How to Prepare for Spring Montana Whitewater Rafting
Missoula rafting season is almost here. We have finally had some beautiful spring days in Missoula. The Clark Fork River is free of ice and rising steadily with the warmer weather. Yesterday the birds were singing. The sun was out. With this year’s snowpack we are looking at higher water levels than normal and colder, more powerful whitewater in May and June. You’ll want to dress for comfort in the boat and for survival if you take an unintentional swim.
Missoula Raft Trips: Wear the Right Gear this Spring
Start with some snug non-cotton base layers next to your skin. Fleece, smart wool or caliper all work well. Cover up with a properly fitted wetsuit or drysuit. These are essential for spring river runners. Covering your 3ml wetsuit with splash gear will help break the cool breezes of spring and keep you a little warmer. If you have a choice between the typical 3 ml NRS farmer john and a surfing wetsuit. Go with the surfing wetsuit. Generally it’s a higher quality neoprene with sealed seams that are much toastier and won’t necessitate the extra under layers of fleece. Neoprene sox reinforced with some river booties or river shoes will keep your feet comfortable. Neoprene river gloves will help keep your hands and fingers functional enough to hold your paddle. A fleece beanie under the helmet and a properly fitted whitewater life jacket will top you off. Also bring some extra warm fleece layers to go along with your first aid kit and other essentials in a dry bag.
Spring rafting in the mountains requires additional risk management considerations. During high-water go with guides and friends who are familiar with the river at high flows. Never boat alone; there should always be at least one other boat along to assist if there’s a flip or incident during the trip. Use lead and sweep boats for upstream and downstream safety in-flow. There should be an unbroken chain of awareness between all of the boats, no matter how many, during the river trip. Play attention to who is going on the trip and make sure that you make choices appropriate for the least experienced or athletic member of the team. Use good judgment and always keep in mind that if the water is too high, you can always choose another section of river or what until it drops to a safer level. See you on the river!