Archive for June 2012
FLY FISHING — July is a major period of transition for fly fishing in the Inland Northwest, as you'll read in my outdoors feature story coming Sunday at www.spokesman.com/outdoors.
Hear the latest news from the water, connect with guides and get tips on the fly patterns and techniques that are working NOW from the area's great selection of fly shops:
Spokane-area fly shops and guides
101 N. Cabela Way, Post Falls; (208) 777-6300.
1114 N. 4th St., Coeur d’Alene; (208) 765-3133.
2171 N. Main, Coeur d’Alene; (208) 667-2707.
13210 E. Indiana Ave., Spokane Valley, (509) 924-9998.
1611 N. Ash St., Spokane; (509) 323-0500.
1003 E. Trent Ave., Spokane, (509) 838-0252.
“We were the first such park in Idaho, while Boise is opening its park this year,” said park spokesman Dan Gallagher.
Park director, Devon Barker, is a Lewiston native and two-time national champion.
“We had about 4,000 visitors over a couple-day run last year,” Gallagher said. “We have salmon fishing nearby and plenty of whitewater along the Payette and Salmon. The park has been a boost to our former sawmill economy.”
OUTDOOR SKILLS — Women can learn the basics of fishing, hunting and other outdoor skills in a 15th annual September weekend workshop led by certified instructors.
Scheduled for Sept.14-16 at Camp River Ranch in Carnation, the annual workshop is coordinated by Washington Outdoor Women, a non-profit program dedicated to teaching women outdoor skills and natural resource stewardship.
Twenty different classes will be offered throughout the weekend on skills such as archery, basic freshwater fishing, fly fishing and tying, kayaking and the basics of big-game hunting.
Workshop participants must be at least 18 years old and must have a current Washington recreational fishing license to participate in the fishing and fly-fishing sessions.
Info: Ronni McGlenn, (425) 455-1986, or www.washingtonoutdoorwomen.org.
SHOOTING – Another in a series of rifle marksmanship clinics is being offered at the Fernan Gun Club on July 14-15.
The clinics are sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veteran's Association’s Project Appleseed, which involves shooting instruction along with history about the impact of marksmanship in the American Revolution.
The clinic teachdes three rifleman shooting positions, use of the sling, six steps to firing the shot, natural point of aim, how to zero your rifle using inches/minutes/clicks, and more.
The project also is designed to promotes civic involvement.
Cost for the two-day clinic: Men $70, women $10, and $5 for youths under 21. The clinic is free for active military, law enforcement officers, and elected officials.
Pre-register: (208) 819-0866 or email ID@appleseedinfo.org.
SALMON FISHING – After several record daily sockeye counts over Bonneville Dam this week, fisheries managers’ expecations for overall record returns of sockeye salmon to the upper Columbia River are high.
The salmon fishing season in the upper Columbia above Priest Papids Dam opens today.
By mid-July, Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists expect summer chinook and sockeye fisheries to have kicked into high gear.
Check the status of incoming adult fish through the interagency Columbia River Data Access in Real Time (DART).
Chris Donley, a local fish biologist and salmon slayer, highly recommends watching the numbers on that website to see when the fish start piling into the upper Columbia fisheries.
When you get to it, click on “Adult Passage,” then scroll through dates to bottom and today for latest on all species (also compares with past years’ numbers).
ADVENTURE TRAVEL – $200 discounts are being offered for guided six-day sea kayaking trips geared to paddling with orcas off Vancouver Island.
Nancy Mertz, co-owner of Couer-d Alene-based Sea Kayak Adventures, said they have a few slots they’re trying to fill for camping excursions in the famous killer whale waters of Johnstone Strait.
Info: 800-616-1943 or www.seakayakadventures.com.
My wife and I joined one of these groups a few years ago and the exprience of paddling with orcas ranks among the most exciting in our repertoie.
WILDLIFE — More anglers are heading into the mountains and hunters soon will follow, putting more people out among wildlife, including bears.
The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project offers basic tips to help hunters and anglers avoid attracting bears, which can be dangerous to people if not just destructive to their camping gear.
Worse, a bear that finds value — notably food — in raiding camps or threatening humans almost surely will become a repeat offender that ultimately will have to be killed.
Click “continue reading” to refresh your memory on tips that come from years of case studies:
WILDLIFE — A coalition of sportsmen-conservationists today applauded the elimination of a controversial amendment from a U.S. House of Representatives appropriations bill that would have prohibited implementation of a science-based management plan for bighorn sheep populations in a national forest in Idaho.
The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agenciesand Wild Sheep Foundation roundly praised Rep. Mike Simpson’s decision to withdraw his rider to the House appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies.
The amendment would have prevented advancement of a management plan in the Payette National Forest that separates bighorn sheep from domestic sheep grazing on public lands. Simpson, of Idaho, is chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.
BICYCLING – The orgnaizers of SpokeFest, the annual September bicycle celebration that branches out from downtown Spokane, are offering an early sign-up incentive:
Choose from four different routes on Sept. 9:
All of the rides and events start downtown and finish at the SpokeFair on the Post Street Bridge next to Riverfront Park.
Read on for more details.
SALMON FISHING — Sockey are outdoing themselves in their 2012 run up the Columbia River.
Tuesday's count over Bonneville Dam was a one-day record — 41,573.
That follows Monday's record upstream burst of 38,756 sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam. Both counts smash the previous record of 30,690 fish on June 24, 2010.
A record 462,000 sockeye are forecasted to the mouth of the Columbia in 2012. Of those, 431,300 fish are expected to be headed to the Okanogan River.
Meanwhile, Alaska is shutting down some sockeye and king salmon fisheries, even in the fabled Kenai River, because of troubling downfalls in the runs. Read the latest here.
FISHING — The Berkley Experience exhibit is coming to the North Division White Elephant store Thursday through Saturday with a variety of promotions and demonstrations for anglers.
In addition to the fishing stuff…
FLY FISHING — A few lucky kids who sign up early will get special attention during the International Fly Fishing Fair coming to Spokane in July.
The 47th annual Federation of Fly Fishers extravaganza – which roams to venues such as West Yellowstone, Mont. – is coming to the Spokane Convention Center July 12-14.
One of the many offerings is a chance for Inland Northwest youths ages 8-17 to enjoy a full immersion in the sport.
Up to 25 kids will be enrolled each day for the Youth Camp sessions July 13 and 14.
Members of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club and other anglers will host the camp, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at a private facility near Coeur d’Alene.
Instruction starts with a topic kids get into: entomology – bugs – the foundation of the sport.
Youths also will learn about fly tying, equipment and accessories, the balanced system, angler ethics, fishing safety, abeyance to regulations, catch and release, fly casting and, finally, FISHING!
Youths 11 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
In addition, youth activities will be offered during the main venue at Spokane Convention Center.
The Kid’s Fishin’ Corner will include fish and insect identification games, casting instruction, fish printing, fly tying and a scavenger hunt.
The FFF Fair is attracting anglers from across the United States to Spokane for a long list of casting, tying and other instructional clinics and programs taught by certified masters.
Many anglers consider this the premier event dedicated to the art and sport of fly fishing.
Online registration is open to 4 p.m. on July 2:
SUMMER RESORTS — Free chairlift rides, barbecues, live music and other activities headline the Summer Celebration set for Saturday (June 30) to open the summer season at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
However, with snow still covering the top of the mountain, bicycles are not yet being allowed to go up the lifts to ride the trail system.
The Great Escape Quad will run 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. for free rides to the 6,400-foot summit for views of Idaho, Washington, Montana and Canada.
Schweitzer will be operating the new zip line, air jumper, climbing wall and sluice box.
Info: (208) 255-3081.
FISHING — The light at the end of the tunnel looking downstream is the gleam of steelhead running in decent numbers over Bonneville Dam.
The curve is going up sharply as about 500 fish a day are swimming from the ocean and over the first dam on the Columbia River.
Next stop for many of those fish is the Snake River, where a few fish already are trickling over Lower Granite Dam — the last dam before they enter the Lewiston area, including the mouth of the Clearwater and the Grande Ronde River. The black line on the Lower Granite fish count should start going up any day.
With tributary water temperatures staying cool longer than normal again this year, anglers may want to rig up with slightly stronger line when they're fishing for summer smallmouth in the Ronde, if you know what I mean.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A Massachusetts man is recovering in an Idaho Falls hospital following surgery for injuries he received after being gored by a bull bison near Norris Campground on Saturday in Yellowstone National Park.
Park authorities did not have the man’s name, and his age was listed as in the mid-50s, according to the report by the Billings Gazette.
Though not taunting the animal, the tourist let the bison approach to within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away, according to a park statement.
The bull gored the man, tossing him nearly 10 feet into the air, before pinning him to the ground.
