Recreational Use Baseline Study
Recognizing the need for having a basic understanding of the level of recreational use on the Upper Yellowstone River, the Upper Yellowstone Watershed Group (UYWG) is participating in a cooperative project to collect baseline information on river use. This project is one of several of what we call PeopleNET - an effort to understand the roles human beings play in the watershed.
Beginning this summer, preliminary field work incorporating a user survey and user counts will be used to begin building baseline data on river use (who, what, where) and pressure (to what extent). A vital part of the project design is keeping river stakeholders and the general public fully informed of the findings and incorporating their perspectives into the project design and conduct. The project will be initiated during the 2020 river season and continued into 2021 and 2022.
The project is being conducted cooperatively by the UYWG, Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research at University of Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, along with the active involvement of river stakeholders and the general public. This project is not being undertaken as a result of any planned effort by the state or other entity to formulate any new regulations and policy changes. It is intended to gather baseline information (who, what, where, to what extent) that will be shared with all river stakeholders.
In helping to assess users’ expectations and experiences, UYWG plans to communicate data and information critical to ensuring river recreation is managed to balance public access, quality of experience, respect of private property, and care of natural resources, while honoring the privacy and right of the public to recreate on the river.
The UYWG will convene recreation-based businesses, fishing and rafting outfitters, land management agencies, conservation organizations, researchers and universities, as well as landowners and other stakeholders to focus on developing a framework for assessing recreational demand and outlining needed information for managing the resource in the future.
This is a forward thinking effort to allow the public to provide input that will guide any future decisions on the management of the Yellowstone River. It is understood that the 2020 season will look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why this effort will continue into the future to help create a data set that will illustrate multi-year usage trends.
Contact for more information.
Show me the Data!
Data is collected using remote sensing technology, direct observations along the river and at fishing access sites, and polling/surveying of rivers users and riparian landowners. A Phase I “Field Test” will be undertaken during the 2020 river season. Following the field season, study results will be reviewed with stakeholder and community input, study design revised as necessary, and fully implemented in 2021 and 2022.
PROVISIONAL DATA, SUBJECT TO REVISION: data are provisional and subject to revision until they have been thoroughly reviewed and received final approval. Provisional data may be inaccurate due to instrument malfunctions. Subsequent review based on field inspections or quality control measures may result in significant revisions to the data. Data users are cautioned to consider the provisional nature of the information before using it for decisions that concern personal or public safety or the conduct of business that involves substantial monetary or operational consequences.
Field Technicians, fly fishing guides, local citizen scientists, business owners, volunteers and students from the local community will be doing surveys and collecting observational data from the following major locations on the Upper Yellowstone Watershed.
Gardiner Town access (mile 0)
Queen of the Waters (mile 2.2)
McConnell Landing (mile 3.5)
Brogran’s Landing (mile 7.4)
Cinnabar/Corwin Sprs. (mile 8)
Slip & Slide (mile 12.9)
Joe Brown (mile 13.7)
Crystal Cross (mile 17.5)
Carbella (mile 18)
Point of Rocks/Hookum (mile 21.6)
Point of Rocks MDT (mile 22.5)
26 Mile (mile 27.2)
Emigrant Rest Area (mile 25.2)
Emigrant (mile 33.5)
Emigrant West (mile 34.1)
Grey Owl (mile 36)
Chicory (mile 36)
Mill Creek/Pray Bridge (mile 40)
Dan Bailey/Paradise (mile 40.3)
Loch Leven (mile 44.4)
Loch Leven Picnic (mile 45.5)
Mallard’s Rest (mile 47.3)
Pine Creek (mile 50.7)
Mouth of DePuys (mile 57.5)
Carter’s Bridge (mile 58.5)
Free River (mile 58)
Mayor’s Landing (mile 64.7)
Various Private Property Sites
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is a recreational use survey being conducted on the Yellowstone River?
After the PKD outbreak, fish kill, and subsequent river closure in 2016 local residents, stakeholders and agency personnel convened the Yellowstone River Symposium in the spring of 2017. Recreational use on the river was a top-of-mind issue that many people brought up. All agreed that little quantifiable information existed on recreational use and pressure. Interest in developing baseline data led to the development and planning of this survey.
Who is involved with the survey?
The project is being developed cooperatively by the Upper Yellowstone Watershed Group, Institute for Tourism and Recreational Research at University of Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, along with the active involvement of river stakeholders and the general public.
Where is the survey being conducted?
For the 2020 season the survey attention will focus on the Emigrant to Carter’s Bridge reach of the river, which is the most consistently used section of the river. Survey teams will also being collecting use data on the Gardiner-to-Emigrant and Carter’s Bridge-to-Mayor’s Landing reaches.
How will the data be collected?
The data will be collected using remote sensing technology, direct observations along the river and at Fishing Access Sites (FAS), and polling of river users at FAS locations. Participation in the survey will be voluntary. FAS locations will be randomly selected for polling throughout the summer.
When is the survey being conducted?
The data collection will take place from July through September 2020. The 2020 season data will be analyzed, shared with the stakeholders and public, and planned for continuation in 2021 and 2022. We understand that the 2020 season is being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will take that into account in the analysis.
What will the survey data be used for?
The project is an effort to gather empirical data that in turn can provide a baseline for the level of overall recreational use, how use moves up and down the river seasonally, and where use levels are concentrated at any one time. Interviews will provide a sense of user expectations and experience. What remains to be seen is 1) what the data shows; and 2) what issues/management responses does the data point to, if any.
Is this survey similar to the one recently conducted on the Madison River?
No. At present little useful data exists on the level and nature of recreational use on the Upper Yellowstone River. Establishing a basic understanding of the level and nature of use is the sole purpose of the Upper Yellowstone project, and it is totally unrelated to ongoing regulatory efforts on the Madison. The project methodology has been tailored to reflect the present conditions and future needs of the Yellowstone.
Is this being done to create new regulations?
No. This project is not being undertaken as a result of any planned effort by the state or other entity to formulate any new regulations and policy changes. It is intended to gather baseline information (who, what, where, to what extent) that will be shared with all river stakeholders.
Can I take the survey even if I don’t use the river?
Not at this time. Currently we are polling users as they put in or take out on a river trip. We are interested in ascertaining a user's thoughts and attitude regarding the river experience while they are in that moment.
How can I help?
We are always looking for volunteers to help us collect data; this season that will involve helping to collect direct observations of river use. If you live near the river or are willing to spend some time at a public river access gathering empirical data, we could use your help. A couple hours on any given day, depending on your schedule, is all that it would take. Email to get further information on how you can volunteer.