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Spokane River Canoe (and kayak) Classic June 30

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!

Reel Paddling Film Festival in Sandpoint June 9

PADDLING —Edited highlights of 27 films will be presented Saturday (June 9) during the 7th annual Reel Paddling Film Festival at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint, sponsored by the Eureka Institute

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.

Clinic teaches basics, safety of flatwater canoeing

PADDLING — The annual Flatwater Canoeing Clinic conducted by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club is set for May 20 at Medical Lake.

The clinic, for solo and tandem canoeists, covers strokes, equipment, safety and rescue, hypothermia, transporting canoes, launching and canoe trim and paddler position.

Cost: $55 per person, plus club membership.

Sign up: Diane Adams, coordinator for all club clinics, 448-9214, email dianecadams@asisna.com

Flatwater Clinic is a pre-requisite for the Moving Water Canoeing Clinic set for July 7-8.

A three-day Sea Kayaking Clinic will be offered July 19, 21 and 22.

Whitewater Kayaking Clinic is June 2-3.

Hot weather, cold water dangerous combo on area waters

RIVERS — Water in area rivers and lakes may look tempting during warmer weather forecast for the weekend, but experts say rivers and lakes remain deadly cold.

Cold water immersion can render a person helpless in minutes regardless of sunny skies and warm air temps. Hypothermia can kill you in a few minutes more.

Experienced paddlers wear wet suits or dry suits in cold waters and launch in groups to help each other out in case of unplanned swims.

At least five non-motorized boating fatalities have been recorded by Washington State Parks since March 17, the highest in any year since 2002.

On April 1, a Gonzaga University student died from hypothermia suffered after his kayak capsized in Rock Lake. One man is dead after being swept away in the Spokane River this month; a capsized canoeist remains missing.

Useful links:

REI prompts flurry of volunteer work at recreation area sites

Popular recreation sites around Spokane will be getting a major spring facelift this weekend from volunteer efforts supported by grants totaling $20,000 from Recreational Equipment, Inc.

Projects the Spokane outdoor equipment store is supporting in partnership with local groups include:

Centennial Trail, Saturday 9 a.m. – The 20th annual Unveil the Trail event, supported by a $5,000 REI grant to the Friends of the Centennial Trail, taps volunteer groups to spruce up sections of the 39-mile paved trail along the Spokane River. Preregister to join a group and get a free lunch, 624-7188.

Mirabeau Point boat access, Saturday, 9 a.m. – A $10,000 REI grant to the Spokane River Forum funded an overhaul of the Spokane River access for rafts, canoes and kayaks fall. Volunters plan to finish the work and prepare the area for hydroseeding, which is being funded by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Dishman Hills Natural Area, Sunday, 1 p.m. – Hundreds of volunteers already are signed up for the Earth Day work project to pick up litter, restore habitat, improve trails and other projects based out of Camp Caro in Spokane Valley.  The project is backed by a $5,000 grant to the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association. Preregister for t-shirt and food at www.rei.com/Spokane.

Canoe or kayak best way to see this waterfall

WATERFALLS — It's been a great, wet spring to experience the power waterfalls from the Spokane River in downtown Spokane to Palouse Falls near the Snake River and many more.

I've written about the some of the hiking possibilities for many of these falls, including those on BLM land at Hog Canyon (near Fishtrap Lake) and Rock Creek/Escure Ranch.

How about a canoe trip to visit the small but intimate Exley Falls at Horseshoe Lake in Pend Oreille County?

The lake's public access is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, so a Discover Pass is required, or the Vehicle Access Pass that comes with a hunting and fishing license.

Paddlers put odds in their favor BEFORE dumping on Hangman Creek

CANOEING — Despite the bad news recently about paddlers on the area's swollen waters, some canoeists and kayakers are enjoying the season safely.

Going with a group of people with comparable skills, knowing the weather forecast and having the right gear on your body and in the canoe or kayak can make a big difference.

A Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club group was on Hangman Creek Saturday after the river had come down from veryhigh flows the previous week. While rafters like higher flows in the upper river for their thrills, canoests generally look for flows in the neighborhood of 1200 cfs to avoid too much big water and still have enough to float without banging their boats on rocks.

“Saturday's flow was900-940 cfs, which was nice for our group,” said Dan Hansen.

“We ran into a kayaker who mentioned he would have liked bigger waves. I think it could have dropped another 100 cfs or so, and we still would have been happy.