The victim suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and several ribs and a groin injury.
Park rules require that visitors stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals including elk and bison.
If an animal approaches, it is the person’s responsibility to move a safe distance away.
Maybe the park rangers who made that rule knew what they were talking about.
SALMON FISHING — It's a bad year for that salmon fishing dream trip to some portions of Alaska.
Record low king runs have forced the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Friday to close king salmon sport fishing seasons in some rivers including the fabled Kenai River.
Returns were expected to be low, and they've been worse. So far only about 4,000 early-run kings have passed the in-river sonar counter. That makes the early Kenai run the worst on record. Another run follows.
Read this story from the Alaska Dispatch regarding the tension building between sport and commercial fishermen over who's bearing the burden of king salmon conservation.
Read this story originating from the Alaska Daily News exploring the causes for the decline of these famous salmon fisheries.
FISHING — Cool, wet weather has kept area lake fisheries alive into summer for local anglers.
While some fishermen give up on area fishing lakes in spring after the first few fast-action weeks of the season, others are finding more at the lakes than just the peace and quiet.
Luke Marcellus, 5, shares a little bit of his weekend action in this photo. Check out the quality of that cutthroat from Badger Lake. It measured 22.5 inches long, and it's fat as a corn-fed sow!
“There were three of us bottom fishing at Badger Lake,” said Jared Marcellus, who spoke so proudly of the fishing day, it was clear without asking that he's Luke's dad.
“It took 3 hours, but we limited; mostly small rainbows with one larger rainbow and the big cutthroat pictured with Luke.”
“He is quite the fisherman for a 5 year old! I probably wouldn't have gone Saturday without his request.”
We should all be so lucky as to have that motivation.
OUTDOOR EDUCATION — The Sandpoint-based Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) is offering two five-day outdoor leadership programs for teens in August.
Boosted by a grant from The North Face, cost for the sessions is only $50.
Youths will be on the go with activites including backpacking and kayaking and delving into a variety of activities such as wildlife rehabilitation, trail maintenance and environmental science.
Space is limited for the sessions, which start Aug. 5 and Aug. 14.
Info: (928) 351-7653; www.soleexperiences.org.
RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.
JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.
The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution. The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.
Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.
In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.
Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.
Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.
RIVERS — Recent rains storms with more on the way combined with high flows out of Canada are prolonging the region's “spring” runoff in a big way.
The Kootenai River rose above flood stage at Bonners Ferry today, according to our S-R weather reporter. The minor flooding is expected through Friday, forecasters said. The river was about three inches above flood stage of 64 feet at Bonners Ferry.
In addition, the Pend Oreille River below Albeni Falls Dam was near flood stage. The river was at 45 feet in Newport this morning.
Cities such as Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry could break records for June rainfall with more than five inches recorded there already this month.
ENVIRONMENT — Can we expect a “Sportsmen's Act” introduced in Congress to actually be in the best interest of hunters and anglers?
A Missoulian opinion columnist is skeptical in this column.
“Those who watch Congress have surely noticed an alarming trend of putting misleading titles on bills and policies that actually do the opposite of what they say,” writes George Ochenski.
President Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” provided ways to clearcut national forests without environmental review or public oversight. Likewise, Bush’s “Clean Skies” legislation made it easier for corporations to pollute. The USA PATRIOT Act has nothing to do with patriots and everything to do with spying on citizens. And now we have H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 that, in reality, would undercut the 1964 Wilderness Act and destroy what remains of the nation’s once-great natural heritage.
WHITEWATER — Remember the mechanical bull riding made popular in Urban Cowboy?
A pair of boaters in a 14-foot cataraft got a feeling for that rotating, jerking motion as they ran Slalom Rapid and got hung up in Seymour's — a keeper wave on the South Fork Payette. The river was running 5850 cfs.
CITY PARKS — In 2013 the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing an estimated 5.5 percent budget reduction totaling about $1 million.
Parks officials have set two public meetings this week to help form priorities for the program cuts that will need to be made:
Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Southside Community Center, 3151 E. 27th, in the Spokane Parks Foundation Ballroom.
Thursday, June 28, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook, in the Hillyard Senior Center, Conference Room.
If you can't make it to one of the meetings, please give your opinion in this short survey.
You can also learn more about the 2013 Budget at spokaneparks.org.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — While the cows are tending to their calves, bull elk are growing antlers.
Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us this week that spring is beautiful time to be an elk.
WILDLIFE — More than 6,400 pheasant chicks have been distributed in the past few weeks to people in the Spokane region who vow to raise and release the birds into the wild.
The annual chick giveaway program is facilitated by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.
The chicks are mostly hens, the byproduct of captive rearing programs that raise pheasants for hunter release sites.
RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt is about 1284 on June 22.
The lake is continuing to fill and spill is occurring over the drum gates at Grand Coulee Dam. The peak of the spring runoff is expected in the next two weeks. In addition, increased rainfall has resulted in high inflows into Lake Roosevelt. The predicted amount of rise in lake level is anticipated to be approximately 1 foot per day over the next week. The level of the lake is expected to be 1288 by June 30. The lake is expected to continue to rise .5-.75 feet per day, reaching the full pool elevation of 1290 on July 4.
Be cautious while recreating on Lake Roosevelt over the 4th of July holiday as the lake level will rise and a limited amount of beach will be available around the lake. Shoreline campers are advised to camp well away from the water’s edge.
For a daily lake level forecast call 1-800-824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day.
MOUNTAINEERING — Sad news from Mount Rainier National Park as a ranger attempting a rescue fell 3,000 feet to his death on Thursday.
SALMON FISHING — Starting July 1, anglers will be required to rlease all chinook and sockeye with external floy tags and/or with one or more holes (round, approximately ¼ inch diameter) punched in the caudal (tail) fin.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife announced the rule change on Thursday. the rule will run through Oct.15.
Location: Mainstem Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam, including the Similkameen and Okanogan rivers.
Read on for details.
FISHING — A path was plowed this week through the lingering snow on Gold Pass, the popular access route from St. Regis, Mont., to the St. Joe River.
North Idaho angler Ralph Bartholdt posed his family on the pass to prove the point. Here's his pass and fishing report:
Gold summit is passable, (has been since last week) although there is road work going on near the Idaho bottom.
Fishing on The St. Joe was pretty fair. Nymphs to Tarantulas in the soft seams.
PADDLING — This great action and slow-mo video recap captures the intensity of the paddlers and the power of the water during the recent North Fork Championships whitewater kayaking championships in the BIG flows of Idaho's North Fork Payette River near McCall.
The contest involved 80 impressive paddlers from all over the globe, including 30 of the world's best paddlers. They competed down Jacob's Ladder - a Class V rapid that is terrifying to run, let alone race through gates.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are back in a family way at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.
The photo at the bottom of this post shows the female rising above a newly hatched FIFTH cygnet onThursday morning as two siblings look on from the nest. I made the photo just off the paved trail at Middle Pine Lake near the refuge headquarters.
The male was on the water with two cygnets that hatched on Monday or Tuesday when I arrived today just before 8 a.m.
Two more cygnets could be seen partially under the wing of the female on the nest.
I sat for a long time across from the nest, watching as the male took his pair to the far end of Middle Pine Lake and rested with them on the shore.
At 9:30 a.m., the female began making muffled honks. The male got in the water with the two cygnets and started swimming toward the nest. Just as he got there, the two cygnets under the mother’s wing crawled out, the female stood up and Presto! Up popped the very weak head of the FIFTH cygnet for a brief second before it lay back down.
The male paraded past a few times, as shown in the other photo. The female seemed to be showing off the new arrival.
Visitors willing to walk less than a mile round trip will be able to enjoy the family all summer.
“The cygnets will be stuck there for awhile since we have Cheever Lake drawn down for dam repairs,” said Mike Rule, refuge biologist.
The female mated in 2009 with the late Solo, the male trumpeter who faithfully returned to Turnbull for two decades as a widower before finding a breeding female and ending Turnbull's drought of trumpeter production.
Solo and his new mate raised broods in 2009 and 2010. They returned last year, but Solo disappeared before they could mate, ending what biologists estimate was a remarkable 35-48 year tenure at the refuge.
The identity of the father is unknown . We thought the swan hanging around with her since spring of last year was one of her 2010 cygnets. She was seen with a juvenile swan for most of 2011. This spring she has been with a single adult swan that was very territorial. Since her 2010 cygnet is not sexually mature, it is possible an unrelated older adult formed a pair bond this past spring as a few trumpeters move through the area at that time.
FISHING – Sign-up is underway for the Pike Palooza fishing derby on the Pend Oreille River, June 29-July 1, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.
Prizes up to $1,000 are being offered in a variety of categories to make the contest interesting to anglers of all ages. Categories include most fish, longest fish, total length of catch, smallest fish and tagged fish.
