By Alkali Springs Correspondent
In West Glacier and numerous other points around Montana, there is a new sport. Or rather it is an old sport with sort of a new vocabulary behind it.
Called bridge jumping, it is the art of jumping off a bridge on a hot summer day and landing in the water below without hitting a passing raft or hitting the bottom of the water and dying.
In West Glacier it takes on an even more special aspect since the bridge used for jumping is the only one spanning the Middle Fork of the Flathead River that was not destroyed in the great flood of 1964. These days it is closed to all but foot traffic. However, the log, cement and steel structure just waits until once again it can be called into service, bringing West Glacier into contact with Glacier Park Headquarters across the river.
In the meantime, the art of bridge jumping is practiced there most every day of the week all summer long.
The sport of bridge jumping seems to transcend ages. On the days we were there watching jumpers there were 60-year-olds and 8-year-olds jumping. Men and women, boys and girls.
And, of course, since that stretch of the Middle Fork is the outlet for thousands of white-water rafters all summer long, the rafters spend their days shouting to the jumpers to jump and display their knowledge of the sport to those paddling by on their rafts.
The jump off the bridge is probably about 30 feet high. Maybe higher. We are terrible judging distances when looking down from the bridge to the water. We were told that the river was probably 15 feet deep at that point and that no one has ever touched the bottom by accident.
There are several stances to West Glacier bridge jumping. There are many choices depending on how high above the river the jumper wants to be and the position of the jumper when jumping.
Just below the bridge planking is a cement pier that seems to represent "safe" jumping. Those more daring will jump from the bridge railing.
And there is that all-important stance. Most jump feet first straight down into the greenish water. But those who are practicing what is called there stylin' (which we think means styling or to do the jump with great style) start in a stance that ends with them going head first into the water. Those who want to demonstrate really great stylin' will jump off the bridge backwards ending up head first into the water.
While we were there, a group of teenagers were teaching another one some stylin' and we heard them say that he had only about one second to get his head tucked and to hit the water right after seeing the water below. That fellow did no stylin' while we were there but instead slunk off to get more courage for another day.
Probably it is very dangerous. So why do it? One girl said it all in three words after she had jumped. "What a rush!" she exclaimed as she ran up the bank to do it all over again.
And we decided that although not for us, one could do worse than to be a jumper off bridges. Especially at West Glacier on a hot August afternoon.