On Saturday, Sept. 4, a search-and-rescue team from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office found a pipe bomb at a popular fishing access site in Southwest Montana along the Jefferson River.
According to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the team discovered the explosive device in the Jefferson River while conducting training at the Williams’ Bridge Fishing Access Site. FWP shut down the area along with the nearby Sappington Bridge Access.
Explosive ordinance disposal technicians from Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls detonated the bomb the following day.
“We’re grateful to Gallatin County and Malmstrom Air Force Base personnel for their collaborative response in this situation. Thanks to these efforts, we were able to safely reopen these sites to the public,” FWP Warden Capt. Adam Pankratz said. “This is also a good reminder to use caution and carefully inspect items we would normally think of as litter before picking them up.”
Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer told MeatEater there is no reason to believe the bomb was placed with malicious intent.
“At this point, we don't have any indication that there was any kind of attempt to hurt anyone or to scare anybody or targeting of any particular individuals,” Springer said.
Members of the search-and-rescue team identified the object as a bomb instead of trash when they noticed an exposed fuse while diving in the river.
“Obviously, anytime that you're out in the woods, the rivers, or wherever you are, and you see something that does not look like it's supposed to be there, you're better off not to touch it or play with it,” Springer said. “So, give us a call and let us take a look at it and then have the ordinance teams come and take care of those kinds of things.”
Although this may be the first incident of finding a bomb in a Montana river, it’s not the first run-in with misplaced explosives.
“We have found explosive devices, whether it be dynamite or whatnot from years gone by, that ended up in places that you wouldn't don't expect to find them,” Springer said. “Dynamite was just located in some basements in other towns in Montana here recently. Those things happen out here, and hopefully, there's not a lot of them. But if someone does see those, give us a call.”
While this may not have been a malicious attempt to injure someone directly, three Illinois anglers lost their lives in an unexplained explosion earlier this year. It’s crucial to follow federal law regarding explosives to avoid accidents like this. Fortunately, a search-and-rescue team found the device, and the ordinance team safely detonated it. If you have any information, please contact the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.
Montana is a relatively sleepy state, and it’s hard to ignore finding a bomb in a river shortly after someone recently slashed the tires of a dozen out-of-state vehicles parked along the Madison River. Sure, it can be frustrating to see launches packed with trailers or other hunters further up your ridge, but vandalism and attempted violence are never acceptable. Public land is for everyone.
Feature image via Travel Montana.