In addition, each fish caught give a participant a ticket for raffle drawings.
There’s no entry fee, but participants must pre-register before they start fishing. Online registration closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday (June 27). Anglers can register on site at check stations.
The event includes the river from the Idaho state line to the Boundary Dam forebay.
Even though most of the non-native pike were gillnetted out of the Box Canyon Reservoir portion of the river this spring, pike are still available to be caught and new fish are likely coming downstream from Montana and Idaho.
If an angler catches a Washington state record northern — a long shot, agreed — a professional taxidermist will produce a replica of the fish for the contestant.
FISHING — Todd Young of Spokane used PowerBait to catch this 27-inch rainbow weighing 6.8 pounds at Sprague Lake on Saturday.
Had Young caught the fish one week earlier, he would have easily won $500 in prizes offered for the biggest fish in the Sprague Lake Trout Derby, reports Scott Haugen at Four Seasons Campground and Resort.
The 202 anglers entered in the derby weighed in a bunch of fish in the 4-pound range, and the three top fish were separated by only 1 ounce, with the winner coming in at 4 pounds 9 ounces
GEOLOGY — A just-published guidebook on the region's channeled scablands — a second volume on exploring the aftermath of the Ice Age Floods — is being celebrated Saturday at Eastern Washington University.
“On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A geological field guide to northern Idaho and the Channeled Scabland” will be unveiled by geologist and Eastern Washington University alumnus Bruce Bjornstad and retired EWU geology prof Eugene Kiver.
The event is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Science Building, located on Washington Street across from Roos Field.
The floods helped gouge out Lake Pend Oreill, Idaho’s largest and deepest lake, and sculpted the weird topography of Eastern Washington. This field guide explores a vast expanse of land on the ground and with great aerial photos. Specific hikes are recommended to see key features.
After hiking and exploring the Channeled Scabland region for 35 years, I didn’t know what I was missing until I read this book.
TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.
Idaho Conservation League
Info: Idaho Conservation League Sandpoint office, (208) 265-9565.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A red fox photographed by motion-detecting infrared camera in the Mount Hood National Forest may be a Sierra Nevada red fox, which hasn't been found in Oregon in decades.
WILDLIFE — Ginger Ninde writes to thank people who helped her through an unfortunate encounter she just had with a whitetail fawn near her home in Medical Lake:
Thank you to everyone who patiently waited on highway 902 (both directions) while an injured fawn with broken legs struggled in the road. Many thanks to the man in the on-coming red truck with black dog for his help trying to get the little fawn to the side of the road and to the woman in the car behind him who also gently tried to help. Thank you Michelle for pulling in front of me and calling 911; words cannot express my gratitude for your kindness during such a horrible and sad situation. To the officer who arrived… thank you for ending the suffering.
I wish I could I have done something, anything to avoid hitting that young, innocent, graceful animal. It brings some solace to know what good people drive highway 902. P.S. To the one car that refused to wait… maybe you thought we were having a ho-down and there wasn’t a legitimate reason traffic was stopped. You squeezed around us in your big car as little one tried to drag itself to the side of the road. You gave your passengers a view I bet they wish they could forget.
NATIONAL PARKS — Glacier National Park officials are planning to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road over 6,646-foot Logan Pass today.
The opening will end the spring grace period when bikers and hikers could much of the 50-mile route motor-vehicle free.
If you're driving to Logan Pass and want to stop and take a hike, bring snowshoes! All the nature trails are covered by snow the Highline Trail from Logan Pass is closed by snow.
The visitor center will be open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The park’s free shuttle system that provides services along Going-to-the-Sun Road will begin running on July 1.
Read on for more details.
MOUNTAINEERING — Spokane's John Roskelley, perhaps America's premier mountaineer in the 1980s, will present a slide show and share climbing insights in a presentation Thursday (June 21), 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division.
The photos and stories will relate to Roskelley's latest book, “The Roskelley Collection: Nanda Devi, Last Days and Stories off the Wall.“
The book compiles his previous works.
PADDLING — Kayaker David Crafton and friends have been exploring trips from my hiking and paddling guidebooks. Last weekend they packed their boats and headed down the Pend Oreille River from Metaline downstream into the spectacular Z Canyon.
NOTE: The Metaline Falls and hydraulics downstream from the Highway 31 bridge near Metaline can be dangerous any time of year. Scout the waves and powerful eddies from the bridge BEFORE launching. If they're over you head, pick a downstream launching point on the east side of the river just below the falls at Deadmans Eddy.
Crafton's photo above show's what Peewee Falls looks like this week, still runnng pretty big. It comes down to a trickle you can almost boat under in August of dry summers. You can reach the falls in an out-and-back trip from Boundary Dam Campground.
Here's Crafton's post-trip post on my Facebook wall with a notable observation and prompt for lingering at the trip's takeout
PADDLING — Get the basics of paddling gear — canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards — in a free presentation Thursday (June 21), 7 p.m., at REI in Spokane.
The presentation also will cover apparel, trip planning and transportation.
NATURE — The public is invited to join a wildlfie biologist and a lepidopterist for day of learning about butterflies in Northeast Washington on Saturday.
As part of National Pollinator Week, the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting the North American Butterfly Association’s 38th annual Fourth of July Butterfly Count — on June 23.
The group will meet at the refuge headquarters at 8:45 a.m. Saturday and start the count at 9 a.m.
Plan to spend the day in the field.
A$3 participant fee helps offset the program and printing costs.
In the event of inclement weather the count may be postponed.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Red squirrels provide year-round entertainment for Tina and Judge Wynecoop of Colbert. But when they started affecting the gas mileage of their vehicle, something had to be done.
“Our Toyota 4 Runner did not have much get up and go on its 12 mile trip to town,” Tina said, indicating how they began troubleshooting one of their more unusual wildlife encounters.
“Judge checked under the hood and found a pine cone. When he opened the air filter case he discovered a family of five baby red squirrels in a nest composed of the air filter, the insulation from an old coat and grasses.”
They drove a short way to a Toyota dealer to purchase and install a new filter. The old filter was removed with the baby squirrels snug in their nest.
“The check engine light remained on as we returned home, where the mom was waiting,” Tina recalled. “She checked out her babies; she bumped up against our legs; she sniffed the air filter contents, examined the spot in the Toyota where she thought she had left her babies, and then carried her children off, one by one, and put them in a safe place under the garage rafters.
“A short while later she moved them a very far distance to our barn and made an obscene gesture at the 4 Runner.”
Wynecoop's photos tell the story.
PREDATORS — Despite a long sport hunting seasons and lethal measures to control wolves bothering livestock, Montana's wolf population continued to grow in the past two years while big-game herds in many areas are taking a beating.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are holding meetings around the state before moving ahead with wolf management. One of the proposals includes trapping, which proved to be effective in Idaho when authorized last year.
Perhaps the most surprising development: The meeting that brought a wide range of public opinion together in Kalispell — was civil.
Read the story and update on the situation from the Flathead Beacon.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Ospreys nesting above War Memorial Field in Sandpoint hatched their first chick Monday, and a web cam is giving viewers an up-close and personal view as the adults feed the bird.
The emergence of another chick could happen any day — or hour.
The first chick to hatch was being fed this morning around 9 a.m. The camera is positioned perfectly to see the action as though you were in the nest.
With a web cam fixed above the nest platform, the public was able to watch the ospreys arrive on April 10 to begin building their nest and go through courtship.
In late April, the camera caught skirmishes between the pair that adopted this nest and a second osprey pair that was attempting to hijack the nest. (The field on Lake Pend Oreille has two osprey nests.)
The Sandpoint Osprey Cam is a collaboration of the City of Sandpoint and Sandpoint Online with corporate support by Avista and Northland Communications. Consulting biologist is Jane Fink of Birds of Prey Northwest. Moving the nest and puting up the web cam was no easy task. Read about the project.
The Sandpoint Online web page includes a chat feature for osprey watchers to trade observations, plus Fink is providing an interpretive blog.
The number of daily page views grew into the thousands on May 7, when the female osprey laid the pair's first egg at 12:48 p.m. (above left). That egg hatched on June 18. The second should hatch any hour or day.
The parents will be feeding fish to the birds every few hours for weeks. Enjoy the show.
WILDLIFE — A sportsman's recent heartbreaking video of elk hobbling painfully on sore hooves is bringing more attention to problems with hoof rot in the Mount St. Helens herd.
KING 5 TV recently aired footage compiled by West Side sportsman Bill Jones, who's hunted the region most of his life.
“My hands were shaking so bad I could hardly hold the camera,” said Jones, who said he was nearly brought to tears by the sight and he scouted the mountains recently with his video camera along. “Everyone I saw had it.”
Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials have been looking into the disease for years. They say they've been seeking help internationally. But even if they found a cure, treating a herd in the dense mountains would be virtually impossible.
Anyone who sees the footage at least can join the hope that something eventually can be done for elk, young and old, that limp around in pain as though they're walking on fire.
PARKS — Every division of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing a 5.5% budget reduction in 2013 as the city seeks to trim the department's budget by $1 million.
Park departments include Riverfront Park, Park Operations, Planning, Administration, Budget/Finance, Marketing, Youth Centers, Youth Camps, Outdoor Programs, Corbin Art Center, General Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, Aquatics, Sports and Sports Facilities.
Officials have scheduled three meetings to gather public input on how to maintain services while budget shortfalls are addressed.
The public meetings are 6 p.m.-8 p.m. as follows:
Comments also can be emailed to Parks@spokanecity.org.
HUNTING — Idaho will be keeping big tame hunters in suspense for a while.
Results of special drawings for big-game controlled hunt tags will be available in early July on the Idaho Fish and Game Department drawings web page.
Postcards will be mailed to successful applicants by July 10.
Ultimately, hunters must bear the responsibility to determine whether they've been drawn, state officials say.
Unsuccessful applicants will not be notified.
Winners must buy controlled hunt tags by August 1; any tags not purchased by that date will be forfeit.
Unclaimed and leftover tags from the first drawing will be available in a second application period Aug. 5-15.
After the second drawing, any tags left over are sold over the counter.
Washington already has conducted its special hunt drawings.
WILDLIFE - Critters that spread pollen are nothing to sneeze at. The birds and the bees as well as the bats, butterflies, beetles and other insects that do this thankless work are a cornerstone to agriculture and more.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working this week — National Pollinator Week — to highlight the crucial importance of pollinators as well as to remind us that some of these critical species are in trouble.
“Without pollinators, life on Earth would be scarcely recognizable,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “We depend on these amazing insects and animals for the clothes we wear, the houses we live in and the food we eat.”
Pollinators are essential to agriculture and forestry, pollinating more than 150 different kinds of fruits, vegetables and nuts that provide a third of the nation’s food and beverages. In the United States alone, pollinators enable people to produce about $20 billion worth of products every year.
In addition, more than 75 percent of flowering plants are animal pollinated. These plants provide habitat, food, and shelter for many species of wildlife. Most plants need pollinators to reproduce, and use nectar to attract them.
Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators.
A study of the status of pollinators in North America by the National Academy of Sciences found that populations of honey bees (which are not native to North America) and some wild pollinators are declining. Declines in pollinators may be a result of habitat loss and degradation, and disease (introduced parasites and pathogens).
Bats also are suffering huge losses from deaths caused by white-nose syndrome.
You can help pollinators by:
Download an ecoregional guide to determine the kinds of pollinator-friendly plants you can plant in your area.
FISHING — Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson could have written all fly fishers an announcement that it's time to come to Montana.
Instead, he sent this photo of a salmon fly, looking like the cover photo on a gourmet food magazine for trout.
STATE PARKS — Special activities at five venues are scheduled Sunday, (June 24), 10 a.m.-3 p.m., to introduce the public to features and recreation available in Riverside State Park on the west side of Spokane.
The required Discover Pass will be available for purchase from staff and volunteers. Venues include:
Bowl and Pitcher Area, 4427 North Aubrey L. White Parkway – Hiking and biking information; a free beginner orienteering course; displays, wildlife presentations and children’s activities.
Nine Mile Recreation Area, 11226 West Charles Rd – Canoeing and kayaking activities with boats for loan, boating safety expert, bass and fly fishing info, Lake Spokane presentations.
Equestrian Area, Aubrey L. White Parkway off Government Way – Tour riding trails and new campground facilities; free pony rides for kids under 75 pounds.
Spokane House Interpretive Center, off Highway 291 just west of Nine Mile Dam – Indoor and outdoor museum exhibits and demonstrations about the early fur trade.
Off-Road Vehicle Area, 9412 N. Inland Road – All-terrain vehicle test drives, ride-alongs with expert ORV drivers and displays featuring ORV gear.
More information: riversidestatepark.org.
BIRDWATCHING — Janet Swinton of the South Side of Spokane enjoyed a rare birdwatching experience today — from the comfort of her third-story bedroom window.
This barn owl was perched on a tree in her yard early in the morning and was still there in the evening.
“Other birds are pretty flustered by his presence,” she said.
Owls of the year fledged weeks ago, so this could be a juvenile looking for its own territory.
Time will only tell if there's one less free-roaming neighborhood cat by morning.
TRAILS — The hiking-biking-running trails blow High Drive on the South Hill Bluff are a wonder of volunteer enterprise, but somebody's going too far.
A steep, unsustainable trail apparently built for a downhill mountain biking course, is eroding at the bottom of the bluff toward Hangman Creek. City Parks officials are coordinating with the Friends of the Bluff group to decommission the ill-advised trail and stop the damage.
“Friends of the Bluff promotes a coordinated approach to trail maintenance that takes into consideration the fragility of the landscape and multi-use needs of the Bluff users,” said group coordinator Diana Roberts.
“City of Spokane Parks and Rec has asked us to help them decommission (cover over) this trail. A good group of about 20 people can accomplish this in a couple of hours.
Please come out to help on Thursday (June 21) at 6 p.m.
Please sign up by email, email@example.com , for information about Friends of the Bluff and directions to the meeting place.
COMMERCIAL FISHING — If you don't have a way to catch your own salmon with hook and line, the Columbia River Treaty Tribes are out to fill the voide.
Members of the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama, and Nez Perce tribes have begun their summer commercial fishery and direct-to-public sales. The commercial sales of fresh, locally caught summer chinook, sockeye and steelhead opened at 6 a.m. today and will run until further notice.
Tribal commercial fishermen sell their catch at various locations along the Columbia River including Marine Park at Cascade Locks, Lone Pine at The Dalles, and the boat launch near Roosevelt, Wash.
“We are seeing record returns of sockeye to the Columbia Basin and the tribes are able to provide this top-quality product while they support their families and local economies,” said Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Forecasts for a record return of sockeye are in the process of being fulfilled as a one-day record 15,633 “reds” crossed Bonneville Dam yesterday.
Fish managers have forecast a run of 460,000 sockeye, the largest return since 1938 when Bonneville Dam was constructed.
Tribal fishers expect to harvest just more than 32,000 sockeye.
Read on for more details on the sockeye as well as the summer chinook fishery.
RIVERS — Anglers would like to seek the region's rivers calm down a little more, but paddlers are enjoying their “extended season” as cool wet weather prolongs the spring runoff.
“Marble Creek is still at a fairly high level,” said Todd Hoffman as he posted the photo above after his weekend trip to kayak the St. Joe River tributary. “Unbelievable for this late in the season.”
HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game is taking applications for a drawing for 11 leftover moose controlled hunt tags.
The application period runs through June 25. Any tags left over from this drawing will be available first-come first-served beginning July 10.
Read on for a list of the tags.
POACHING – An online auction of confiscated big-game antlers that concluded last week netted the state $21,300 earmarked for anti-poaching enforcement.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department sold 1,725 pounds of moose, elk and deer antlers that had been seized from poachers.
Money from the auction will be used to for forensic work and to pay rewards to people who report poaching violatons, officials said.
OUTDOOR NEIGHBORHOODS — Celebrate Summer Solstice where motor vehicles will be out and kids and their families will rule the streets in the Comsock-Manito Neighborhoods Wednesday (June 20) 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
The second of two Summer Parkways events will bring a celebration to the streets as traffic is closed off to allow families to bike, hike, dance, skate and enjoy the streets for three hours.
See a map of the traffic-free route in the Comstock/Manito Neighborhood.
I mean, who would believe anything in the New York Times.
Maybe there's no involvement with the giant agribusiness and the silence on the research by Idaho politicians who've married into the Simplot family.
But this special video report by Jon Stewart's reporter Aasif Mandvi on The Daily Show last night sure makes an angler think about the possibilities, and have a good laugh about how things operate.
Mutated fish: another good reason for catch-and-release.
Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.
MOUNTAINEERING — The solo climber who died early Thursday after falling about 1,000 feet on the south side of Mount Hood was an experienced mountaineer from Portland, a Clackamas County sheriff’s officer said.
Mark Cartier, 56, fell from close to the 10,000-foot level, landing on the west side of an area known as the Hogsback near Crater Rock, Sgt. Adam Phillips said in a story on the Associated Press wire.
Cartier “was described as an extremely experienced mountaineer and rock climber,” Phillips said.
He had been on a standard climbing route. Other climbers who saw him fall alerted authorities.
In a statement, Cartier’s wife, Deb Weekley, said her husband was a past member of Timberline Mountain Guides who “always exemplified the description of preparedness and calculated risk” and used Mount Hood “as his special playground.”
