Outdoors

Bold bears force closure of Montana's Smith River campsites

Campers must stay at designated campsites as the float down the 59-mile permit stretch of central Montana's Smith River. Most of the sites are simple but choice, with fire pits, latrines and great views. Pictured here at Upper Cow Coulee Camp after a day of floating and fishing are, from left, Everett Coulter, Bob Landwehr, Gordon Hendrickson, Bob McKee and, in the distance, Dave Demmons.
 (Rich Landers)
Campers must stay at designated campsites as the float down the 59-mile permit stretch of central Montana's Smith River. Most of the sites are simple but choice, with fire pits, latrines and great views. Pictured here at Upper Cow Coulee Camp after a day of floating and fishing are, from left, Everett Coulter, Bob Landwehr, Gordon Hendrickson, Bob McKee and, in the distance, Dave Demmons. (Rich Landers)

PARKS — Apparently because of sloppy campers who came previously, people with coveted Smith River floating/camping permits have been getting disappointing phone calls.

Montana state parks officials have closed the Smith River State Park between Camp Baker and Eden Bridge because black bear looking for food and showing no fear of humans are turning up at the boat-in camps.

Bears have been getting into food storage coolers, they said.

No one has been injured, but to play it safe, the river has been closed since Saturday.

The bear activity has resulted in the need to close numerous boat camps, making it difficult to provide adequate and safe camping opportunities for those floating the central Montana river. People put in for the permits in a lottery each spring and only a fraction of the hopeful crowd draw reservations.

The river will be closed until wildlife managers can resolve the situation.

People with upcoming permits to float the river are being contacted by Smith River State Park staff.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

By Rich Landers richl@spokesman.com (509) 459-5508


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