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Time has come to reserve cabins

Thu., Feb. 11, 2010

Here’s a wake-up call to trout anglers who’d like to take a shot at a few choice days of comfort and proximity:

It’s time to apply for summer dates at a popular Forest Service cabins conveniently situated on some of the region’s world-class trout streams.

Applications for staying at the Red Ives Cabin will be accepted by the St. Joe National Forest until the end of February. Selections will be made in a lottery drawing.

Last year, when the lottery for the cabin was introduced, more than 600 applications were received. Only 50 applicants were selected for the 2009 season, nearly all of them staying the maximum three nights.

The accommodations will be available for rent from Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 30. Maximum group size is eight. Cost is $60 a night – a higher rate than less-popular forest accommodations. No pets or RV camping are allowed at the site.

The “cabin” has the plushest accommodations for miles in the rugged mountains, with two bedrooms, kitchen, living room, flush-toilet bathroom and shower, propane cook stove and refrigerator, hot water, plus heat and lights powered by a generator.

However, cabin renters must bring their own drinking water, food, bedding and personal items. A campground host resides on-site.

The St. Joe River runs 133 miles from the Idaho-Montana border area in the Bitterroot Mountains to Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Red Ives Cabin is in the heart of the best fishing at elevation 3,711 feet nearly 90 miles upstream from St. Maries.

Just upstream from the cabin, a trail parallels a 17-mile roadless stretch of the National Wildlife and Scenic River.

While the limit for renting the Red Ives cabin is three days, many cabins or lookouts throughout the national forests can be rented for longer stays. And the odds of booking are much better.

Most other accommodations on the national forests remain on the National Reservation System, where people can make reservations up to 180 days in advance by phone or online.

Surveyors Ridge Lookout – a prime launch for hikes to the trout lakes in the Mallard-Larkins Pioneer Area in the St. Joe National Forest – is a notable example.

Scanning the National Reservation System Web site helps sort out the possibilities.

But only a fisherman, perhaps, would realize that the Liz Creek Cabin off the Lolo Motorway in the Clearwater National Forest is a fine base for hiking into backcountry trout fishing along Weitas Creek. The cabin is accessible by foot, bike or motorcycle.

Kelly Forks Cabin debuted last year on the rental list handled on the National Reservation System. As might be expected for a cabin in another prime fishing area, it is fully booked through the 180-day reservation window currently open for this spring and summer. However, the reservation windows still to open offer opportunities – first-come, first-served – for booking dates in the prime late-August through September period.

The cabin is on the North Fork Clearwater River and near Kelly Creek, both top cutthroat trout fishing streams in the Clearwater National Forest.

Hogback Homestead Cabin on Rock Creek in the Lolo National Forest east of Missoula is another regional example of a cabin on a fine trout stream that’s too popular for the national reservation system.

Applications for Hogback summer reservation requests must be postmarked to the Missoula Ranger District by March 1.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or e-mail

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