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Rattlesnakes common in Selway drainage; why not Lochsa?

WILDLIFE — River rafters, hikers and hunters are keenly aware that rattlesnakes are common on portions of the Selway River.

But why are there virtually now rattlesnakes on the Lochsa River, which joins the Lochsa near Lowell, Idaho, to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River?

Eric Barker, outdoor writer for the Lewiston Tribune made a strike at answering that question in a recent story that pegged on the scene in a Norman Maclean story noting a rattle snake between Grave Peak and Elk Summit.

The Selway is lousy with rattlers and the snakes can be found at some unexpected places, said retired outfitter and packer Jim Renshaw of Kooskia, noting that he killed a rattlesnake on top of Fog Mountain at an elevation of  5,000-6,000 feet.

Chuck Peterson, a herpetologist at Idaho State University, told Barker that rattlers can be found at elevations that would surprise many people. He said it is possible they can survive at Elk Summit, which sits above 6,000 feet.

“Every now and then you get some snakes in some elevations you wouldn’t expect them,” he said. “I don’t know about up there but further south, I think the highest elevations (where rattlers have been found) are near 7,000 feet around Challis.”

Some rattlesnakes will climb a few thousand feet to hunt in the warm summer months, he said. But they generally can’t survive long term at such heights. The seasons there are too short for the females to build up enough energy reserves to reproduce.

“We found out in areas that have less than 58 frost-free days, that seems to be the cut off point.”

But aspect and exposure are important to consider. He said snakes can survive at higher elevations if they are on sun-rich southern exposures.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know why rattlers are in one spot and not another. The Lochsa and Selway rivers are a prime example. The Selway is known for its abundant rattlesnake population and the Lochsa is all but free of them.

Marty Smith of Three Rivers Rafting at Lowell has often wondered why. He has spent much of his life at Lowell where the two rivers join to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater. He’s never seen one on the Lochsa and has rarely seen them less than 10 miles from the mouth of the Selway.

But starting at the falls and proceeding up stream they are common in some. When Smith is on the river he thinks carefully about where he places his hands and feet. On the Lochsa, he is much more relaxed.

“I’m always surprised I have never ran across any on the Lochsa and on the Selway of course I have seen hundreds of them, if not thousands,” he said. “It’s the same terrain. You walk around on the (Lochsa’s) river bank on a pile of driftwood or bark and I always say, ‘I’m glad I’m not on the Selway right now or I’d be more on my toes, I would probably walk around that.’ ” 

In other words, nobody Barker contacted has yet figure out why rattlers draw the line at the Lochsa.

Huge discounts offered for whitewater rafting on Clark Fork, Lochsa

RIVER RUNNING — Two Inland Northwest rafting companies are offering huge discounts on classic whitewater day trips, with emphasis on families or groups.

Wiley E. Waters rafting company is offering a 50 percent GROUPON discount for a group of six on the popular Clark Fork Alberton Gorge route.

ROW Adventures is offering 2013 high school grads an 80 percent discount for whitewater rafting trips on the thrilling Lochsa River. That's just $20 bucks for one of the best whitewater rapid rushes in the country!

High School grads get 80 percent off on Lochsa whitewater rafting

RAFTING — Before you hit the cold, cruel world, high school graduates, hit face-first into some cold, thrilling whitwater with this screaming deal for a whitewater rafting trip.

ROW Adventures is offering 2013 high school grads an 80 percent discount for whitewater rafting trips on the thrilling Lochsa River. That's just $20 bucks for one of the best whitewater rapid rushes in the country!

  • Parents, siblings, guardians, and teachers may accompany a graduating senior on the trip at a 20 percent discount.

“The Lochsa River is considered the best whitewater on earth,” said ROW Marketing Director Brad Moss. “The students have worked hard, and now it’s time to play hard. Twenty mind-blowing miles of Class III-IV rapids are sure to provide some of the best memories of senior year.”