“He climbed the mountain as he has done hundreds of times before,” she said. “The only thing different this time was that he didn’t call me saying he had made it down.”
Cartier had climbed mountains in Oregon, California, Alaska, Europe and the Himalayas, his wife said.
Cartier was a close friend of many members in Portland Mountain Rescue, said volunteer Rocky Henderson, who had crossed paths with him many times before and was with the group that helped extricate his body.
Read on for more details from the Oregonian and AP.
OUTBOUND – Spokane hiker-biker Derrick Knowles is proposing formal adoption of a 1,500-mile trail linking routes in a loop through prized wild areas of Washington, Idaho and Montana.
The Inland Northwest Trail would range from the Selkirk Mountains to Hells Canyon and lead through six national forests and at least four wilderness areas.
It would include the Spokane River Centennial Trail and Columbia Plateau Trail as well as scenic trails along the St. Joe and Selway rivers.
Knowles says the route, which he’s been researching the route since 2007, would require about four months to complete, but could be done in segments.
Details on the route will be presented Monday, 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear corporate office, 6021 Mansfield in Spokane Valley.
RIVERS — You don't have to wonder what it like rafting the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers this week.
Local adventurer Tanner Grant has put together a nice 12-minute video — rapids are labeled in the flick — made with his Go-Pro cam as he ran the river last weekend.
His group put in at Minam at 5,000 cfs and took out at Troy at 4,600 cfs.
The river was running at perfect rafting flows, he said.
TRAILS – Recent wet weather has delayed construction of a parking area to the Big Rock Conservation Area off Stevens Creek Road.
Spokane County Parks and Recreation Paul Knowles said the ground is so soggy, work probably won’t start until around July 2.
Visitors planning to hike into the Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area near Tower Mountain are advised to use the Iller Creek Conservation Area trailhead.
RESORTS — The snow has finally melted and the Silver Mountain gondola is scheduled to reopen Saturday (June 16) to transport hikers, bikers and other visitors who want to enjoy the mountain trails and scenery.
“Summer is a fantastic time to visit Silver Mountain Resort,” said John Williams, director of marketing. “This summer we’re anticipating the 2 millionth rider on North America’s longest gondola since it opened in 1990.”
The gondola will be operating weekends only until July at which time it will be running four days a week (Friday through Monday) until Labor Day.
Father's Day incentive: Dads ride the gondola free this Sunday when accompanied by one or more of their children.
Other incentives: “BARK n’ BREW“ festival in the gondola village Sunday, noon-7 p.m.
Mountain bikers will find more than 30 miles of biking trails that meander down the mountain to the town of Kellogg. New beginner and intermediate trails have been developed.
WILDLIFE – A girl struck by a small rattlesnake in the Dishman Hills Natural Area required three days of hospital care despite getting to Valley Hospital for treatment within 40 minutes.
The 17 year old girl stepped off the trail while hiking with a friend in the northeast corner of the Valley natural area near 8th Avenue on June 1 and thought she was stung on the ankle by a bee.
Her father said she had no warning — perhaps she stepped on its tail — and that it wasn't until after it struck that the small snake crawled a few feet away rattling.
The snake was only 12-15 inches long. Experts say random rattlesnake bites are extremely rare. Most snake bites are the result of people trying to catch or handle the snake.
Doctors administered antivenin, but the swelling continued to get worse for 20 hours all the way up to her knee.
Doctors were at the brink of resorting to surgery to relieve the pressure when the swelling began to subside.
Two weeks later, her leg is almost normal.
Doctors gave the family this insight on rattlesnake bites during the treatment:
What the youths did correctly was to get to medical help as fast as possible, he said.
“Without quick treatment with antivenin, it could have been a lot worse.”
HUNTING — Most of the hunters who drew special big-game permits in the recent lottery conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife already are bragging and the rest of us are sick of them.
But just in case you haven't checked on whether you got a special tag for deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose or turkey, view your drawing results, view the results here. You'll need your WILD ID number.
Moose, mountain goat, and bighorn sheep permit winners will receive a postcard in the mail with instructions on submitting payment for your hunting license.
If you were selected for a deer, elk, or turkey permit, you will receive your permit(s) in the mail by mid-July.
WILDLIFE — The great outdoors is a giant nursery this month as critters large and small are hatching, birthing and raising their young.
Wildlife agencies in Washington, Idaho and Montana have been issuing reminders that in virtually all cases, its best to leave young wildlife alone if you stumble upon them even if they appear sick or in need of help.
First, facilities to take care of orphaned wildlife are limited and few survive reintroduction to the wild.
Just as important, what appears to be an orphaned animal usually is not. It’s natural for adult deer and elk to leave their young alone for extended periods of time while they are searching for food.
“Young animals picked up by people are often abandoned by adult animals once human scent is transferred to them,” according to the Montana Fish, Widlife and Parks website.
Leaving animals alone is the best way to ensure that young wildlife is raised as nature intended—in the wild. So just remember the mantra of wildlife experts: “If you care, leave them there.”
MOUNTAINEERING — A climber has died after falling about 1,000 feet on the south side of Mount Hood, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said today.
Sgt. Adam Phillips told the Oregonian no identification would be released until the body is recovered off the mountain.
Other climbers saw the man fall Thursday morning and alerted authorities.
Phillips says the body was found at 10,000 feet in a gully below Hogsback Ridge in an area near Crater Rock, according to a report moved by the Associated Press.
Zac Snow, a 27-year-old climber from Ashland, passed the area where the man fell. He told The Oregonian he couldn’t see the fallen climber but said it was pretty steep where the climber had been.
Good weather attracted dozens of climbers to the peak late Wednesday and early Thursday.
PARKS — Fewer people will be taking care of fish, wildlife and the land in Canada's Banff National Park this year.
Parks Canada has eliminated 49 vacant positions on top of other job losses in Banff National Park and employees are being warned not to publicly talk about the federal government’s budget cuts – or face disciplinary action.
That figure had not been previously publicly revealed, but the elimination of the 49 vacant positions is on top of 34 other “impacted” positions in the Banff field unit alone.
Read the Rocky Mountain Outlook story.
SALMON FISHING — Here's the latest word on the huge salmon runs forecast to run up the Columbia River this summer, just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Upper Columbia Summer Chinook
FISHING — a slight uptick in steelhead moving upstream over Bonneville Dam indicates good things to come into the Snake River next month.
NATIONAL PARKS — Logan Pass at the top of Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road likely will be open for vehicle traffic sometime next week, officials say.
A storm last weekend dumped another 10 inches of snow on the park high country prompting additional snow slides on the road and slowing the weeks-long operation.
Since Memorial Day Weekend, at least 35 inches of snow has fallen on the road at higher elevations.
Crews are working on the Big Drift, a 25-30 feet drift about a fourth of a mile east of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
In addition to all the snow removal, crews have to install hundreds of guard rails along the road.
Currently, 29 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open to vehicle travel. Visitors can drive 15.5 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side, and 13.5 miles from the St. Mary Entrance to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side.
Although park officials had hoped to open just before Father's Day weekend, opening the week after would still be much better than last year's late, late July 13 opening.
Hikers and bicyclists have access to more of the road than motor vehicles as plowing continues.
Click here for Current road status and where you can hike and bike on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Kit Price and Devils Elbow Campgrounds are temporarily closed to the public while construction crews work to improve the campground water systems and repave roads, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests announced today.
The popular campgrounds on the North Fork of the Cour d’Alene River about 40 miles north of I-90 at Kingston are scheduled to reopen in July.
Info: Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District: Fernan (208) 664-2318 or Smelterville (208) 783-2363.
FISHING – Williams Lake south of Cheney is getting spiced with a late plant of 365 triploid rainbows this week to help perk up the fishing for Father’s Day weekend.
Williams is among 14 lakes in the state getting supplemental hatchery plants for the weekend, said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Inland Fish Program manager.
The triploid trout are sterile rainbows that average one-and-a-half pounds each. Anglers say the fishing at Williams has continued to be good even without the extra fish.
The 5,000 trout being stocked across the state this week are in addition to about 42,000 triploids stocked in 117 lakes across the state earlier this year.
WILDLIFE — Results just received from a DNA test confirm a pup picked up outside Ketchum on May 25 is a wild wolf, Idaho Fish and Game officials say.
Out of town campers picked up what they thought was a lost domestic puppy outside Ketchum and took it to a vet clinic in town. Officials thought the male puppy looked like it might be a wolf.
Idaho Fish and Game looked for a wolf pack near where the pup was found, hoping to return the lost pup. But they could find no fresh sign of a pack in the area.
