Montana rivers can be dangerous for anyone on or in the water. That's why Gallatin Search and Rescue is training right now for river rescues, as they prepare for more people recreating along rivers.
With recent rains and snowpack melting, rivers across southwest Montana are expected to run high.
“Every year we like to practice throw-bag training and Protective Flotation Device safety for our members. In anticipation of recreationalists getting out on the water,” says Valley Manager for Gallatin Search and Rescue, Richard Gauron.
This week, Gallatin Search and Rescue practiced the basics right on the Gallatin River as it flowed at high speeds.
Thanks to a cooler spring this year keeping numbers of people on rivers down, rescue crews got a bit of a break. But that’s changing as they expect more runoff from snowmelt from higher elevations.
“Water flows are kind of coming up a little later in the season than they normally do for us,” says Gauron.
Fast cold and water even forced Search and Rescue to scale back training for their own safety.
“We’re not trying to turn a training into a rescue for ourselves,” says Gauron.
Gauron says that even though we're far away from a large body of water, crews still prepare for rescues in our rivers and lakes.
``We're in Montana, a landlocked state. There still is water in our backyard all throughout this country. So we just want to make sure that our team members are mentally prepared for the shift in season,” says Gauron.
Search and Rescue says it responds to about 5 calls that involve rescues every year, but water rescues aren't limited to just summer months.
“We never know what we are going to get, we always prepare like it's going to be a busy season and we hope it isn't,” says Gauron.
One thing to keep in mind as snowmelt makes its way to the rivers.
“The water is still extremely cold so having proper exposure gear. Always having PFDs that are fit for you when you're on the water,” says Gauron.
For folks who do head out on the water, he reminds people that practice remains important.
“All the gear in the world doesn't do much if you're not practiced and it’s not correctly fit for you,” says Gauron
Motorized boats on the Gallatin are not allowed. The team was able to obtain special permission to conduct this training.