The Lochsa River delivers more than 40 major rapids as it runs from its headwaters in the Bitterroot Mountains to where it eventually meets up with the Selway and Clearwater rivers. Lochsa rafting features technical, fast and high volume water. This provides big hydraulics, dramatic waves, and paddler thrills. Accommodations are available at the nearby River Dance Lodge, with camping, glamping, and log cabin options.

The promotion is available on select days in June and July.

Info and booking: (866) 836-9340.

Idaho river runners enjoying good water year

WHITEWATER RIVERS — Rafters, catarafters, kayakers and surfers had thrills and a few spills and chills over Memorial Day Weekend at Lochsa Falls rapids on the Lochsa River, Idaho.

The snowpack forecast spells a great whitewater season for floaters in the Inland Northwest.

Read on for information on booking summer trips from the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Elk Foundation withdraws support for Lochas land swap

In the news:

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation withdraws support for Idaho land swap

— Lewiston Morning Tribune

The proposed land swap in Northern Idaho that would trade 18,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service lands in three forests in Idaho for 40,000 acres owned by Western Pacific Timber in the upper Lochsa River basin had the early support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, but the organization withdrew that support last week, citing concern of members and the expansion of the deal into elk habitat in Idaho County.

Few dispute the value of eliminating the checkerboard ownership in the upper Lochsa drainage to make it all managed by the national forests.   The issue is complicated by the other scattered lands the public would have to give up in the exchange.

See more details on the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange.

Read on for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News report on the RMEF backout.

Lochsa River boater access to be upgraded

RIVER RUNNING — The U.S. Forest Service is planning to upgrade facilities at four Lochsa River access points in the next year.

Site #1 Fish Creek Boat Launch:  Work includes addition of stairs on the north side of the existing launch. Stair shall be similar to existing south side stairs. Other work includes adjustment to the slide and replacement of several existing steps. Work includes building of new 27’ x 15’6” double unit changing room located adjacent to existing restrooms.

Site #2 Split Creek Stairs:  Work includes removing and replacing all steps for the existing access. New steps shall be 12’ wide and a railing shall be added on the up river side.

Site #3 Bald Mtn. Boat Launch:Work includes construction of a full boat launch with a slide and steps 8’ wide on each side.

Site #4 Knife Edge Changing Station:Work includes building of new 14’ x 15’6” single unit changing room located behind to existing restrooms.

Giant toilet paper spill finally cleared from Lochsa River along Highway 12

Here's a news item from the Associated Press and the Lewiston Tribune:  LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — State officials say cleanup crews are finally done removing massive rolls of unprocessed toilet paper that spilled off a truck and were lodged for weeks in the upper Lochsa River. Idaho Department of Environmental official John Cardwell says teams yanked out the final remnants of the rolls last weekend when lower river flows made the work more manageable. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/nbXqTf ) crews wrapped the rolls with a reinforced mesh before they were pulled out by a tow truck. Earlier attempts to pull out the paper was called off when the paper started disintegrating, creating an even bigger mess in the stream. The landed in the water after a truck hauling the load along U.S. Highway 12 slid into the river. The driver was cited for inattentive driving.

Toilet Paper, Court Clog Megaloads

This has not been a good week for the Lochsa River but it isn’t the familiar megaloads controversy that has grabbed the limelight. Officials are in the Kooskia area today trying to decide the best way to remove tons of unprocessed toilet paper that was dumped in the river when a semi-trailer overturned earlier this week. They are trying of finding a way to keep it from dissolving into a cloud of pulp that would clog the river in the height of whitewater season. Yes, a Montana judge has halted the shipments of giant loads of mining equipment bound for the tar sands region of northern Alberta. District Judge Ray Dayton’s order blocking the Montana Department of Transportation from transporting the loads Idaho courts allowed, presents Imperial Oil, a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, with an interesting decision/Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman. More here. (Lewiston Tribune/AP file photo/Barry Kough, of reduced megaload)

Question: Rocky sez ExxonMobile has a tough decision — modify megaloads or go back to court to fight Montana decision. What do you think the oil giant should do?