Zoo Boise agreed to take the pup temporarily and to help Fish and Game find it a permanent home. Zoo officials are compiling a list of facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that would be suitable for the pup.
The pup is gaining weight and his health is improving.
NEVERTHELESS, officials say it is best to leave young animals in the wild alone.
In the case of the pup, it is possible that the pack was moving with the pups – perhaps from a den to a rendezvous site – and may have been disturbed by traffic on the road.
TRAILS — Spokane County officials announced today they will begin addressing the issue of unleashed dogs — a long-simmering aggravation that's been been stoked in recent years by the purchase of county conservation lands, which many pet owners wrongly assume to be dog parks.
An emphasis patrol to enforce dog leash laws on 12,000 acres of Spokane County park and conservation lands is being launched later this week. The effort is fueled by a $140,000 grant.
Patrols are scheduled for six weeks. The funding also provides for additional patrols by off-duty County Sheriffs officers to deal with issues such as off-leash dogs, shooting and off-road vehicles through June 30, 2013, said Paul Knowles, Spokane Count Parks planner.
The project will start this weekend at Antoine Peak Conservation Area just north of East Valley High School.
Spokane County Park Ranger Bryant Robinson said dogs running off leash is the top complaint from the public, ahead of the No. 2 complaint of off-road vehicles going onto park land.
The breaking point may have come recently when Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard endured the abuse that's been fetching more and more complaints throughout the county.
During a commission briefing today, Richard said his dogs were attacked by three off-leash dogs and when he confronted the owner of the off-leash dogs, he was threatened himself.
“Some people don't take kindly to telling them how to manage their pets,” noted Nicole Montano, animal protection manager for SCRAPS.
S-R reporter Mike Prager was at the briefing and filed this detailed report on the enforcement effort.
Other emphasis patrols currently scheduled include:
During the leash emphasis, authorities will be issuing citations for other violations, including not having a license, which carries a $200 fine, or going onto park land with a motorized vehicle.
Violations of letting a dog run at large, failure to have a current rabies vaccination or having a threatening dog all carry $87 fines.
The $140,000 in funding is coming from a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office NOVA Education and Enforcement grant.
HUNTING — Washington has completed its drawing for 2012 deer, elk and moose permits. Individual results are available online.
Once again I was NOT SELECTED for any of the half dozen or so hunts I put in for.
What are the odds of that? Should I be surprised?
I'm canceling all plans for Vegas.
OUTPADDLE – Two new twists highlight the 2012 Spokane River Canoe Classic: a later date and a category for stand up paddle boards to go along with canoes and kayaks that run the river.
The annual event will launch a colorful flotilla in a mass start from Post Falls’ Corbin Park at 11 a.m. on June 30 – that’s two weeks later than normal to avoid high river flows that have forced Mountain Gear organizers to move the event to flatwater some years.
An added benefit: the weather and water will be warmer, said John Schwartz, Mountain Gear store manager.
Participants can enter the Citizens Division and paddle 7 miles to Harvard Road, or the Marathon Division to challenge Flora and Sullivan rapids on the 13-mile run to Plante’s Ferry Park.
Among the various categories for men and women in canoes or kayaks, is the slot for stand up paddle boards.
“SUP is the fastest growing part of paddle sports,” Schwartz said. “It needed to be included.”
Prize divisions include best costume, most swims, oldest boat, fastest and slowest participants.
Pre-register: Forms available at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division, or get details and download a registration form here.
FISHING — A mere ounce separated the top three rainbows caught Saturday in the first Sprague Lake Trout Derby.
Despite a nasty day of wind and rain, 202 anglers participated. Many anglers went home with fish, but the one with the largest trout also bagged prizes and gift cards totaling $500.
While KHQ TV weatherman Dave Law didn't win, he should at least get a prize for knowing how to present a 4-pound 5-ounce rainbow to the camera (above).
Meanwhile, the winners are pictured at left:
“We weighed in a lot of fish in the 4-pound range,” said Dave Broxson, derby organizer with the Sprague Lake User Group.
The wind was so bad on the 1,840-acre lake, the Sheriff's marine patrol pulled off the water at noon because they couldn't make any contacts with boaters on the lake, said Scott Haugen at Four Season's Campground Resort.
“But people just kept fishing,” he said, noting that he snapped Law's photo as the weatherman tied up his boat briefly at the resort docks as he fished up the lake. “Most of the rainbows were in the 3- to 4-pound range. I weighed in one over 5 pounds before the derby. I also had a fisherman who caught a largemouth bass over 17 inches long.”
“We had a wonderful turnout and hope it can get better next year,” Broxson said.
RIVERS — Starting July 10, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will charge $150 to process the state permit required for construction projects in and around state waters.
The permit, called a hydraulic project approval (HPA), has been issued to the public at no direct cost since 1943, when it was created by the state Legislature to ensure that projects such as bulkheads, culverts and dock construction meet state standards for fish and shellfish protection.
Good for the state to see the need to continue this oversight. For example, the city of Spokane is leaving consumers prey to unscrupulous businesses by eliminating the one-man local weights and measures department that helps assure gas pumps and scales are accurate. The city says it can't afford the luxury of oversight.
Because the state is willing to take the criticism of establishing a fee, fish and streams and the people who need them will be better served.
Read on for details about the WDFW hydraulics permit program and the need for the permit fee.
BACKPACKING — The U.S. Forest Service says it’s changing from a voluntary permit system to requiring permits in the popular Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in western Montana.
Wilderness rangers say a growing number of visitors to the area have been ignoring filling out voluntary permits and disregarding warnings about backcountry abuse.
Forest Service spokesman Brandan Schulze says the permits will give the agency an idea of trends in the area so actions can be taken to minimize impacts on the wilderness.
Schulze tells the Missoulian it’s also a way to inform visitors about leave-no-trace principles.
As part of the change rangers will start checking hikers for completed permits. Fines for failing to have a permit range up to $75.
FISHING – Everybody with a yen to go fishing benefits from a Fathers Day gift from the Montana legislature.
For the second year, Montanan is celebrating Father's Day by waiving the fishing license requirements on June 16 and 17.
All other fishing regulations apply.
The Colville Tribes’ “Wolf Trapping Team” has captured and collared two gray wolves in two days at a remote location on the Colville Reservation, Colville Business Council Chairman Michael O. Finley announced Friday.
WILDLIFE — Western Montana wildlife photographers Jaime and Lisa Johnson have been monitoring fox dens in their daily pursuit of outdoor images this spring. Here's a journal post from Jaime regarding their latest encounter with the new crop of red foxes.
Funny, last night we went for a drive to check on a few back country cameras. Lisa thought I put the camera in the truck; I thought she did.
So, after checking the back country motion cameras, we went for a drive to a few fox dens we know of. We realized there was no camera,
But still fun to see a fox.
Just before we got to the first den, papa fox ran across the road. He was on his was to find some food for the growing pups. When we got to the den, Mom was lying flat and pups were running and jumping all over the place. We watched for a while and then moved on to the next den.
When we arrived at that den, mom had three of the pups in a field about 50 yards from the den. It was a hunting lesson. The pups are growing fast!
So, tonight we headed to yet another active fox den we know of. We hiked out to the den (where we have been several times this year). The land owners have been really great to us letting us take pictures whenever we want. I’ve been there enough to have some of the traits of the pups memorized.
I switched it up and sat in a different place tonight hoping for a head-on shot (my favorite images of fox). After about 45 minutes, it worked like a charm.
I only took about a dozen images, but they are all different, sharp and head on! These guys are just about to leave home for hunting lessons – another week or so..
I love it when it works!
CONSERVATION – Duck Unlimited will hold its annual Guns, Gear and Beer fundraising event starting at 6 p.m. June 16 at The Condon Barn, 4801 S. Coleman Lane in Spoakne.
Cost: $40, includes steak dinner, beverages and DU Membership
Info: Dave Cote 939-5351; Mike Condon 995-0707.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Here's a glimpse of what was going last month on in dens scattered around the country in a small portion of the wolf's historic range.
In this case, a newly born Mexican crop of wolf pups is being raised in captivity to help revive the species in the southwest.
In this May 6, 2012 photo provided by the Wolf Conservation Center, a newborn Mexican wolf pup is shown at the Center’s facility in South Salem, N.Y.
The eight pups born at the preserve on May 6 could aid the federal program that has reintroduced the endangered species to the wild.
In 2011 it was believed that there were 50 Mexican wolves living wild in the United Sates.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fly fisher who accidentally spooked a cow and calf moose from their bed while moving through the brush along the Little North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River had a tense encounter for 20 minutes the other day.
He was able to get up the only tree in the clearing during her charge, although he broke his Sage rod in the process.
He called the S-R to warn other anglers to be aware that moose are especially protective at this time.
“She was taking no prisoners,” he said.
