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Application period for Smith River permits opens on January 2

Floaters on the Smith River
Posted at 9:08 AM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-02 11:08:51-05

GREAT FALLS — Floaters hoping for a Smith River permit in 2024 can apply January 2 through February 15. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said in a news release that that there several changes for 2024 .

The news release states that permits are required to float the 59-mile section of river between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge and are issued each year through a lottery.

smith river map

Parties of up to 15 people can float with one permit. A person applying for a Smith River permit must be at least 12 years old at the time they submit their permit application.

FWP staff will remove pit toilets at the float-in campsites along the Smith River during the spring of 2024. All float parties - private and commercial - will be required to pack out their human waste from the Smith River corridor. The rules implementing this pack-out system were passed by the Montana Parks Board in late 2023.

Floaters will need to pack portable toilet systems. To see a list of FWP-approved portable hard-sided toilets that are allowed, click here. Alternative waste disposal systems, including bag systems, such as Clean Waste and RESTOP2, will not be allowed.

Floaters can clean and sanitize their portable toilet system with a SCAT (Sanitizing Containers with Alternative Technology) machine, which has been installed at the Eden Bridge take-out.

Colin Maas, FWP Recreation Manager for the Smith River, said in the news release: “Removal of the pit toilets will not only help reduce impacts to natural and cultural resources, but also allow more time for the river rangers to focus on other duties, such as public safety and recreation ecology projects like noxious weed control and stabilizing erosion at boat camp landings."

2024 marks the first year that applicants can buy a bonus point for the Smith River Permit. A bonus point is essentially an extra chance you can purchase for the permit drawing. These points accumulate year after year if you are unsuccessful in the drawing.

Residents can buy a bonus point for $5; nonresidents can buy a bonus point for $50.

The bonus point is applied to your application the year it is purchased. You can apply for a permit through FWP’s online licensing system by clicking here. For more information about bonus points, click here.

Starting in 2024, the number of permits available for non-residents may not exceed 10 percent of the available permits. This new law was passed as part of House Bill 846 in the 2023 Legislative Session.