Smith River applications due soon

floating montana smith river, permit deadline, montana living

Smith River permit application deadline February 14

If you want to apply for a permit to float Montana's Smith River, the deadline is Feb. 14.

The permit drawing will be Feb. 22. Permits are required to float the 59-mile section of river between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge and are issued each year through a lottery.

To apply for a Smith River float permit online, go to the FWP Online Licensing System.A $15 nonrefundable permit application fee is required. Successful Smith River applicants will be notified via email shortly after the lottery drawing is conducted. 

This year is the first time applicants can buy a bonus point for the Smith River Permit. A bonus point is essentially an extra chance you can purchase for the permit drawing. These points accumulate year after year if you are unsuccessful in the drawing. Residents can purchase a bonus point for $5; nonresidents can purchase a bonus point for $50. The bonus point is applied to your application the year it is purchased. You can apply for a permit through FWP’s Online Licensing System.

smith river montana, permit deadline, montana living magazine

Smith River State Park offers gorgeous scenery in a remote setting. Renowned trout fishing is just one of the recreational opportunities that make a float trip on the 59-mile Smith River an unforgettable experience.

The Smith River is so popular that a permit is required to float it. The permit process allows visitors a quality, multi-day float in relative solitude.

Smith River State Park has one put-in (Camp Baker) and one take-out (Eden Bridge) for the entire 59-mile stretch. The river is accessible only by non-motorized watercraft, including rafts, canoes, kayaks and drift boats. Rowers and paddlers should have at least intermediate level skills. On average, visitors take four days to float the river.

From May 15 - July 15 floaters can stay on the river a maximum of four nights only. To help preserve the unique quality of the Smith River canyon, overnight camping must take place at designated boat camps.

Since the Smith River flows through a remote canyon, there are some things to keep in mind for this adventure; there are no public services from Camp Baker to Eden Bridge. Floaters must carry their own food, water, safety, camping equipment and a fishing license. It is advisable to bring all the drinking water you will need for the duration of your trip, as there is no drinking water available at the put-in location of Camp Baker. Also, Camp Baker does not have trash dumpsters, but one is available at the Eden Bridge takeout point along with aluminum-recycling bins.

Another change this year, is that pit toilets at the boat camps along the Smith River this spring are being removed. All float parties will be required to pack out their human waste from the Smith River corridor. The rules implementing this pack-out system were passed by the Montana Parks Board in early 2022.

Floaters will need to pack portable toilet systems. To see a list of FWP-approved, portable, hard-sided toilets that will be allowed, click here. Alternative waste disposal systems, including bag systems, such as Clean Waste and RESTOP2, will not be allowed. 

Floaters can clean and sanitize their portable toilet system with a SCAT (Sanitizing Containers with Alternative Technology) machine, which has been installed at the Eden Bridge take-out. To watch a video of how the SCAT machine works with FWP-approved toilets, click here.

This year the number of permits available for nonresidents may not exceed 10 percent of the available permits. This new law was passed as part of House Bill 846 in the 2023 Legislative Session.

In addition to the permit lottery, the public may purchase as many $5 Super Permit chances as they wish. FWP issues one Super Permit each year through a separate lottery. The recipient of the Super Permit will be allowed to launch on any date of their choosing for that float season.

The opportunity to purchase chances for the Smith River Super Permit will be available through March 22. The Super Permit drawing will take place on March 26. Super Permit chances may be purchased online through FWP’s Online Licensing System.

For more information about Smith River State Park visit:

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