About 75 jetboat owners and whitewater rafters held an hourlong rally outside the Baker Ranger District office to protest new restrictions in Hells Canyon.
The protesters formed a caravan near the Baker County Fairgrounds around noon Friday and then drove through town to the office, towing about 15 jetboats and a few rubber rafts, most hung with protest signs.
The boaters were angry about a U.S. Forest Service plan that would, beginning next summer, limit jetboat use in Hells Canyon for the first time.
Particularly upsetting to the power boat enthusiasts are provisions that would limit jetboats on the 21-mile reach of the Snake River between the top of Wild Sheep Rapids and the upper landing at Kirkwood Ranch on Monday through Wednesday every other week from June 1 to Aug. 31.
“This is just like shutting off the highway,” said Edie Riddle, who with her husband, Norm, operates the Kirby Creek Lodge along that stretch of river.
“I think (the river) should be shared equally,” said Dick Sherwin of Clarkston, Wash., vice president of the Hells Canyon Alliance in Boise.
“I think those who don’t want to share it should be the first to go.”
But Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Supervisor Bob Richmond said the new rules also allow 50 percent more private jetboat launches than were made during 1996.
“There’s room to grow, particularly on the private powerboat side of the ledger,” Richmond said.
“We feel that what’s proposed, including the non-motorized period, is well within the scope of the law.”