to float, but they also caution about the water temperature. O’Shell said to make sure you start your float well before dark when temperatures drop.

“One of the first symptoms you might notice is you feel sleepy when you’re starting to get too cold, or you’ll shiver. And so, when those things start to happen, you’re already past where you should be. So you need to get out of the river and warm up,” said O’Shell.

Another thing O’Shell wants to stress is that the river won’t look the same as last year. In fact, there’s a section near the Turah Fishing Access that’s impassable because of debris.

“We really did have a monumental year in terms of flooding, and it has shifted the river," said O’Shell.

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