“As it was, (Therese Wittman and I) took on a lot of water at the Big Rock Wave (in Vinegar Flats), bailed out the water, then went back to surf… that’s when we dumped my Dagger Legend.

“Luckily, I had bought a wetsuit … the day before our outing… the best $37 I’ve ever invested.

“I was also glad that I had an air bladder in the canoe (to make it easy to swim the boat to shore).”

Spokane pulmonologist, adventurer, Dick Byrd dies in Cuba

Dr. Richard Byrd, a Spokane pulmonary specialist and globetrotting adventurer, died on April 3 after suffering a blow to the head in a fall while hiking a rocky area on the coast of Cuba.

Byrd, 82, was traveling with his wife, Laurie, and a group led by National Geographic Expeditions. The adventure travel organization has clearance to lead Cuba cultural trips that include U.S. citizens, who are otherwise restricted from entering the nation.

Byrd was featured in a 2010 story in The Spokesman-Review for the inexhaustible energy that allowed him to continue a medical practice with the Rockwood Clinic while satisfying a world-class appetite for climbing mountains, paddling kayaks and hiking treacherous trails.

“The group was hiking and he was out in front, as usual,” Laurie said, describing his fatal accident. “He apparently slipped and hit his head. He never regained consciousness.”

She said she finds comfort in knowing he was out exploring new territories and doing what he loved.

“On the other hand, this was such an incredibly active and vital man who still saw patients – and he was gone in an instant. It takes some getting used to.”

Byrd, a former Air Force officer, launched most of his outdoor adventures after the age of 50. He was active in the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club and a veteran, along with Laurie, on wilderness trips in North America.

They paddled off the Galapagos Islands as well as northeastern Greenland, a trip that took 10 years to arrange with permission from the natives.

“It was worth it,” he said.

Byrd climbed peaks such as Kilimanjaro and hiked to the base camps of Mount Everest and K2.

He'd trekked in Nepal, India and Buton, an island in Indonesia. He’d canoed Alaska’s Noatak River into the Bering Sea, kayaked the Strait of Magellan in Chile and rode out 400 miles of whitewater in a canoe, along with Laurie, on the Nahanni River in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories. The Nahanni trip is epic in the paddling club’s history because the group nearly starved.

After trekking 200 miles across England, walking an average of 20 miles each day, Byrd wondered if he was in good enough shape to run a marathon. He proved he could by finishing the Portland Marathon, just before he turned 80.

Byrd’s ashes returned the United States with his wife. The family is planning a memorial on April 27, 11 a.m., at Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church.

Paddlers have eye on surging Hangman Creek

PADDLING — Spokane paddler and guidebook author Dan Hansen couldn't find a scouting report for a stretch of Hangman Creek at high water, so he set out by foot to find out for himself.

Hansen hiked the 10-mile stretch from the Qualchan Historical Monument site downstream to Valley Chapel Road and found excellent paddling water — with a few big rapids to be aware of — at a flow of about 1,000 cubic feet per second.

“At many times of year, Hangman Creek generally flows at less than 200 cubic feet per second. But rain on snow can make the water spike, presenting an opportunity for paddlers,” Hansen said.
A rain-on-snow event can cause the creek's flow to more than double in 24 hours. It might be 4,000 cfs one day and dropping quickly two days later. And within a few days, the rush is over.

See Dan Hansen's Facebook page video report of Hangman Creek at 1,000 cfs.

Note:  Hansen previously reported that he floated the river at 3,500 cfs. Here's his retraction of that initial report:

“A group of us ran that section of the creek after I sent that…. It was 1,000 CFS, and it was actually just about perfect. I remember thinking at the time that my initial assessment of the creek was wrong. I’d be scared to death to run it at 3,500.”

This week: On Tuesday, Hangman Creek peaked at almost 3,500 cfs. It's down to 1,700 today but likely will go back up considering the amount of rain in the weather forecast.

Directions to Qualchan Historial Monument:

Drive south from Spokane to Waverly, which is just southwest of Fairfield. From the main street tavern, go north and west on Spangle/Waverly Road 5.5 miles. Turn right and follow North Kentuck Trails Road just over 2 miles to Hangman Creek. Cross the bridge and start looking for the small monument on the left.

