smith river - Mountain Buzz

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Old 03-20-2016   #1
salt lake city, Utah
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 24
smith river

SO! I got a Smith river permit for late August What are the chances of running it? I have canoes, kayaks a small raft, dory.... how many cfs do ya need?

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Old 03-20-2016   #2
Wondervu, CO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 491
I have no experience with Smith CA, so assuming you mean Smith River MT...

Things will vary based on the snow pack each year and March/April can make up as much 60% of the annual total. I't too early to predict the flows for this year but things look near average.

I have made three trips in a drift boat, all in early June. For all three of them I couldn't have taken the drift boat we launched a week later. When it drops it drops fast. Usually by July it's too skinny for a big raft, there are many cobble strainers and sand bars you will need to drag the boat over. You will want a boat you can lift and carry for 30 yards or so.

For an August trip I would plan to pack extra light and take only canoes and kayaks. And I would only take a boat I was comfortable dragging over rocks.

The Montana State website for the Smith River has recommended minimum flows for raft, drift boat and canoe. My experience supports thier numbers.
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Old 03-21-2016   #3
bgarnick's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1979
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 37
August Smith River

Typically late August flows on the Smith are quite low (maybe 100 cfs or so) and it is tough getting down the river. For years the web site has recommended around 300 cfs for a raft and 150 cfs for a canoe but you can get down the river with less water than that. I did a canoe trip in mid September one year and we had to get out and walk & drag the canoes across a number of spots but it was a great traffic, great fishing, great weather. Here is a link the Smith River guage:

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 06077200 Smith River bl Eagle Cr nr Fort Logan MT
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Old 03-21-2016   #4
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 2,176
Late August will be tough. I'm sure you could do it in a canoe, kayak or maybe even a small cat (you know "personal pontoon", kick boat or what ever you want to call them) or possibly a very small raft (mini me esq). I'd wonder if a lightly loaded mini me wouldn't float higher than a canoe? but the other problem would be width - harder to find slots to fit it in...

I've done 2 sub 100 cfs floats in fully loaded rafts - 13'ers. Both earlier in the year (i.e. we got some help from side streams that pumped up a bit on the trip). I would not plan a late august trip my self. There is essentially no chance of flows capable of moving normally loaded rafts and that's what I like to do. The only prayer you'd have to get bigger boats on would be a perfectly timed series of T-storms. Dory, in late august? Not a chance - you'd be walking it and replacing the bottom before your next trip.

I do know folks that do it regularly in the late summer early fall in canoes and they have nothing but good things to say; but it's always work making miles. It's an awesome trip and if that's your only option then do it. Just don't expect it to be a walk in the park.

MFWP's suggestions are typically conservatively high as has been noted above. In actuality what you can get by with depends on you. For some folks the suggested flows are right on, they don't know how to read water and don't want to learn and they certainly don't want to drag, for others you can get by with a lot less depending on experience and expectations. I say this because you'll hear a lot of varying opinions on minimum flows per type of craft. For me it's roughly 200 for normal raft trips, 150 if everyone is ok with some extra work. 100 maybe, if we're super light, one person per boat and everyone sticks together to help out when needed.
"If you dont do it this year, you will be one year older when you do"
-Warren Miller
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