As Boating Season Arrives, Montana Launches Mussel Defense

A breakdown of watercraft restrictions in Northwest Montana

Montana’s defense against the spread of invasive mussels is in full effect as of May 1 with inspection and decontamination stations set up across the state, including the Flathead Valley.

Last week in Kalispell, more than 25 inspectors, wardens and others attended a two-day training session to prepare for the busy summer months. Among those leading the training was Calvin Rasmussen, who owns Royce Industries Cleaning Systems, a Salt Lake City-based company that builds mobile decontamination stations.

Having seen the devastating impacts of quagga and zebra mussels in other bodies of water, Rasmussen emphasized the importance of steadfast protection against the minuscule aquatic invaders.

“In addition to being bad for the environment and other native species, (aquatic invasive mussels are) also bad for the intakes of dams, bad for boats, and recreation,” he said. “They’re bad for everything that’s in the water and depends on the water in the economy.”

“It would be devastating to Montana,” he continued. “We already have them in southern Nevada and Utah and it’s depressing. This is God’s country. This is where people come to learn what the environment is. The impact would be catastrophic.”

State officials encourage boaters to help prevent the spread of invasive mussels by cleaning, draining and drying all boats after use along with undergoing inspections.

2017 Boating Restrictions

Glacier National Park

The National Park Service is only allowing hand-propelled watercraft, such as kayaks, canoes and paddleboards, on the water this year. Non-trailered, hand-propelled boats must undergo mandatory inspections before entering the water. Privately owned motorboats and trailered watercraft are prohibited in 2017. Hand-propelled boats will be allowed on Lake McDonald and in the North Fork beginning May 15, and in the remaining areas of the park beginning June 1.

Blackfeet Reservation

The tribal council on May 4 is slated to review potential changes to restrictions, but as of May 1 all reservation waters remained closed to all boats. Fishing from the banks is still allowed, but anglers must have their wading equipment inspected. Felt-bottom boots are prohibited on any lake or stream.

Whitefish Lake

All watercraft must undergo inspections before entering Whitefish Lake. Beginning May 1 and running through the end of September, a mandatory inspection station will be set up at Whitefish City Beach — from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. in May, August and September, and from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in June and July — while a separate city-run watercraft inspection station will operate at Whitefish Lake State Park, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. A decontamination station will operate at Whitefish Marine and Powersports on U.S. Highway 93.

Flathead Reservation

With the exception of Flathead Lake and the Lower Flathead River, only hand-propelled, non-trailered watercraft including kayaks, canoes, rafts and paddleboards are permitted on reservation waters. All watercraft must be inspected and cleared for launching into any Flathead Reservation water body by a certified boat inspector. Felt-soled waders are prohibited in any Flathead Reservation water body. Recreationists and waterfowl hunters must dry dogs to prevent movement of mussel larvae in wet fur entering lakes and rivers.

Flathead Lake and other local bodies of water

All out-of-state boaters must receive an inspection before entering any body of water in Montana, and any boaters who cross the Continental Divide into the Columbia River Basin are required to get an inspection before launching. All boaters, whether resident or out-of-state, must stop at any inspection station they encounter if it’s open. Inspection stations are located in Polson, Ravalli and FWP headquarters in Kalispell. For more information, visit musselresponse.mt.gov.