Section of Swan River Closed Due to Bridge Construction

Emergency closure in effect between Highway 209 bridge and Swan River fishing access site

By Tristan Scott
Floaters arrange their gear near the Rainbow Drive access site for an afternoon on the Swan River on July 9, 2014. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

An emergency closure is in effect along a section of the Swan River near the Montana Highway 209 bridge in Ferndale due to water hazards created by the installation of a second temporary bridge.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks adopted the emergency closure June 29, according to an agency press release. The Swan River is temporarily closed to boating and floating from the Swan River Fishing Access Site off South Ferndale Road to the Highway 209 Bridge in Ferndale.

The closure will remain in effect for 120 days or less if the river is deemed safe for recreation. Advisory signs are being posted at area access sites. Fishing from the shore remains possible.

A map of the Swan River closure. Courtesy FWP

The Highway 209 bridge on the Swan River is under construction and a temporary bridge currently exists. High water levels, combined with the temporary bridge’s unique abutments, are causing debris to accumulate, creating swirling waves and capsizing floaters, the press release states.

Several accidents have already occurred under the bridge. Previous attempts at mitigating hazards, including news releases, social media notifications, signage and navigational buoys, have proven ineffective.

With the peak water recreation season approaching, officials believe that more accidents and capsizing could likely occur under the temporary bridge.

Anyone recreating under the bridge is at risk of injury or drowning due to dangerous conditions. Portaging around the bridge is not possible, but boaters can launch on the Swan River just north of the bridge. People should follow legal parking requirements and remain a safe distance away from construction work.

FWP adopted the emergency closure in collaboration with the Montana Department of Transportation, Sletten Construction and in consultation with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

This temporary bridge has been erected for travel while the Ferndale Bridge undergoes significant construction. Unique abutments of the temporary structure and high river volumes have created a hazard for floaters and boaters under the Ferndale Bridge.

The Ferndale Bridge is 55 years old and has been in need of significant river and motorist safety improvements. Ultimately, much safer river passage will be achieved at this site by removing the piers supporting the bridge. As the piers are removed and the existing Ferndale Bridge undergoes construction, a traffic structure was erected in the Swan River to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. Bridge construction is scheduled for completion in November 2018, weather permitting.

“We don’t take this closure lightly,” Bob Vosen, district construction engineer with the Montana Department of Transportation, said. “We want to keep people safe. That’s our goal. We know people come to western Montana to recreate on our rivers, and we wouldn’t be closing down this section of river for anything less than a serious safety concern.”

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