BILLINGS — River floaters and project organizers celebrated the grand opening of the Blue Creek fishing access site located at 1939 Blue Creek Road in Billings Friday.
Construction of the Blue Creek site was done in partnership with the Yellowstone River Parks Association, Our Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
"It’s all of our river, so let’s enjoy it," parks association President Darryl Wilson said Friday.
The new site features a boat ramp, three picnic tables, a bench, a bathroom and plenty of parking.
Wilson said the idea to construct the site came after the state identified the need for a boat ramp site between Duck Creek and Lockwood on the Yellowstone River.
Two years ago, the state came to Yellowstone River Parks Association with money set aside to buy a new access site.
"So we stepped up, and we started negotiation and accomplished this project," Wilson said.
Including the acquisition of the land and development, the total cost for the project was about $480,000, Wilson said.
About $140,000 in private donations was given to the parks association to fund part of the project. Wilson said the rest of the money came from state and federal grants.
Wilson was pleased that the site got completed as soon as it did. The design for the site was drawn up in the fall of 2018. Construction started in March, and the site was complete with a soft opening in June.
"Considering the fact that we started design last fall, and trying to get it built this quick, that’s what makes this project amazing... the fact that we were able to accomplish that much in that short period of time," Wilson said.
Even though the site is open to the public, Wilson said the Yellowstone River Parks Association would like to develop the site further to make it more useful to first responders.
"We plan on doing some more trails and probably some more picnic tables," Wilson said. "And eventually we would like to put in a building for Search and Rescue and not only for Yellowstone County Search and Rescue but for our local firemen. They need a place to store their boats when they need to get to the river."
A group called the Friday Night Floaters convened at the Blue Creek site Friday to give the new boat ramp a try. The group is made up of people who like to have fun floating on a Friday night.
The floaters used to put in at Riverfront Park. The shore of the Yellowstone on the Riverfront Park side is rocky and not easy to navigate while carrying a boat or tube. The boat ramp is a welcome addition for them.
"This is one of the reasons we built this is because they want access to the river," Wilson said. "They love the river, it’s their river. It’s all of our river, so let’s enjoy it."
When recreating on any body of water, it's important to take the proper steps to ensure your safety.
Always wear a life jacket and make sure the river isn't running too high for safe floating.