Loal paddler presents program on Bowron Lakes

PADDLING  – Dwight McCain of the Coeur d’Alene Canoe and Kayak Club will present a free program on paddling the 72-mile Bowron Lakes circuit in the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia on Monday (March 26), 7 p.m., at Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Video: American Whitewater makes case for its cause

RIVERS — American Whitewater, a national river and river running advocacy group, needs support to continue standing up for free-flowing rivers that are always under pressure for water demands.

Last year, the group had a voice in taking down a few dams, protecting flows in rivers and representing paddler interests.

Since 2005, American Whitewater has been involved in the removal of 14 old and uneconomical hydropower dams, restored flows and improved access to 25 significant whitewater runs and supported designation of 1,118.75 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. I

See a video report on the group's latest projects on this  highlight reel.

Join American Whitewater here or call (866) 262-8429.

Sandpoint paddler’s program crosses North America

PADDLING — Paddling Across the Continent, a free program set for Monday (Jan. 23), documents a series of trips spanning eight years by Bob Rust of Sandpoint and a group of Inland Northwest companions who kayaked, canoed and hiked across North America.

I detailed the journey in this 2008 Spokesman-Review feature story.

Rust paddled 2,900 miles from Astoria, Ore., to York Factory on the shore of Hudson Bay, following the overland and paddle routes of David Thompson, fur trader and cartographer.

The free program sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club starts at 7 p.m. Monday at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.

Spokane Parks looking for outdoor trip assistants

OUTDOOR RECREATION —  The Spokane Parks & Recreation Department's Outdoors Program is looking for outdoors lovers who would make good outdoor trip assistants for the great outings featured in the Outdoor program guide.

The main benefit:  Cool group outdoor trips at no cost.   Here's the job description:

In this volunteer position, you will learn to facilitate a safe and fun outdoor adventure such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and bike tours.
Trip Assistants receive free training and discount outdoor merchandise!
To get started on this adventure, contact volunteer coordinator Catherine Lyle, 625-6216 or email clyle@spokanecity.org.
  • See more info on the Outdoors Program volunteer website.
  • See the Outdoor Trip Assistant description here.

Applications start today for floating Montana’s Smith River

RIVER RUNNING — Applications for permits to float Montana's popular Smith River this spring and summer are available starting today.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will accept applications for permits to float the Smith River State Park and River Corridor through Feb. 15, and Smith River Super Permit lottery chances will also be available starting today, with chances sold through March 15.

Here's a more detailed story on the applications from The Billings Gazette.

Here's a link on floating the Smith River from the Montana FWP website.

Here are photos and the story I wrote after floating and fishing the river — an experience that should be on every floater-flyfisher's bucket list.

Waterfowler’s best friend: Labs don’t balk at winter retrieves

WATERFOWLING — Tank, a bruiser black Lab, races back with a mallard drake before the ripples smooth out in the decoys on the Pend Oreille River Saturday.

Temperatures in the teens didn't even nick the the dog's enthusiam for rounding up all the ducks and geese Kent Contreras could bring down from his Avery Outdoors layout blind. 

After every retrieve he returned, settled down steady by Contreras and looked out as if to say, “Bring it on.”

Very cool.

The original plan was to hunt a slough that had been luring ducks by the hundreds. But the cold temps sealed the slough in ice, forcing the Newport-area pair to hunt the open water of the river.

Paddling, cycling programs presented by local adventurers

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — I'm having a difficult time deciding which of these free programs I'll check out on Monday evening:

 Bicycling under the Midnight Sun on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, program by Chuck and Wendy Huber for the Spokane Mountaineers, Monday, 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Canoeing the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories, a video look back at an epic 360-mile club trip in one of North America’s more remote waterways, by Dick and Kathy Spencer for the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, 7 p.m., at Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

Waterfowling by canoe is budget hunter’s dream trip

HUNTING — John Roland retrieves my duck while we were waterfowling by canoe today. 

Who needs a dog?

Best of all, after the hunt I sent him back to his master and let her feed him.

Paddler program features trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River

CANOEING/KAYAKING – Long-distance paddler Jim Payne will give a presentation on his trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River to the Gulf of Mexico on Monday Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

The free program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club .

A clear vision for the future of paddling

CANOEING — Finally, we're getting transparency in the sports of canoeing and kayaking.

Denver based See Through Canoe offers the clear alternative to your canoeing and kayaking needs with the Transparent Canoe/Kayak.

Comprised of transparent Lexan the Transparent Canoe/Kayak from Denver, Colorado based See Through Canoe is 11 feet long, weighs 40 pounds and can carry two people snuggly.