Another rafter dies on Lochsa River

RIVER RUNNING — The Idaho County sheriff's office says a Missoula man died Wednesday in a rafting accident on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Keegan Seth Ginther, 29, died after three or four people had been thrown from a raft around 2:30 p.m. CPR was performed on the river.

The accident reportedly happened in Lochsa Falls Rapid near milepost 112.5 off U.S. Highway 12.

The investigation revealed that Ginther was rafting with four friends from Missoula when the raft flipped in the Lochsa Falls Rapids and spilled all the occupants into the water.  Ginther was unable to get to shore and was swept downriver.  One of the rafters,  Bradley Applegate, 30, was able to get to shore and flagged down a passing vehicle to transport him down river where he pulled Ginther from the water. An EMT started CPR, the report said. 

All parties in the raft were wearing life jackets. 

This is the second drowning in the Lochsa this season and the third drowning in Idaho County in the past seven weeks. 

In addition to Wednesday's drowning, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, resident Randy Eroen drowned while kayaking on the Lochsa River May 28, and on May 11, Jerry Nelson of Kamiah drowned in Lolo Creek while trying to save his dog.

The river was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday - high for this time of year, but not an unusual flow for the early rafting season.

The Lochsa is well-known for its continuous string of class III and IV rapids.

Read on for the reaction of a Lochsa rafting outfitter as quoted in a Missoulian online report.

Rafters enjoy spring whitewater in summer warmth on Lochsa

RIVER RUNNING — Spring runoff on Idaho's Lochsa River attracts whitewater rafting enthusiasts from around the region regardless of the weather.

But this year's big snowpack and late runoff has created a rare and wonderful condition: Exhilarating spring whitewater flows in summer weather conditions.

No frost on the wetsuit!

The water is currently flowing at fast and fun levels like guests typically see in late May and early June and will continue to be great for another month," says Peter Grubb at ROW Adventures based in Coeur d'Alene.

"Normally the Lochsa gets low by early July, but not this year."

Grubb says this year is providing the best whitewater conditions in decades.

While it continues normal operations on many of the region's other rivers, ROW has extended its Lochsa River trips through July 17.

Dads get free ride this weekend on ROW rafting trips

RIVER RUNNING — Here's a last-minute deal dad will like better than a wet kiss.

ROW Adventures is offering a Father's Day weekend special:  bring two people at the regular rate and Dad goes free! Bring four people and  Mom or grandpa can go free, too.

Read on for the river choices — whitewater or not-so-whitewater:

Whitewater groups to meet for ‘megaloads’ update

RIVERS — Idaho Rivers United and other groups are organizing a party and meeting to address the 'megaloads' industrial trucking operations using Highway 12 and the Lochsa-Clearwater river corridor.

When: 5 p.m., June 18.
Where: The Syringa Cafe at the River Dance Lodge on the banks of the Clearwater River. Click here for driving directions.
Cost: Free, appetizers and a no-host beer and wine bar provided. (Dinner available at the café for an extra charge.)


Video: Helmet cam gets wet look at Lochsa rapids

RIVER RUNNING — Recently I posted a video of the thrills, spills and flips as rafters and catarafters crashed into Lochsa Falls on Memorial Day Weekend.  The video was shot from the roadside pull-out off U.S. Highway 12 among the gallery of people on hand to cheer at the carnage at the famous Idaho whitewater river.

For an on-the-water perspective of three major Lochsa River rapids, check out this helmet cam video by Tony McDonald of Meridian, Idaho. He shot the rapids and the footage on May 14 with the water level at 6.5 feet at Lowell Bridge. 

If you've see the Memorial Day video, you'll know why McDonald "skirted" Lochsa Falls — and why he was on hand to rescue the hapless chaps who didn't. 

