Its hard to believe but just a decade ago almost nobody would swim or float a tube down the Clark Fork River through Missoula. Boy has that changed. Today, dozens if not hundreds of people swim, tube, boat, SUP and otherwise make their way down the river every day.
The removal of gazillions of tons of toxic sediment from the recently just-upstream Milltown Reservoir may have something to do with the increase in traffic, as might the deconstruction of both the Bonner and Milltown dams, the addition of Brennan's Wave, and the super amazing jumping spot on the Madison Street footbridge. All are recent improvements to the river. But its also like 95 degrees almost everyday now too, and to escape the heat is why I bike down the foot bridge and plunge off it so often. With a deep pool and a pleasant 20 feet of free-fall—just enough of a rush for me, thanks—its become a very popular jumping spot.
The other day I even saw, mid-river in front of Brooks and Browns, a small anchored raft, with kids selling lemonade from their makeshift raft stand. It was a premium location and I bet they were doing well. But I swim with empty pockets (See?) and had no money with me as I floated by.
That's because I like to park my bike down by the Higgins Bridge and walk along the river path to the Madison Bridge where I jump in and swim/float down to my bike. My friend Al likes to wear goggles, blow bubbles, and chase whitefish.
For waterhounds or anybody just looking for a mid-day cool down, work-out, or adrenaline hit, all of these improvements have made the river that runs right through it imminently more enjoyable. Personally, I love jumping off bridges, but I'm always nervous about getting impaled on submerged rebar or rusty car parts. So when I'm able to watch dudes jumping off the very top—as in the road bridge another twenty feet or so higher than the foot bridge—well I feel mighty comfortable hucking my meat off the very pedestrian bridge. To recap: when dudes are launching like this, you shouldn't bust up your ankles on the riverbed when leaping from the much-lower footbridge. But you might.
Sigh, the city has posted signs noting that jumping and swimming is illegal, that death or serious injury may result from said activities, and of course they're right. Its just unfortunate that they forgot to post signs noting that death or serious injury may result from any known activity we participate in whilst alive, even if you're not riding in the back of a pickup truck.