As water dropped around House Rock it revealed evidence of debris pushed downstream by high water.

All Best the Crest proceeds go to task force

Lookout nearly runs table with inside information

The Gallatin River Task Force just got an extra infusion of funds—$290 in cash from those willing to bet on the runoff whims of mother nature. 

     Here at the Lookout, we share the community’s obsession with snowfall, snowpack and runoff. At Gallatin River Guides, this group think inspired the recent Best the Crest contest, which invited contestants to bet on which day and at what cfs level the Gallatin River would crest this spring. 

     As newspaper types do, the Lookout called around, and through an inside expert source, we arrived at an answer: June 1 at 6,400 cfs. 

     It cost $5 to pick the day and $15 to pick the cfs. In all, 35 other snowmelt-minded gamblers joined the Lookout in this game of hydro-clairvoyance. And then we all waited and watched the U.S. Geological Survey river gauge for the Gallatin as it measured a new record for the month of May. In 90 years of record keeping, the river has never sent more water past the Gallatin Gateway gauge. But the river’s flow never spiked in May. It just gushed consistently between 5,000 and 6,000 cfs. 

     Then, on June 1 the river finally peaked—at 6,390 cfs. 

     At first, it appeared the Lookout could claim half the $290 total Best the Crest purse. But because the paper had committed the soggy equivalent of insider trading, we pledged any proceeds to the Gallatin River Task Force—the official beneficiary of at least half the take. 

     When the Lookout called Gallatin River Guides to see if we’d won for picking both the correct day and cfs, Assistant Manager Shane Stalling informed us that yes, we’d picked the correct peak day, but due to official “The Price Is Right” rules, we’d lost in the cfs category by going over by just 10 cfs. 

     Turns out, the winner in the cfs category is Gallatin River Task Force Executive Director Kristin Gardner, who pegged the peak at 6,300 cfs. Gardner was unavailable for comment but will presumably donate her winnings to the task force as well. 

     “It looks like everything is going to the task force,” said Stalling, who observed one curious takeaway. Of the 25 people who bet on the cfs peak, 17 wagered the Gallatin would swell to over 8,000 cfs—a once-in a-decade kind of surge. Perhaps this was wishful thinking and evidence that river watchers sometimes suffer from “Spinal Tap” syndrome—if given the choice, we’ll turn the whitewater dial up to 11. 

     After speaking with Stalling at Gallatin River Guides, the Lookout contacted its expert source: Lucas Zukiewicz, water supply specialist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. He emphasized that the NRCS is not in the business of making official predictions, but added, “Yeah, I nailed it.” 

     The Gallatin is now steadily dropping and eventually headed toward a more hospitable level for fly fishing around 1,500 cfs. Looking back, Stalling said the contest was a success and his shop will do it again next spring.

     “Hopefully, we have another good snow year to have an exciting contest,” said Stalling. “You can go into some deep discussions about what the river is going to do and be completely wrong.” —DM


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Lone Peak Lookout

235 Snowy Mtn Circle
Big Sky, MT 59716

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