Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Reporter Photographer 

Exercise caution on the Bighorn river


Earlier this year, increased runoff resulted in higher flows from Boysen Reservoir, reaching 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Though the runoff and flows have since gone down, the river can still be hazardous for those attempting to float it, evidenced by several needing rescue the past couple weekends.

Hot Springs County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Gordon said he would not recommend anyone float the river until it reaches around 3,000 cfs, and when floating it’s important for all people to wear life vests, not have them attached to the float or stowed somewhere. Any kids should also be under adult supervision.

Sheriff Lou Falgoust also recommended people not try to float the river at this time.

Boysen Lake has about nine inches to drop before it’s at the normal level of 4,275 feet. Once it reaches that elevation, it’s considered full. However, Gordon said, that doesn’t mean the Bureau of Reclamation will turn down the release to the summer level. The release has to correspond with the inflow until the proposed level of 2,000 cfs is reached.

The flow was expected to be 6,000 cfs Tuesday afternoon.

Gordon said there are hidden dangers under the water, such as Russian Olive, trees and other brush that can easily get a person tangled or knocked off their floats. He said waiting until the level is lower can help ensure everyone enjoys the ride.

If you should find yourself stranded on the river, Gordon recommends calling 911 if you have a working cell phone. Otherwise, yell or try to catch people’s attention another way. There is also the adage of remaining in the water, facing downstream with your feet up. This can be done much easier if wearing a life vest.

Gordon also noted more and more fly fishing guides would start showing up on the river. These guides are experienced and know what they are doing, and a stranded person could get their attention.


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