Montana’s welcoming summer waters annually draw anglers, hikers, wildlife viewers, campers, floaters and boaters into the outdoors because it’s still easy to have a great summer experience on Montana’s rivers.
The key is river etiquette, a mix of common sense, courtesy, and respect to minimize one party’s impact on another party’s good time. Here are some examples of basic river etiquette.
- Respect People’s Space and Privacy—The point at which someone feels crowded is subjective, but every outdoor activity requires space. On the river, maintain a reasonable space between you and other river users, and initiate friendly communication when encounters are unavoidable. When pulling ashore, select unoccupied beaches and swimming areas whenever possible. Don’t assume because it is a public space that strangers will welcome company. When passing people fishing on shore or from a boat, be quiet, and if safety permits, move to the opposite side of the river. Avoid floating through an area where anglers are fishing.
- Respect Other People’s Time—Always be prepared to launch your boat before you get to the boat ramp. That may sound obvious, but who hasn’t found themselves waiting to launch behind someone who is loading gear into their boat while occupying the boat ramp? Have your gear organized and boats loaded and rigged—and once in the water, clear the launch area as quickly as possible.
- Keep It Down—Excitement is what river recreation is about, so a few hoots and hollers are to be expected. But excessive whoops are in the same category as loud music and noisy generators in camp. Keep noise-levels down when others are nearby and when floating past residential areas.
- Respect Private Property Rights—Respect the property rights of private landowners. Know your rights and responsibilities under the Montana Stream Access Law and stay below the ordinary high-water mark. Keep dogs under control, respect ranchers’ fencing and learn how to properly negotiate float gates and other portage routes.
- Respect Wildlife—Taking proper care not to interfere with or displace wildlife has become a golden rule of outdoor etiquette in Montana
To learn more about recreational ethics, go to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Recreation”, then click “Ethics“.