STATE PARKS — Should the State Parks system operate more like an enterprise-based hospitality industry, a public conservation asset based mostly on grant and tax funding – or perhaps a system of parks freely standing as community non-profit entities? What do people love about their park system, and what improvements need to be made?
Parks officials asked those questions at public meetings in Spokane last month as they gather info for big decisions to be made later. The statewide meetings are continuing this week in Western Washington.
People who love state parks should get involved now. Comments are being accepted online.
WILDLIFE — The Lands Council based in Spokane is getting more press about its efforts to reintroduce beavers in select areas to restore watersheds naturally.
One of the more intriguing tidbits in the story is the 1940s Idaho Fish and Game Department project to introduce beavers in remote areas — by parachute.
In the 1940s, Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game embarked on an effort both larger in scale and kookier in method. Finding long, dusty overland trips too hard on the beavers, the department instead packed pairs of the animals into crates, loaded them onto airplanes bound for drought-stricken corners of the state, and dropped them by parachute. (The crates were rigged to open on impact.) The endeavor was apparently a success: a 1950 report notes that of the 76 beavers airdropped in the fall of 1948, only one fell to its death; the others began building dams and homes and founding colonies, which can grow as large as a dozen or so beavers.
TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.
Idaho Conservation League
Info: ICL Sandpoint Office, (208) 265-9565.
FISHING — A prize totaling $500 awaits the angler who catches the biggest trout Saturday (June 9) during the first Sprague Lake Trout Derby.
Fishermen have boated some huge rainbows out of the 1,840-acre lake since it was rehabilitated in 2007. The derby gives them a chance to cash in on their luck.
It's scheduled for Washington's Free Fishing Weekend, so NO FISHING LICENSE IS REQUIRED.
And don't forget to fuel up at the Fishermen's Breakfast by the Sprague Volunteer Fire Department (details below).
Bonus: Nine rainbows were tagged and released in Sprague Lake in March as part of Cabela's “Wanna Catch a Million” fishing contest. Most of the bass state biologists caught while electroshocking to caputre the fish for tagging were in the no-kill slot size. So they chose to put all the tags allotted for Sprague Lake into rainbows.
All Sprague Lake Trout Derby participants will be eligible for prize drawings, and kids especially will have a chance to win fishing rods, said Dave Broxson, co-organizer.
The angler weighing in the second largest fish caught between 6 a.m. and the 6 p.m. weigh-in will win $100 in gift cards and merchandise provided by Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.
Third place gets goodies totaling $50.
Tickets will be available the day of the derby at the two resorts on the lake:
The Main Derby Station and weigh-in site will be situated just outside Sprague Lake Resort.
Both resorts offer camping, boat rentals, boat launching, docks and tackle.
To participate, anglers must purchase a derby ticket, $7 for adults, $5 for youths 16 and under.
Read on for more details about the derby and the Fishermen's Breakfast.
OFF-ROADING — The popular Fish Lake Trail #419, located 15 miles south of Hoodoo Pass, near the Idaho-Montana state line, has closed temporarily to motorized traffic, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest officials announced today.
Wet conditions forced the closure to prevent motor vehicles from causing damage to the trail and fragile high alpine meadows on the lake’s western edge.
Forest officials will reopen Trail #419 as soon as the waterlogged trail has dried out, firmed up and is once again suitable for recreational use.
For updates: Clearwater National Forest Information Desk, (208) 476-8267.
CONSERVATION — Local trail-user groups and conservationists are celebrating the major funding efforts of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program with a reception 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., TONIGHT (June 6) at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council Auditorium, 6116 N Market.
The state-funded organization works to leverage public funds for parks, wildlife and working farms, performing a major role in funding outdoor recreation across the state.
In the Spokane area alone, WWRP has provided more than $16 million for conservation and recreation projects. Ranging from the Little Spokane River, Quartz Mountain, Antoine Peak, Mount Spokane and the Centennial Trail, WWRP grants have helped maintain a high quality of life in this area.
OUTDOOR WEATHER — It's June 6, 2012, and the folks at Schwetizer Mountain Resort above Sandpoint are reporting … SNOW.
Check out the mountain's video weather report about a twist that's keeping huckleberry blossoms in their buds.
OUTDOOR SPORTS — Learn the basics of great outdoor activities this summer — sailing, kayaking, climbing, and stand-up paddleboarding— in reasonably priced skills clinics organized by Outdoor Pursuits of North Idaho College.
The clinics are being offered all summer at the NIC Beach on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Cool!
For a list of all the clinics, dates and registration info: Outdoor Pursuits registration: (208) 769-7809
Spokane-area fly fishers have lured the 2012 International Fly Fishing Fair to Spokane on July 12-14, offering a packed conference featuring fly tying and fly casting workshops, programs, expert speakers and a screening of flicks compiled from the International Fly Fishing Film Festival.
The event will be based out of the Spokane Convention Center, with many of the activities branching out to the Spokane River and beyond.
Pre-registration is open. Entry for daily events costs $5 but extra fees are charged for limited space in some of the workships, including fly fishing instruction especially for kids and a special session for women.
Check out the Fair website, their Facebook page and Twitter account, and pay extra special attention to the Fly Fishing Film Festival website so you can mark your calendar for this great part of the event.
Also, the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited is planning a benefit for Spokane River redband trout on July 12 featuring a lot of fishing talk plus local brews, wine and spirits fro Dry Fly Distillery. The event is set for July 12, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., at Rick Singer Photography, 415 1/2 W. Main. Info: 838-3333.
FISHING– Saturday is Free Fishing Day in Idaho and Washington will double the pleasure on both Saturday and Sunday — no fishing license required.
Idaho is organizing 11 clinics Saturday in the Panhandle geared to helping people try the sport, starting 7 a.m.-11 a.m. at Coeur d'Alene, Ponderosa Springs Golf Course.
Other Idaho clinics run 9 a.m. -noon at Bonners Ferry Snow Creek Pond, Calder Pond, Clark Fork Lodge, Enaville Steamboat Pond, Mullan Lucky Friday Pond, Post Falls Park Pond, Priest Lake Golf Course and Rathdrum City Park.
In Washington, a free Fishing Festival is geared to kids ages 14 and under on Saturday, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. at Lake Thomas, 25 miles east of Colville on Highway 20.
Sadly, the Fishing 101 Clinic for Adults organized by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department and the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council has been CANCELED for lack of sign-ups. Ths class would have been a screaming deal for people interested in learning how to fish, with an evening classroom session followed by a on-the water fishing session Saturday at Williams Lake, complete with a lesson on cooking the catch. Wow: Just $10 and they couldn't get more than 4 people to register.
go with the flow
RIVER RUNNING – If you want expert advice on the reliable periods to find sufficient flows in area whitewater rivers, check out the ROW Adventures trip schedule. After all, they’ve been rafting area rivers for more than three decades.
The regional snowpack was about 119 percent of normal last week and some drainages are even highter, said ROW founder Peter Grubb.
His crews plan to run:
Spokane River Bowl and Pitcher now through July 6 (they ended July 20 last year).
Moyie River now through around June 12.
St. Joe River, starting around June 14 through July 4.
Clark Fork River, starting around July 5 and running through summer.
Grubb said he moves the same crew of guides and equipment to each river as it becomes ripe for rafting.
“We call the crew our migrant wave farmers,” he said.
HUNTING — Ouch. The first week of June is prime time for the first hatch of pheasant chicks in southeastern Washington. Once again, it's being greeted by rain and cold weather, which is a sentence to death by hypothermia for the young birds.
Quail and pheasants have a built in response to nest again if their first brood fails.
Keep your fingers crossed.
FLY FISHING — Aquatic insects were oblivious to the Monday afternoon weather forecasts for severe thunder storms. The caddis hatch on the Spokane River downstream from Spokane's downtown was suffocating in some areas around 7 p.m.
At least two fly fishers were observed casting to the occasion.
PADDLING — The date for the Spokane River Canoe Classic is different this year — June 30 instead of Fathers Day weekend — to assure lower flows will keep the event on the river.
In some recent years, the Mountain Gear organizers have had to move the event to flatwater venues for safety reasons.
Get details and download a registration form for this fun event that appeals to racers and families, canoeists and kayakers alike.
Debuting this year is a new category for stand up paddle boards!
FALCONRY – Montana’s first nonresident falconry collection season has opened through March 31 when falconers can collect chicks from the nest. But the number of participants is strictly limited.
Montana approved the nonresident capture provision because some Montana falconers wanted reciprocity with other states.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks allows only one nonresident permit to collect a young falcon. Up to an additional five in-state licensed falconers are allowed to capture chicks.
Jay Sumner of the Montana Peregrine Institute says most falconers add to their flock by going to breeders of captive birds that have more popular varieties than the native Montana peregrines.
