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Thanks AW (in particular John Gangemi) for the hard work on obtaining releases on the Swan River in Bigfork, Montana. The Swan is a blast and a great after work run. Below is the AW post for the event.

This is another example of the great work that AW does and if you are a paddler you should be a member.


Celebrate the New Summer Whitewater Releases
Swan River--Bigfork, Montana

Time to celebrate. American Whitewater invites paddlers to celebrate the new Whitewater Paddling Resource in the Flathead Valley. Each Wednesday night, July through August, PacifiCorp will provide whitewater releases in the river channel from 5 to 9 PM. In the past whitewater boating was non-existant on the Swan in July and August due to water diversions to the powerhouse. American Whitewater will be grilling burgers and providing beverages (free beer) to celebrate restoration of summer paddling on the Swan.

Whitewater Releases are scheduled July through August each Wednesday evening from 5 to 9 PM when Swan River flows are equal to or greater than 800 cfs. You can check the flows for the “Wild Mile” on the American Whitewater website:

These whitewater releases are the direct result of American Whitewater’s work on the relicensing of the Bigfork hydropower project. American Whitewater negotiated a summer whitewater release schedule with PacifiCorp, the hydropower operator at the Bigfork Dam. This work was funded by American Whitewater memberships. Membership in American Whitewater is $35 annually. This membership includes a subscription to the American Whitewater journal (6 issues annually) as well as supporting program work in river conservation and access.

The Swan is a mile long class IV run that ends in the town of Bigfork, Montana. In the summer the water is warm enough to paddle in a shortie. There are a couple major drops, several play waves/holes and a couple squirt spots on the run. If you are new to the Swan, make sure to walk down a hundred yards from the dam to look at the big drop. A solid roll is essential as the riverbed is shallow and the rocks are sharp from past blasting.

PacifiCorp operates a hydropower project on the Swan River. The dam diverts water from the river to the powerhouse one mile downstream. The canal has the capacity to divert 670 cfs thereby significantly dewatering the river channel. In the summer this diversion results in a loss of paddling opportunities. The scheduled releases will restore this opportunity in the summer months. Check the Swan River gage link below and if the flow is over 800 CFS the release is on

It is important that paddlers take advantage of this great opportunity. PacifiCorp will have staff on site to get a count of paddlers and monitor the use. Releases in future years are contingent on sufficient demand for this whitewater resource.

Meet at Sliter Park by the Steel Bridge in Bigfork Wednesday evening. Most paddlers take several runs and it should be no problem hooking up with people. The second best part of this run (after the whitewater) is being able to walk into Bigfork for food and the beverage of your choice afterwards.

Please be sure to thank PacifiCorp and American Whitewater for all the hard work to make this possible. Also, please make sure to join American Whitewater if you aren’t a member. They are doing great things for paddlers in Montana as well as other areas in the nation.

There are several local camping options. The closest is Wayfarer State Park:

John Gangemi
Conservation Director, American Whitewater
482 Electric Avenue
Bigfork, MT 59911
phone/fax: 406-837-3155/3156
email: [email protected]
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