The manufacturer says the Transparent Canoe uses the same clear polycarbonate used in jet-fighter cockpit canopies and is fastened to a lightweight anodized aluminum frame that helps keep the weight down.

Cost: $1,475 with two double-headed paddles, water bailer, and two polyurethane floatation bags. Bikini-clad model not included.

But you'll have no place to hide in this see-through canoe if you hit a rock and rip a hole in the bottom.

Meet local paddlers for feast, films, gear swap

CANOEING/KAYAKING – Get a flavor for the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club as members gather for the annual potluck, awards and gear swap plus a filmfest of videos from recent club trips.

The free event (bring a potluck dish) is Friday Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

Info:  Ken Stallman, 991-8494, goldcreekbuilding@comcast.net

Drawdowns begin at Inland Northwest reservoirs

LAKES — Avista Utilities and the Corps of Engineers are beginning fall drawdowns that change the look of the lakes and rivers downstream.

Lake Coeur d’Alene’s annual drawdown began Tuesday to gradually take the summer level of 2,128 feet down to 2,127 by the end of September. The winter level of 2,122 feet should be reached by the end of December.

Priest Lake’s drawdown begins in the middle of October, marking the unofficial beginning of the paddling season on the Priest River. Generally too low for canoes during the summer season, Priest River takes on new life as flows are increased.

Priest Lake is lowered relatively quickly by 3 feet to its winter level by early November.

Lake Pend Oreille’s slow drawdown is set to begin soon, but not until Idaho Fish and Game, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bonneville Power Administration meet this week to negotiate a target level. Idaho Fish and Game mainly is concerned about maintaining water levels for optimum kokanee spawning. 

Preliminary results from late summer surveys indicate the lake’s kokanee continue an encouraging recovery from their crash, officials said Friday.

Multi-sport race to debut at Plante’s Ferry

EVENTS — A new multi-sport race in the Spokane Valley will put three-person teams to the test of paddling on the Spokane River, mountain biking on Beacon Hill and running on the Centennial Trail.

The Plante’s Ferry Adventure Race is set for Sept. 18, sponsored by the Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association.

PFAR is open to teams of three or individuals. Participants must be age 14 or older. Categories include Youth (14-18),

Friends, Family, Ladies and Corporate. Cost: $99 per team or $49 individual.

Register and get more online.

Idaho’s invasive species sticker not transferrable from boat to boat

BOATING — Idaho’s $7 invasive species sticker, which is required on all boats and inflatables longer than 10 feet, cannot be transferred from one vessel to another, Idaho Parks and Recreation officials say.

A story in the Sunday Outdoors section (Aug. 7) suggested otherwise, noting that some boaters were laminating the stickers for more practical attachment such as a cord or zip tie, especially in the case of their rafts.

“Vendors that offer convenient solutions to affixing them to inflatable rafts with rope rigging are doing just that – providing a convenient solution to affixing them to a designated vessel,” said Jennifer Blazek, department spokeswoman in Boise.

But she advised, “The rules are still the rules. The sticker is non-transferrable.” Here's the Idaho Code to prove it.

She acknowledged that nothing on the sticker says it can’t be transferred, but said it’s stated in the rules.

Beyond that, she said the fee is for a good cause dear to the hearts of all boaters.

“Contributions to the Idaho Invasive Species Fund are put to service protecting our coveted waters from invasive species that can devastate a recreational hotspot in a year or less,” she said. “It’s an important program that should be taken seriously.”

Cast your opinion on Pend Oreille River Water Trail plan

BOATING — Officials pondering the Pend Oreille River Water Trail Concept Plan are seeking comments through the month in an online survey.

The plan would help develop and promote water access, activities and tourism on a 70-mile stretch of the river from the Newport area downstream to Boundary Dam.

The PORTA website  includes a summary of the plan along with an interesting map and description of the Water Trail. 

Public comments and suggestions about the project can be directed to Mike Lithgow, Pend Oreille County Community Development Department or Susan Harris, Executive Director, Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance (PORTA) until Sept. 1.

The Water Trail has been a three-year project. 

Agencies and organizations participating in the Water Trail development currently include the USFS, BLM, National Park Service, Towns of Newport, Cusick, Metaline and Metaline Falls, Ione, WDFW, DNR, PUD, Pend Oreille County Community Development Department, WSU Extension Office, Map Metrics, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Kalispel Natural Resources Department, SCL Boundary Dam Project, and Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance.

