High Water Getting Higher in Bitterroot Valley
Minor flooding is expected this week along the Bitterroot River. With recent rain and warm weather, high water season is here in Western Montana. And predicted storms are triggering a river-length Flood Watch on the Bitterroot River, according to the National Weather Service. Streams and rivers are currently running at bankfull. The U.S. Geological Survey Bitterroot River gauge at Bell Crossing was at 9.46 feet at mid-morning Tuesday, with the level to rise slightly above the 11-foot "minor flood" level by Thursday afternoon. The USGS gauge south of Darby was at 6.18 just before noon Tuesday and will crest just below minor flood stage of 7.5 feet Thursday. Moving into Missoula County, the USGS Bitterroot River gauge there was at 8.38 feet Tuesday, but was expected to be 11.8 feet Thursday, above the 11-foot minor flood stage, triggering a Flood Warning for that area. The river level is expected to recede through the weekend. These are subject to change with weather conditions.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are advising boaters to stay off the water because of the swiftness and hidden debris in the flow. They also advise life vests even if you are on a river bank. The cold, swift water can quickly cause drowning.