The state has about 90 licensed falconers, but only 40 actively fly birds.
OUTDOOR LEARNING – A pair of two-day survival courses, involving a classroom session and a field day, are being offered in July at Eastern Washington University.
The courses, Primitive Survival and Outdoor Survival Skills, each pack a weekend with instruction and practice at building survival shelters, lighting a fire in various conditions, purifying water and traveling using basic navigation techniques.
The courses, which are offered with or without college credic, will be taught by Paul Green, a former Air Force survival instructor and professor of outdoor recreation at EWU.
Registration is due by Friday.
HUNTING — A survey about elk hunting in Idaho is underway, with a random sample and an open online form. Essentially, the University of Idaho researchers are asking hunters what they like and don't like about elk hunting in the state.
Participants are being asked about their experiences hunting elk, and how they feel about Fish and Game restrictions on elk hunting.
The public input could be used by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which is revising its five-year elk management plan.
The questionnaire has been mailed to a random sample of 6,200 people who purchased elk general hunting tags in Idaho in 2011. But any interested persons can take the survey online.
The closing date is Friday, June 22.
ENDANGERED SPECIES – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has sped up plans to put radio collars on wolves in the Methow Valley after confirming last month the pack likely killed a calf – the first in the state to qualify for compensation.
Biologist Scott Becker has been stationed in Wenatchee and hired to work with wolves, according to the Wenatchee World. He’s begun efforts to trap the two known members of the Lookout Pack, said Eastern Region Director Steve Pozzanghera.
It’s the state’s first confirmed wolf pack in 70 years, and now deemed the first pack to have probably killed livestock in a May 19 attack on the Thurlow cattle ranch near Carlton.
Becker - formerly a wolf coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - and another biologist stationed in Spokane will try to trap and radio collar animals from all five known packs in the state. That will allow biologists to follow the packs’ movements and track breeding.
The wolves will be released in the same location as captured, Pozzanghera said, adding the agency hopes to work with the Thurlows and other ranchers to prevent further problems.
Read on for more details from the Wenatchee World.
OCEAN FISHING — There was no contest for last week’s Westport “Catch of the Week.”
Daryle Baker of Port Angeles landed a 117-pound halibut in the near-shore area off Westport on May 30, easily assuming the lead for the $1,000 biggest Halibut of the year prize from the Westport Charterboat Association.
The near-shore area continues to be open seven days a week until the poundage quota is met.
The early chinook season begins Saturday, June 9, for hatchery chinook only. The All Species Salmon season
WILDLIFE — Poachers are contributing to anti-poaching efforts as nearly a thousand antlers seized from wildlife cases over the last decade are being sold by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in an online auction that closes Tuesday (June 5).
At last check, the bid for a 6-point bull elk rack that started two weeks ago at under $30 was up to $227.50.
Items available during the auction include:
The auction, conducted by the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), will conclude the afternoon of June 5. Photos of the antlers and other information about the auction, including how to view the items in person, are available online.
Register here to participate in the online auction.
While this is a good opportunity for the public to obtain hard-to-get antlers, the auction also highlights poaching as a serious problem in Washington, said Mike Cenci, the agency's deputy chief of enforcement.
“Poachers steal directly from the citizens, and disadvantage hunters in Washington – the vast majority of which follow the law,” he said.
Many legal hunters wait years to draw a special permit allowing them to harvest trophy animals, said Cenci. “Ethical hunters’ chances of harvesting a trophy animal can be greatly reduced by poachers, especially those that kill multiple animals.”
WDFW’s Enforcement Program includes 134 Fish and Wildlife police officers stationed throughout Washington. However, WDFW still relies on tips from the public, Cenci said.
Report wildlife violation by phone (877) 933-9847), email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or text message (847411 TIP411).
Funds from the antler auction will be used in the fight against poaching, which includes paying rewards to people who report fish and wildlife violations that lead to a conviction, Cenci said.
The conference offers choices of daily field trips ranging from northern Pend Oreille County south into Whitman County.
See online details of speakers, field trips and conference registration.
Evening speakers include Jeff Kozma on the white-headed woodpecker and Michael Schroeder, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist and expert on the region’s mountain grouse.
FLY FISHING — As the story goes, stoneflies once were so prolific on the Spokane River the annual late spring “salmonfly” hatch would grease the city tracks and make the street trolleys slip.
We can only imagine what sort of frenzy such a prolific hatch of the huge, meaty insects would cause among the river's trout. Afterall, normally wary and sensible trout are affected by salmonflies much as men are altered by the presence of beer and boobs — they make them stupid.
I can't vouch for the salmonfly hatch of yesteryear, but I know that stoneflies are an indicator of river health. They don't do well in polluted waters, and they haven't been prolific in the Spokane River for decades.
But there are signs of hope, as Mike LaScuola shows with these photos.
“I found two of them in my radiation air sampling monitor on the roof of the Health District building, said the environmental specialist for the Spokane Regional Health District.
“I hope this is a good sign that the river is “cleaning up.”
WILDLIFE — Elk are in a big transition. They're shedding their thick insulating winter coats for the shinier, sleeker, more bug-proof summer coats, as you can see in this photo made last week by Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson.
Bulls are sprouting antlers, one of the fastest growing tissues found in mammnals. are shedding their winter coats.
And cow are in the process of dropping calves for the 2012 crop.
The Reel Paddling Film Festival is an international film tour presenting some of the world’s best whitewater, sea kayaking, canoeing, SUP and kayak fishing action and paddling lifestyle films of the year on screens in 100-plus cities across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe.
The World Tour includes the 10 festival category winners (see clips above) involving stand-up paddle surfing, hairy whitewater action, sea kayakers exploring remote coastlines, headwaters canoe expeditions, international river travel films, motivating environmental documentaries, grueling kayak fishing battles and hilarious short films capturing the lighter side of paddling life.
Local guides will be at the showing, gear and prizes will be awarded, including a paddle board and a Eureka Institute full-day kayak trip for a group of 10 on Lake Pend Oreille.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., shows at 7:30.
Advance tickets $12 at Eichardt’s, Evans Bros. & Outdoor Experience in Sandpoint.
Proceeds support the Eureka Institute’s Youth Recreation and Education Programs.
Read on for details about some of the top flicks in the tour.
WINTER SPORTS – Crystal Mountain Resort in the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park is operating this weekend, one of only seven ski resorts still open in North America.
Last year, conditions allowed the resort to set a record by staying open until July 16.
This year, the resort has pledge to open for skiing again next weekend, and possibly for more weekends as conditions allow.
Last weekend the resort had 50 inches of snow at the base and 115 inches on the summit.
The season snowfall total is 580 inches, down from last season’s record of 612 inches.
RESERVOIRS — The elevation of Lake Roosevelt was 1254.6 feet at 10 a.m. today.
The lake is continuing to fill. The predicted amount of rise is expected to be up to 1 foot a day over the next week. The level of the lake is expected to be in the 1265-1266 by the end of next week.
Daily lake level forecast by phone: (800) 824-4916.
Better yet, check out this new NOAA site with Roosevelt levels and a list of boat launching elevations on the same page.
FISHING — A jaw-dropping cutthroat trout caught by Matt Seaton this week, out with his brother — North Idaho fly-fishing guide Josh Seaton — is a reminder that Idaho's catch-and-release fishing rules have giant benefits.
A few groups, primarily in the Silver Valley and St. Maries areas, have been pressuring the Idaho Fish and Game Department to relax the catch-and-release rules enacted for the river a few years ago. Apparently they can't imagine catching a trophy like this and releasing it back into the river to live, spawn and perhaps be caught again by another lucky angler.
Research proves that few wild trout in Idaho streams would grow to large sizes if anglers were allowed to harvest the biggest fish every year. These findings are especially applicable to cutthroat trout, which have evolved to be rather unselective in what they strike in order to survive in their clean, relatively unfertile waters.
This wild fish, running at least 25 inches long, was caught on a large streamer a few days ago in a location the anglers are identifying only as in “the Couer d'Alene watershed.” Super. Great job, Matt and Josh. Thanks for giving the rest of us a chance to be thrilled by that wild hunk of Idaho.
And thanks to Idaho Fish and Game for standing tall against selfish people who essentially are promoting the elimination of this size of fish from North Idaho waters within a couple of years.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — A herd of Lincoln County bighorn sheep offered a convenient wildlife watching opportunity Sunday to people who live below Lincoln near Lake Roosevelt.
The state offers only one hunting permit a year for a ram from this herd, said Fish and Wildlife officer Curt Wood.
The landowners who shared the photo said this group of rams included 24 animals, about half young ones.
The ewes, of course, are out on their own delivering this year's new crop of wild sheep.
PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Get Outdoors Day on June 9.
The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012.
Offering free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been featured the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.