Floating Permits for Central Montana River Available Soon

Applications must be submitted by Feb. 13

By Maggie Dresser

HELENA — Wildlife officials have opened the permit lottery for non-motorized watercraft on a central Montana river.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks annually award floating permits to groups of up to 15 people to access a 59-mile (95-kilometer) section of the Smith River east of Helena.

Applications must be submitted by Feb. 13 with a $10 non-refundable fee. The permit drawing is scheduled for March 2, officials said.

Only non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the river, officials said.

The state regulates the river to combat overcrowding and allow users to take quality, multi-day floats, park officials said. About 10,070 people applied for private floating permits last year and about 1,300 were awarded, officials said.

People can also buy a chance to win a super permit for $5 until March 12, officials said. That permit allows floaters to pick any day they want to take the river trip, park officials said. That drawing is scheduled for March 16.

The entire float trip usually takes about four days and begins near White Sulphur Springs, officials said. Visitors must stay on designated boat camps and bring their own food, water, camping equipment and fishing licenses, officials said.

Applications can be submitted online, by mail or at a department office, officials said.