The Run-up to the Runoff

It's be easy to pick out boaters across Montana in the winter. They’re the ones with the shit-eating-grins plastered across their mugs after every cold smoke dump leaves its calling card. And that’s not just because most of ‘em are skiers, too. This winter was a banner year for snow pack after several disappointing seasons, and every paddle-wielding hydrotherapist knows what that means. Whitewater. Big, fat, juicy, scary, gushing, roaring, burly boofs. Get ready.

Although predicting runoff is a bit like predicting future presidential elections (we all know how it should be, but reality is generally a different matter entirely), a whitewater enthusiast can dream, can’t she? After a quick poll of local paddlers, here’s what’s running the gamut of the rumor mill. Cross your paddles.

“It’s going to be one of the most ridiculous kayaking seasons in the past 20 years,” Montana native Ryan Thompson states ecstatically. Bozeman local Dave Schroeder echoes Thompson’s zeal, “Predicting runoff in recent years is like predicting the local weather. You just never know. Yet my Magic Eight Ball reads, ‘It’s a sure thing, baby!’ in its all-knowing purplish hue. Which leads me to believe it will be a great runoff, with a major early crest event and an overall excellent season that is a wee bit shorter in length than average.”

Thompson, Schroeder, and the rest of the paddling crew will surely have their eyes glued to these two website as well for the latest river flows: or

Swift Boat Tactics

It happens so fast: the water swells, the current rushes, the boat flips. You find yourself cold, swimming, gasping for air. But you are not going to end up on the front page of the paper tomorrow as a warning to all other recreational boaters. Why? Because you and your buddies took a swiftwater rescue course.

Designed for professional and recreational boaters, swiftwater courses focus on speedy, low-tech, and improvised whitewater rescue techniques. Some are shore-based classes using ropes and throw bags, but students also practice swimming techniques and use rafts for flip-drills.

Montana Whitewater hosts a course on May 17 and 18 this year. Students will get Level 1 or Level 2 certification by Rescue 3 International Cost is $275; $137.50 for recertification. For those interested in continuing their whitewater education and also seeking gainful employment on the river, there is a four-day guide school May 20-23. This will be on the water and teaches everything from specific guiding skills to customer service. Call 587-1985 to register.

-Erin Strickland