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Discussion Starter #1
Doing some research on shuttle options for Smith River MT.

From what I can find out, most boaters use a shuttle service.

Any of you Buzz Boaters ever done a self shuttle ?

I understand it is a long drive down and then back, is it 4 hours each way?

Any information is appreciated.
 

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Hey Okie,
I'm going to PM you my phone #, easier to chat and get you the info you're looking for that way.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Just had a great telephone conversation with AirEms out of Great Falls.

Answered all my questions and a fun conversation about Montana Rivers. All sorts of information from one of the Smith River locals.

Proving again what a great bunch of folks we have on this message board.

Thanks Mark!!!!
 

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Hey yode,
What info do you need? By the way, I was born and raised and went to school in Missoula (Go Griz!).
Mark
 

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Hey thanks for the reply. Go Griz!.. Just wanted to find the right shuttle and contacts and maybe best camps for a 5 day float, etc. Thanks again
 

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Discussion Starter #8
AirEms for sure knows his stuff on smith river shuttles. Gave me a bunch of facts and advice.

I spent time looking into Smith River self shuttles. I feel it is true a group can do their own. I also feel no matter how you setup your self shuttle it is gonna take a lot of time and driving.

After looking at the facts, our group is going to use the shuttle services of the outfit whose parking lot is a short distance from the smith river take out. Our group contains a lot of Smith River repeat boaters and that outfitter gave us above expected service. One time the roads were muddy and when we picked up our trucks at the take out they were washed and clean. A first to see from a shuttle service in my experience.

Our group is made up of folks living out of the beautiful state of Montana. With drives from one to two days to get there. We felt the services of the shuttle service were worth the money and made our vacation time at the Smith more enjoyable.

Pull into the put in lot. Park your vehicle. Take your time rigging. That shuttle service for us took over and our trucks were clean and parked at the take out. No worries. Not gonna mention them by name but they are the ones that advertise their lot is right at the takeout.
 

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"Smith River Shuttles": not sure why no one is naming them by name but just ran a shuttle with them last month and as always or rig was way cleaner than when we left it. Great people. If you want one of the great montana gravel road drives, run the gravel road on one leg of your journey (weather permitting). It's really not that sloppy, so baring massive rains it should be well worth your time.

Sent from my SM-G900V using Mountain Buzz mobile app
 

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New here and launching 6/13. There's 2-3 shuttle services I'm aware of, and have them take the pavement vs. the gravel. Worth the extra few bucks.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
This is my third year in a row to do the smith in the early june time frame. We launch june one this year. Man alive I am a lucky river tripper and have great river buds as far as Smith River is concerned.

We used Smith River Shuttles on all trips.
This year one of the first time trip members wanted to do self shuttle.
I started this thread and got a lot of information. Thanks Buzz members.

Bottom line is Jody and Caroline Cox run Smith River Shuttles Home - Smith River Shuttle | Great Falls, Montana. I just set up our shuttle with Caroline yesterday and you could not ask for a better more customer oriented person. I know they took great care of our trucks on previous trips and what a bonus to get in your truck and it is washed and clean at the take out.

Caroline told me they give folks the option of taking the long route paved of 160 miles that has a section of 12 miles gravel or short route 70 miles all gravel but for 7 paved miles. There is a small up charge for the long route. Our group has taken the short gravel each year and no problems. This is due to the quality drivers used by Caroline I think. Jody and Caroline run a ranch there on the Smith. This is a family run operation. I think they are in the shuttle business for the long haul and take care of their customers, expecting repeat business.

Bottom line is yup you can do the smith shuttle yourself. After a lot of fact finding on my part, our group choose smith river shuttles and the shorter gravel road option. I have zero knowledge of the other shuttle companies but from personal experience with smith river shuttles have to say they are at the top of customer service of all the shuttle companies I have used over many decades of floating.

Our group decided it was worth the cost to just drive to the put in and use smith river shuttles. Usually the lead driver from smith river shuttles will come by or at least they have on my trips and make sure things are setup before you launch. This gives you time to relax and get on river time. And for us knowing our trucks were parked on the shuttle company lot at the take out is a good thing.

Probably more detail than you want on this, but this is my experience.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Seems to me like few of the river trips stay in my memory bank when every thing is perfect. We will be talking about this Smith River float around a lot of future camp fires.

Looking back this was another great Smith Float trip with some exciting events along the way.

I have a couple of original Moss Tarps. Taken care of these things last many years and many trips. I have the outfitter version for people and the smaller parawing for the kitchen. With out them this trip would have been miserable.

We had rain some times during each 24 hour period. The Smith weather pattern for me has been short but heavy events with just beautiful periods after the event and this was true for this trip. When the sun was out it was just awesome and things would dry out fast. And, it would be hot. Nights were cool tho and I took a winter weight sleeping bag along which was just perfect un zipped.

For us, we got lucky in setting up camp and breaking down camp as far as rain events giving us time to stay dry making and breaking camp.

