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Smith River, if there is water (TRIP FULL AGAIN – waitlist restarted; no plan for Missouri Breaks alternative)

October 1, 2023October 7, 2023

Our Smith River, MT trip October 1 – 7, 2023 (plus driving) trip is full again.   The Smith River, from Camp Baker to Eden Bridge is a 59-mile, Class II reach through beautiful limestone canyons (see the Floater Guide).  The 4 night ‘high-season’ limit for the reach does not apply to this October trip.  Consequently, we’re planning to camp at the Camp Baker put-in and then enjoy the canyon for 6 nights / 7 days.  The plan is to boat the Smith if there is sufficient water — that exact amount is TBD, but canoes generally begin to have trouble at flows below 150cfs.  We will have to watch the flows at the end of September and decide by Thursday evening, September 28th whether the flows and predicted weather are desirable for our trip.  Flows tank in mid-July, but usually return to runable levels in September – October.  We could drive 12 hours to Camp Baker and have to cancel at the last minute.  See Smith River Flows from 2015 – 2021 and the current  Smith River Flow Gauge

According to Smith River rangers, campsites will be something between self-reservation at the put-in and first come, first serve.  But the river is not crowded in the fall.  We will have a plan for preferred campsites by late September, but will have to be flexible on the river. 

Regarding boating the Smith, the Floater’s Guide says:

Throughout its length, the Smith moves quickly with sharp turns, rocky shallows and snags in/or partially across the river. There is one section of class II whitewater at river mile 47 and several sections of class II whitewater at mile 49. The current of the river can sweep you into sheer rock walls and in higher flows, eddies can be very strong. In addition, floaters may encounter float gates, downed trees and pieces of fence torn loose by high water. You should possess, at a minimum, intermediate rowing or paddling skills before floating the Smith. Secure all equipment tightly in your boat and carry your gear in waterproof bags or boxes

See the Smith River webpage for general information and the 2023 Floater Information Packet about boating the Smith.  Pay special attention to requirements for carrying all drinking water, bear-proof food storage, and Montana boat inspections.  The permit fee is $60 per non-resident (MT) boater.  Car shuttle costs are TBD — commercial shuttle fees are about $140 per vehicle shuttled.  There is either a 180 mile paved road or a 75 mile dirt road route (One way).  This will be a ACA-sanctioned trip with a $10 event fee for anyone who is not an ACA member.

I’d like to include some experienced Smith River boaters and some newbies, including myself, in the group.  We are aiming for 5 – 10 boaters.  We currently have 5 committed and 3 non-committal boaters.  Please let me (gvmutz@gmail.com) know if you are interested or have questions.  

Note that an initial plan for some or all boaters to switch to the Upper Missouri Breaks — 108 miles of Class I river — if Smith flows are too low has been abandoned for lack of interest. 




October 1, 2023
October 7, 2023
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Kathryn Mutz
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