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Application period underway for Smith River permits

Changes made in 2024

Floaters hoping for a Smith River permit can apply through Feb. 15. However, a few changes are coming this year that applicants should be aware of.

Celebrated for its spectacular scenery, remote location and excellent trout fishing, the Smith River is one of Montana's most sought-after outdoor recreation experiences. 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. Parties of up to 15 people can float with one permit. A person applying for a Smith River permit must be a minimum of 12 years of age at the time they submit their permit application.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks 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. This requirement is similar to many other river systems in the West and necessary to keep the corridor pristine for visitors now and for decades to come. 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 will be 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.

"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," said Colin Maas, FWP Recreation Manager for the Smith River.

2024 is the first year 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 purchase a bonus point for $5; nonresidents can purchase 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. For more information on bonus points, click here.

Finally, starting in 2024, the number of permits available for nonresidents 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.