HELENA — We've gotten our first true taste of warm weather for the year, and that has some dusting off the fishing gear, inflating the raft, or thinking about breaking out the paddle board, but our waters are still dangerously cold and have started to rise from spring run-off and that has first responders urging caution, like Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton.
"If we get a sudden snow shower or rain shower, it's going to rise rapidly to please don't camp right next to the river. Secondly, if you're fishing or out in the stream, remember that the streams are going to rise, especially this time of year," said Dutton.
River and stream gauges show that waters have been slowly rising, and while creeks like Tenmile and Prickly Pear are not at flood stage, the temperature of the water, combined with the stronger current can still be hazardous.
"It's easy to fall into the water, but it's not easy to get out. You need to be conscious of how cold this water is, be safety conscious, think about it, enjoy the streams, enjoy the lake. But it is cold. Don't forget it's cold," said Dutton.
If you are looking to get your boat in the water at one of the area's lakes or reservoirs. Dutton encourages us to not forget life vests and flotation devices.
"I know it's uncomfortable, whether boating, camping or walking along the stream, if it's fast water and you're going to dabble, just trying to see how cold it is and your balance isn't that good. And you're not wearing a life jacket. You're giving search and rescue something to do," said Dutton.
Dutton adds that if you do plan on going out and being around water, make sure you let someone know your plans, including how long you plan on being gone.
"If no one knows that you went on a camping trip or no one knows you went on a fishing trip, no one knows to look for you. Someone will maybe miss you eventually," said Dutton, "But if we don't know where you were going, we don't know where to start to look. So always let someone know where you're going."