FWP scrambles to repair flood damage at Clark Fork River access sites

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the public will have to go downstream on the Clark Fork River to the Triple Bridges access – Exit 66 off Interstate 90 – and float the Lower Gorge if they want to play on the river for those two days. The upper gorge will be closed to non-outfitter trips those days while the Cyr FAS is repaired. (YouTube.com)

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking the public for a little patience as it tries to restore access to the Clark Fork River.

This spring’s high water took its toll on some river access points, including the Cyr Bridge Fishing Access Site, which serves as a launching pad for those wanting to float the Upper Alberton Gorge.

Now that the flows have finally dropped, FWP is trying to work quickly to get the access sites back into commission.

“We went right from flood waters and damage to bam! it’s summer, and everybody wants to use these sites. We’re just caught in this little time period of when we’ve gotta do the maintenance,” said FWP fisheries manager Patrick Saffel.

FWP will close the Cyr Bridge access on Tuesday and Wednesday to make repairs to the wooden boat slide. Saffel said one metal rail is missing and the handrail and some steps at the bottom of the slide are broken.

“During high water, debris got caught underneath (the slide) and started prying things loose,” Saffel said. “We’re going to be working as fast as we can. But we can’t do the work if people are using it.”

River outfitters have alternative launch sites, but the public will have to go downstream to the Triple Bridges access – Exit 66 off Interstate 90 – and float the Lower Gorge if they want to play on the river for those two days.

The public can also get on the Clark Fork River closer to Missoula at Kelly Island, but Saffel reminds people that the section between Reserve Street and Kelly Island remains closed because electrical lines belonging to NorthWestern Energy are still in the water. Flooding caused the lines to fall in early May, and they might not be removed for another four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, the good news is almost all the access sites on the Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Bitterroot rivers above Missoula are now open to vehicle traffic. Five sites, including Bell Crossing on the Bitterroot, Monture and Harry Morgan on the Blackfoot, and Kelly Island on the Clark Fork, had remained closed until Friday due to high water, debris and associated repairs.

Now the only site that remains closed is the Sha-Ron access east of East Missoula. Crews are still working to clean debris from the site and anticipate it will reopen on Wednesday.

Until then, Saffel said people can use the new Milltown State Park to access those sections of the river, although the park has no boat ramp and gates close at 7 p.m. and don’t open until 9 a.m. daily.