One night early in the trip we got camp set up and planned for a Dutch Oven dish.
We were setting up the kitchen and DO stuff when wind started and we left that to put up tents and the big tarp. Got both jobs done. We all gathered under the big tarp and enjoyed the rain. After a while, thunder, lightning, hurricane force winds came up. Rain started blowing inside the tarp as wind shift was blowing directly in the openings. Even the normally solid Moss design started flapping big time. So we opted to run for our tents. For maybe 30 minutes it was constant thunder, big time lightning flashes, rain in monster drops wind solid with gusts the blew down one tent and inside my tent it was shaking constantly. I actually put on all my rain gear and put my sleeping bag in a dry bag. Thinking my tent might blow down. It did not and I was happy for that. Big storm passed on but pretty serious rain continued. One of the Dad's (we had 7 young kiddos and 8 adults on this trip) and I went back to the big tarp. Others stayed in their tents. The Dad AKA Eric and I discussed dinner and he allowed he had two big bags of frozen stew for a later dinner. We decided to get that out and I got the stove set up. We began the process of melting the frozen stew and getting it hot. This took a while. Eric took bowls of soup and wheat bread to the kids in the tents came back and did the same for the Mom's who were keeping kiddos happy. We got the other frozen block of stew out (regardless of what you read the old Yeti coolers work great) and did the thaw and heat routine. The other guys came out of their tents and we got every one bowls of outstanding stew. Eric had big chunks of South Dakota venison, chicken along with many veggies and man that was great soup. We men added shots of hot sauce to the bowls and cleaned up all the soup. After a short visit, we all ran back to the tents for a rainy night. Morning broke clear and warm as it often does and we enjoyed a great day with one brief thunder storm with tiny hail - since we were all dressed for the weather it was not a problem.

I have been through a bunch of western storms over the years. This Montana one had the combo of rain, wind, thunder and lightning at max levels all going on at the same time, that I have never seen. You Montana locals are no doubt used to this type of storms. Oklahoma has some violent weather during tornado season but Montana has these mountain storms that rival Okie Tornado events in blowing things around.

River was at bank full and fast so no trouble hitting rocks etc that normal Smith floats face. Water was muddy so a lot of money was given to Montana fish and game for fishing out of state license for our group. None of us fished altho we saw a few people with fly rods out but we never saw any fish caught.

When it was not thundering with rain, the trip was about as good as it gets anywhere. We saw game all the time. Many deer, eagles, ducks etc etc. The river rangers do an awesome job with the pit toilets at each camp site. None of them had toilet paper so future Smith Trippers take plenty of T/P in zip locks just in case.

This was my third trip on the Smith. I have been blessed to run most of the permitted multiday runs in the US. The Smith is not for the adrenaline white water junkies out there even tho the raft captains need pretty much constant water reading for the lines and to avoid hidden under water rocks. Also a ton of under cut cliff shots to take care of.

Put me down as a big fan of the Smith and Montana. After seeing the endless grass covered rolling hills and surrounding snow capped mountains, I think this is about heaven for buffalo and grass eating animals. Perfect for the native americans with horses. No wonder why the locals fought so hard to keep these lands from the miners and settlers. This country just would not be right sectioned off with barbed wire or mine run off. There is still a lot of freedom in Montana and I hope it can be kept for further generations to experience.

Bottom line, another awesome trip for our group. Thanks to all the help I got from you fellow buzzards. I hope I can repay that help. By the way, another super shuttle from Smith River Shuttles. Great to have trucks right at the take out clean and shined up for the drive home. We also stopped at the Heaven on Earth Ranch for ice cream. The owner came out, went back to the main house to get us a monster bucket of home made ice cream so we could do floats with root beer and double chocolate stout. He then sat with us and told us the history of the ranch. If you have the image of the perfect Montana Ranch Cowboy - he fits the bill perfectly. Told adults the history and the kids about the horses in an adjacent holding area.

As you can tell, I am now a big fan of the Smith River and Montana in general.
 

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Great write up, glad you had a memorable trip - for all the right reasons.

I guess I'll be the first to pass on the age old weather adage: "If you don't like the weather in Montana, wait 5 minutes...it'll change". I've related a story about my bimini on several threads recently and from the sounds of things they were similar storms (minus most of the lightening for us) but you were in camp and we were on the water. It can get downright brutal on that river at times and it can be as near heaven as I'm ready for right now.

Did you get the chance to drive the Millegan Road? If not here's a taste:

20150412_163008-001.jpg
 

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Oh, one more thing just to note for folks. FWP has never supplied TP, so it's nothing new, just plan on bringing your own just like everywhere else...

FWIW
 

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I have done the self shuttle. One year the rain made the gravel road very wet and sloppy, it probably took at least 2 hours to get all the mud off the trailer and raft. If there is no rain, it is one of the prettiest drives you will ever do, however most floats are in June, which is the wettest month in Montana. Just one last note it is not go griz, it is GO CATS.
 

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I talked to Jody with Smith River Shuttles the other day - says they haven't taken Millegan Rd. for two weeks now due to all the rain. I see the river is dropping again after the monsoon on 6/1 - clarity should improve by our launch date this Saturday assuming nothing else rolls in.
 
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