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Flathead rafters learn how to "Float Smart"

By Rebecca Vogt, KCFW Reporter, rvogt@kcfw.com
Published On: Jun 15 2013 10:08:20 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Local rafters were at Lone Pine State Park Saturday participating in a Float Smart workshop. Organizer TE Lewis puts on the class which talks about safety in one-person inflatable pontoon boats, popular with anglers.

"In a 7 foot pontoon boat at 17,000 cubic feet per second I was in Kalispell in 30 minutes," Lewis explained about one of his rafting situations. "It was ugly, it was fast."

Lewis cited several fatal pontoon accidents on the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River as a good reason why folks need to look at river conditions and wear proper safety gear before floating. During a demonstration, Lewis purposely sank his boat, showing folks how to escape before its too late.

"Be honest with it. I have nothing to prove to this river. I want to battle a fish," said Lewis. "If I want to get in the whitewater, I will grab my whitewater craft stuff."

Darrell and Laura Bushard tell NBC Montana they took the class to get more acquainted with their new pontoon boat. The couple had a nerve-wracking experience on the North Fork last year that left them with some concerns about floating, but Lewis was able to give them a better perspective.

"You know it's just a Class I boat," said Darrell. "It didn't really dawn on us whether the Class I boats should only go in Class I water. If you go in Class II or Class III water you're going to be in trouble."

For more on Float Smart, visit their Facebook page.