Rafting company lets you tap the season’s whitewater

RAFTING — Snowpack in the mountains is at recordlevels and rivers will be running at great levels long into the summer. Peter Grubb at ROW Adventures in Coeur d'Alene says this will be a fantastic season to book a whitewater rafting trip

Here are some world-class rivers ROW runs in our backyard:

Lochsa - The nation's best whitewater ride, ROW will run to July 15th at least.  The water will be as high June 30 as it often is June 5 the way things are going.  ROW offers  "Whitewater Rush" packages that include cabin accommodations at River Dance Lodge and all meals.

Moyie - Season extended through June 13 and may go even longer.  This raft-bashing wild ride of continuous whitewater through a cedar forest is a ROW favorite.

St. Joe - For a galloping cascade of fun rapids, ROW launches 80 miles upriver of St. Maries, Idaho ,(meeting you in St. Regis, Montana) and paddles through raft-tossing waves and holes at Tumbledown Falls, Endless Ecstasy and many more.

Spokane - Want a quick escape? Join ROW for Happy Hour Rafting & Wildlife trips every Thursday and Friday at 4:30 pm and enjoy the long days of June and early July on this 12-mile rafting trip. ROW also has daily departures in the morning and/or afternoon depending on the day. 

The Spokane quickly whisks boaters from downtown into it's own special wildness as we float through Riverside State Park, the Bowl & Pitcher and Devil's Toenail.

Special Offer- Raft the Lochsa, Moyie or St. Joe and add a Spokane River trip later in the season and take $22 off the trip!

Contact ROW: (208) 770-2517 or 866-836-9340, email info@rowadventures.comor book online!  

Video: Lochsa River delivers whitewater thrills

RIVER RUNNING — People lined up along Highway 12 over the Memorial Day weekend for a whitewater thrill show as rafters and kayakers challenged the big runoff waves on Idaho's Lochsa River.

This YouTube video captures the action, and believe me, there's plenty to see… ejected guides, bad breaks, you name it. 

There's a reason the specators in the background are hooting and hollering.

Rafter dies in Lochsa River whitewater

RIVER RUNNING — A Wisconsin man drowned while rafting on the Lochsa River on Saturday, according to a report filed today by S-R reporter Alison Boggs.

This is the second rafting fatality in the region this spring, following the death of a Hauser, Idaho, man last week on the Owyhee River in Oregon.

In the Lochsa incident, Randy A. Eroen, 35, of Sun Prairie, Wis., drowned after his raft hit a rapid and all four occupants fell out. Two were able to get back in, a third made it to shore, but Eroen was swept down river, a news release from the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office received the call at 1:41 p.m.

Eroen was unable to reach the life rope thrown to him by two kayakers accompanying the group, the release said. The kayakers went after Eroen, pulled him from the river and started CPR. They were joined by the rest of the rafting party, who continued CPR until medical assistance arrived.

For experienced rafters, the river is big with spring runoff but not what they would consider "huge." 

Read on for the rest of Boggs' story:

Follow Black Friday with Adventure Tuesday

OUTBOUND – Two Coeur d’Alene-based outdoor adventure companies are the ticket for people prompted by this week’s snow and cold to start planning an active getaway — to someplace warm.

Read on to check out the latest from Sea Kayak Adventures and ROW Adventures:

ITD schedules additional public meeting on Lochsa River corridor trucking

The Idaho Transportation Department has scheduled an additional public meeting in Moscow June 28 to provide information and hear public comment on plans by Imperial Oil to truck up to 200 large pieces of equipment on U.S. Highway 12 from Lewiston to Montana; that route includes the wild and scenic river corridor of the Lochsa River. The oil company’s equipment is bound for the Kearl oil sands project in northern Alberta, Canada. ITD said it scheduled the Moscow public meeting at the request of state Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow. Click below to read ITD’s announcement.