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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

BLM gating Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — Motor vehicles will be blocked from driving the Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague starting today,  U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say.

The annual summer closure begins when fire danger becomes high in the range land area south of Sprague, said Steve Smith, recreation manager for BLM's  Spokane District.

While the gate will be locked, hikers and mountain bikers are still free to travel on the roads and trails, he said. 

Note: Keep dogs on leash.  The area is a fairly reliable place to see rattlesnakes.

BLM opens Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — The gate has been opened temporarily at Escure Ranch to allow motor vehicles to drive the road less than three miles into Towell Falls, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Spokane office has announced. 

The 14,000-acre BLM Rock Creek Recreation Area site south of Sprague is the realm of hikers and mountain bikers for most of the year, but the road is opened to the scenic falls in the window between the winter and spring mud season and the fire-danger season, which starts sometime in June.

BLM spokesman Steve Smith said:

The Towell Falls gate is now open at BLM's Rock Creek Recreation Site, and that Towell Falls Road has been very recently mowed.  As usual, the gate will remain open until we decide there is too much risk of wildland fire ignition for vehicle travel to continue on that road.

BLM bars traffic to Towell Falls at Escure Ranch

PUBLIC LANDS — Increasing fire danger has prompted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to close Towell Falls Road in the Bureau of Land Management Spokane District’s Rock Creek management area to motorized traffic for the summer.

The Rock Creek management area, better known as Escure Ranch, is about 20 miles south of Sprague Washington in Whitman and Adams Counties.

The 3.2-mile dirt road into the Towell Falls area of Rock Creek remains open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers.

Info: (509) 536-1200.

Kayaker claims first descent of Towell Falls

PADDLING — Brian Jamieson claimed the first kayak descent of Towell Falls Saturday in the BLM's Rock Creek/Escure Ranch area 20 miles south of Sprague

The proof is captured here by photographer Michael Kinney (Tag Ur it Photography).

BLM reopens Rock Creek-Escure Ranch; seeks leads on vandalism

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been reopened after the agency repaired about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

Report any tips that might lead to the arrest of the vandals to the BLM Spokane District Office, 1103 N. Fancher Road, Spokane, Washington, or call (509) 536-1200.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch for about 70 years before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here, it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

Vandalism forces temporary closure of BLM’s Escure Ranch, Rock Creek

PUBLIC LANDS — A popular U.S. Bureau of Land Management recreation area about 20 miles south of Sprague has been closed as the agency repairs about $5,000 in damages caused by vandals.

The Rock Creek/Escure Ranch suffered damage to fences and other facilities in a crime spree that occurred around March 15, said BLM recreation planner Steve Smith. A toilet was damaged, bridge signs were ruined and two kiosks were knocked, including one built by an Eagle Scout.

The BLM has been investigating the incident and officials say repairs should be complete so the area can by reopened by the weekend.

The Rock Creek management area, which straddles the Adams-Whitman county line, includes about 13,000 acres of grassland, basalt cliffs and glacial potholes managed as a sheep and cattle ranch before being acquired in 1999 by the BLM.

The area is popular with springtime hikers and mountain bikers. A network of roads and trails lace rangeland, leading to Wall Lake, Perch Lake, and Turtle Lake, as well Towell Falls on Rock Creek (pictured above).

The road that leads three miles to Towell Falls is ideal for hiking and biking at this time of year, before the road is open to motorized vehicle traffic in mid-April until a summer fire-season closure.

Rock Creek opens to fishing on June 2. The lakes are open year-round.

IF YOU GO

Towell Falls are an enjoyable destination 6-mile round trip from the ranch recreation parking area on an old ranch road. Be ready for ticks and aware that rattlesnakes are around.

Directions: From I-90 at Sprague, go about 12 miles south on state Highway 23 and at a sharp left turn in the paved highway, turn right onto graveled Davis Road. Continue about 6.5 miles south, staying on Davis Road past the Revere habitat management area. Turn left onto Jordan-Knott Road, cross the bridge over Rock Creek and continue a little more than 3 miles to the Escure Ranch access road, well-marked on the right.

From here (when the closure is lifted) it's 2.5 miles in to the ranch houses and trailhead.

Snakes alive! Rattlers, bull snakes on local trails

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've had the pleasure of seeing snakes on at least a dozen of my area hikes in the last month. Most of them were large but harmless bull snakes — no rattles at the end of the tail — but three were rattlers, which also are mostly harmless unless you try to play with them.

I saw the bull snakes in Riverside State Park, the Centennial Trail, Little Spokane River, Fishtrap Lake and Hog Canyon Lake. 

I came across the rattlesnakes along the Snake River and at Steamboat Rock State Park. One rattler at Escure Ranch had been killed.   I prefer not to kill rattlesnakes.  While poisonous if provoked, they do far more good than harm.

Bull snakes, also known as gopher snakes, are among the largest and most often seen snakes in this area.  It's not unusual to see them sunning along the Centennial Trail, where I once saw a red-tailed hawk swoop down and fly away with a bull snake writhing it its talons.

An alarmed bull snake sometimes tries to take on a scary rattler persona by coiling and  vibrating its tail. It can even make a bit of a rattling sound without a rattle. And it's especially scary when it starts hissing.

Bull snakes and rattlers alike eat large numbers of rodents, although they also take a small toll on ducklings.

Escure Ranch, Rock Creek waterfall in top spring form

PUBLIC LANDS – This is prime time to visit the BLM’s Escure Ranch area south of Sprague. The scabland area is green, Rock Creek is flowing nicely over Towell Falls, wildflowers are blooming and the cheatgrass hasn’t turned brown and full of spears.

Read on for details from my weekend reconnaissance.