PDO Water Trail to be unveiled at open house

BOATING — Three years in the making, a Pend Oreille River Water Trail plan covering 70 miles of the river in northeastern Washington will be served up — along with snacks and beverages — at an open house meeting Thursday (Aug. 4), 5 p.m.-7 p.m., at the Camas Center, 1821 N. LeClerc Rd., northeast of Usk, Wash. (See map.)

This the plan focuses on the Pend Oreille County stretch of the river, including Z Canyon and Peewee Falls. The entire river is 130 miles long originating from Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho Panhandle flowing northwesterly — unusual for a major U.S. River — until it joins the Columbia River in southeastern British Columbia.  

Maps of the Water Trail will be on display and smaller maps will be shared.

Kayaks will be displayed by Bear Naked Adventures of Newport, Wash..

Other exhibitors include U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, PORTA, WSU Extension, Map Metrics, National Park Service, Kalispel Tribe and Pend Oreille PUD — all partners of interest to future Water Trail users.

The concept plan for the Pend Oreille River Water Trail will be available.

Take a survey during the August public comment period.

Info: Susan Harris of PORTA (509) 447-5286, email susan@porta-us.com.

New event gives kids a shot at the good kind of paddling

PADDLING — A boat-load of fun is awaiting youngsters during a new free event that will let them paddle canoes, whiewater kayaks, sea kayaks, invlatable kayaks — as well as the latest rage: stand-up paddle boards.

Paddle, Splash and Play is set for on July 30, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Nine Mile Recreation Area in Riverside State Park downstream from Nine Mile Dam.

The equipment and assistance in using the boats will be provided by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, Mountain Gear and Spokane Parks and Recreation.

Visitors who have their own life jackets are encouraged to bring them, as there could be a shortage at times on site.

CURIOUS about Stand Up Paddling?

The photo above shows Rob Casey, author of “ Stand Up Paddling: Flatwater to Surf and Rivers,” recently published by Mountaineers Books.

Pend Oreille Poker Paddle postponed

RIVER RUNNING — Due to high water and related health and safety issues, the 30th annual Pend Oreille County Poker Paddle has been rescheduled from July 16-17 to Aug. 27-28.

Info: Greater Newport Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau website.

Little Spokane River moves paddlers along

PADDLING — The Little Spokane River's flows are still unseasonably high, but they've dropped to a pleasant level.  I joined a group of canoeists Sunday at flows of 300 cfs and we effortlessly floated from St. George's School to the takeout near the confluence of the Spokane River in 2.5 hours — that includes a little slough exploring.

Some trees were down on the water, but we found big gaps and easy maneuvered past them.

Remember, Washington's new Discover Pass is required for parking at facilities along the Little Spokane River and other state park facilities.

The Little Spokane River is a natural area with additional rules beyond those at most state parks.

1. All use of the river must be by a device that keeps passengers out of the water. In other words, canoes, kayaks, and rafts are acceptable; inner-tubes, air mattresses, or swimming are not.

2. No alcoholic beverages are allowed on the Little Spokane.

3. Keep your pets elsewhere. They do not belong in the Little Spokane Natural Area.

4. Of course, please take home whatever you bring. Do not litter. Isn't that obvious?

5. Because it is a natural area, please do not disturb the wildlife in any way. Fishing is allowed (guess they aren't considered wildlife…) but not from shore.

6. Wear your personal floatation device at all times.

Don't have your own canoe or kayak? Here are sources for renting them:

  • Mountain Gear, 325-9000.
  • REI, 328-9900.
  • Riverside State Park, (509) 465-5064.

Royal honeymooners resort to paddling

CANOEING — Prince William and wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been muscling their way through the Prince Edward Island portion of their Royal Tour of Canada this week.

First they competed against each other in Dragonboat races, digging in with paddles in time with large teams of 15 other paddlers in 50-foot-long canoes.

Then they launched on a more peaceful a canoe tour with elder Francois Paulette, above left, from the Fort Smith area at Lake Blatchford, Canada, lodge on Tuesday.

Local paddlers offer canoe-kayak clinics

Sea kayaking, July 13 evening indoor class followed by July 16-17 session at Medical Lake, for beginners as well as seasoned paddlers.

Whitewater kayaking, July 16-17 on Spokane River.

• Cost for all clinics: $55 per person per class, plus $20 club membership.

• Preregistration required: Diane Adams, 448-9214 or email dianecadams@asisna.com