DILLON, MONT., May 2, 2019—As late winter snow melts and spring rain and wet snow fall across Southwest Montana this spring, Forest Service officials are concerned about very soft and muddy roads.
“We love our back country routes and enjoy getting out to explore them, however, soft roads are easily damaged by vehicle traffic and are very expensive to fix,” Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF Engineer Morgan Sandall said.
“From time to time we may have to close roads in the spring so they don’t get rutted and damaged, water in the ruts only increases erosion,” he said. “People driving around snow drifts in the roads and into soft wet areas next to the roads can create a lot of damage.”
Some routes are temporarily closed this time of year anyway, but additional roads may need to be closed until they dry out.” Sandall said.
Over in Madison County, District Ranger Dale Olson said many roads in the Gravelly and Snowcrest ranges are closed until July 1.
“We close some of our roads from April 1 to July 1 to avoid this very thing,” he said.
“We still find people breaking through snow drifts, and driving onto roads that may still have gates open, but are legally closed,” Olson said.
The Forest Service opens road gates for snowmobiles, and then tries to close them all during the spring thaw period, but sometimes can’t reach the gates in time before travelers drive on them, causing rutting problems, Olson said.
In the Butte area roads in lower elevations areas such as the Whitetail-Pipestone, Boulder River, Divide Creek, Highlands, and Lowland may be open for a short distance, but snowdrifts may limit travel with no place to turn around. “Folks should have a shovel and chains to get out of a snowy situation”, said Dave Sabo, Butte District Ranger.
Officials reminded travelers to carry a current Forest Service travel map, showing which roads are open at this time of year.
“Just because you don’t see a sign or a gate doesn’t mean a road is legally open,” Morgan Sandall, Forest Engineer in Dillon said. “Use the map to make sure you’re driving in areas where roads are legally open.
For more information, consult a Forest Service map or call the nearest Forest Service office.