MADISON COUNTY — On a hot summer’s day, you’re bound to see floaters cruising down the Madison River between the Warm Springs Boat Launch and Blackford’s access point.
But the people who know the river best say this year’s Fourth of July weekend brought in more crowds than they’ve ever seen.
“It was the worst, to be completely honest with you,” said Sam Garcia with Montana Whitewater Rafting.
Garcia was working on the river all weekend. She said the crowd was great for business — but that came at some cost.
“It was just chaos. There were cars parked everywhere in places that they weren’t supposed to be. Like they hadn’t pulled over. So just getting in and out of there was just a mess.”
Park Rangers agreed and said they’ve never seen crowds so big.
But despite the traffic and large number of people on the river, floaters seemed to be enjoying themselves.
“You know, we're okay with it. We're just glad to see people out here enjoying the day as well” said Dillon Klueber, who came from Bozeman to float on the river with a group of friends.
“I know for my best friend who grew up in the Madison Valley that it was a little sad for her to see all these people here,” said Danielle Focarile, who was visiting Montana from New Jersey.
“But I think it’s great, I think it brings in a lot of tourism and funds Montana. And lets people know that there's great things for them to do out here.”
And as for social distancing, floaters said there was plenty of space for that.
“Yeah, what, are you kidding me? Social distance is not a problem. Not a problem at all,” said Dino Zografos who was visiting family from San Francisco.
“If you’re with a group of people, you know, you’re around or live with, and you’re on the river, you’re not really running into other people,” said Klueber.
“I think it’s such a great social distancing activity, like the river provides that distance for you already,” said Focarile.