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Fire and ‘hoot owl’ restrictions start as summer heat sets in

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In response to high water temperatures and low stream flows, several rivers in southwest Montana have been closed to fishing from 2 p.m. until midnight daily. 

Known as “hoot owl” restrictions, the directive was enacted by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks on July 19. In a July 18 press release, the agency notes that these restrictions were put into effect two weeks later in the season than the previous two years. 

The following stretches of river are subject to the daily closure:

– Lower Gallatin River from its confluence with the Madison River at Three Forks to Sheds Bridge near Four Corners

– East Gallatin River from the bridge at Spring Hill Road to its confluence with the main stem of the Gallatin.

– The Lower Madison River from Ennis Dam to its mouth

– The entire Jefferson River

– Big Hole River from Saginaw Bridge on Skinner Meadows Road to the mouth of the North Fork Big Hole River

– Big Hole River from Notch Bottom Fishing Access Site to its confluence with the Beaverhead River

– Lower Beaverhead River from Anderson Lane to its confluence with the Big Hole River.

As of July 19, FWP has not enacted fire restrictions in Region 3—which includes Gallatin and Madison counties, among others—but several other regions have entered into Stage 1 fire restrictions.

Most counties in eastern Montana, which is currently experiencing significant drought, are under Stage 1 fire restrictions. Yellowstone County is under Stage 2 restrictions.

Stage 1 restrictions ban campfires except where specifically exempted and allow cooking fires on propane devices and liquid petroleum gas stoves that can be shut off. Smoking is allowed only in vehicles and areas 3 feet in diameter that have been cleared of flammable materials. 

Stage 2 restrictions include all of the Stage 1 prohibitions. In addition, welding, explosives and using internal combustion engines off of established roads is banned from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. each day. Generators used in enclosed buildings or in an area cleared of vegetation are exempted.

The restrictions are in response to dry, warm weather that could increase the danger of human-caused wildfires. FWP said they will be in effect until further notice.

FWP sites that could be impacted include fishing access sites, wildlife management areas and state parks. For questions about fire restrictions at a specific state park, check the individual park pages at

For more information about fire restrictions at FWP sites, visit and click on “restrictions and closures.”

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