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Steelhead moving stronger at Bonneville Dam, trickling up Lower Granite

FISHING — The light at the end of the tunnel looking downstream is the gleam of steelhead running in decent numbers over Bonneville Dam.

The curve is going up sharply as about 500 fish a day are swimming from the ocean and over the first dam on the Columbia River.

Next stop for many of those fish is the Snake River, where a few fish already are trickling over Lower Granite Dam — the last dam before they enter the Lewiston area, including the mouth of the Clearwater and the Grande Ronde River.  The black line on the Lower Granite fish count should start going up any day.

With tributary water temperatures staying cool longer than normal again this year, anglers may want to rig up with slightly stronger line when they're fishing for summer smallmouth in the Ronde, if you know what I mean.

Tourist gored by Yellowstone bison

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A Massachusetts man is recovering in an Idaho Falls hospital following surgery for injuries he received after being gored by a bull bison near Norris Campground on Saturday in Yellowstone National Park.

Park authorities did not have the man’s name, and his age was listed as in the mid-50s, according to the report by the Billings Gazette.

Though not taunting the animal, the tourist let the bison approach to within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away, according to a park statement.

The bull gored the man, tossing him nearly 10 feet into the air, before pinning him to the ground.

The victim suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and several ribs and a groin injury.

Park rules require that visitors stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals including elk and bison.

If an animal approaches, it is the person’s responsibility to move a safe distance away.

Maybe the park rangers who made that rule knew what they were talking about.

Kenai closed to king salmon fishing; worst early run on record

SALMON FISHING — It's a bad year for that salmon fishing dream trip to some portions of Alaska.

Record low king runs have forced the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Friday to close king salmon sport fishing seasons in some rivers including the fabled Kenai River.

Returns were expected to be low, and they've been worse. So far only about 4,000 early-run kings have passed the in-river sonar counter. That makes the early Kenai run the worst on record.  Another run follows.

Read this story from the Alaska  Dispatch regarding the tension building between sport and commercial fishermen over who's bearing the burden of king salmon conservation.

Read this story originating from the Alaska Daily News exploring the causes for the decline of these famous salmon fisheries.

Catching huge cutthroats is kid stuff at Badger Lake

FISHING — Cool, wet weather has kept area lake fisheries alive into summer for local anglers.

While some fishermen give up on area fishing lakes in spring after the first few fast-action weeks of the season, others are finding more at the lakes than just the peace and quiet.

Luke Marcellus, 5, shares a little bit of his weekend action in this photo. Check out the quality of that cutthroat from Badger Lake. It measured 22.5 inches long, and it's fat as a corn-fed sow!

"There were three of us bottom fishing at Badger Lake," said Jared  Marcellus, who spoke so proudly of the fishing day, it was clear without asking that he's Luke's dad.

"It took 3 hours, but we limited; mostly small rainbows with one larger rainbow and the big cutthroat pictured with Luke."

"He is quite the fisherman for a 5 year old! I probably wouldn't have gone Saturday without his request."

We should all be so lucky as to have that motivation.

Youth outdoor program teaches teen leadership

OUTDOOR EDUCATION — The Sandpoint-based Selkirk Outdoor Leadership & Education (SOLE) is offering two five-day outdoor leadership programs for teens in August.

Boosted by a grant from The North Face, cost for the sessions is only $50.

Youths will be on the go with activites including backpacking and kayaking and delving into a variety of activities such as wildlife rehabilitation, trail maintenance and environmental science.

Space is limited for the sessions, which start Aug. 5 and Aug. 14.

Info: (928) 351-7653; www.soleexperiences.org.

Miners, conservationists work to protect Idaho trout

RIVERS — Two conservation groups and three phosphate mining companies in eastern Idaho have formed a partnership intended to improve water quality in the Blackfoot River in eastern Idaho.

JR Simplot Company, Monsanto and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have joined with the Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited to form the Upper Blackfoot River Initiative for Conservation.

The announcement came after a study revealed mutated trout in Idaho streams, possibly related to mining pollution.  The study had been highligted on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (above) as well as the New York Times, as featured in this blog post.

Meanwhile, here's another interesting angle on the story, giving Simplot some credit, by Idaho Statesman columnist Rocky Barker.

In the latest story, the Idaho Statesman reports the conservation initiative group had compiled data on fish populations throughout the Upper Blackfoot and completed an assessment of fish passage obstacles and habitat conditions in February.

Monsanto, Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., and Agrium/Nu-West Industries have mines in the so-called phosphate patch near the Idaho-Wyoming border.

Environmental groups have been concerned about selenium pollution from phosphate mining that’s killed livestock and aquatic life in eastern Idaho waterways.

Kootenai, Pend Oreille rivers flowing BIG

RIVERS — Recent rains storms with more on the way combined with high flows out of Canada are prolonging the region's "spring" runoff in a big way.

The Kootenai River rose above flood stage at Bonners Ferry today, according to our S-R weather reporter. The minor flooding is expected through Friday, forecasters said. The river was about three inches above flood stage of 64 feet at Bonners Ferry.

In addition, the Pend Oreille River below Albeni Falls Dam was near flood stage. The river was at 45 feet in Newport this morning.

Cities such as Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry could break records for June rainfall with more than five inches recorded there already this month.

What does a “Sportsmen’s Act” have to do with hunters and anglers?

ENVIRONMENT — Can we expect a "Sportsmen's Act" introduced in Congress to actually be in the best interest of hunters and anglers?

A Missoulian opinion columnist is skeptical in this column.

"Those who watch Congress have surely noticed an alarming trend of putting misleading titles on bills and policies that actually do the opposite of what they say," writes George Ochenski.

President Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” provided ways to clearcut national forests without environmental review or public oversight. Likewise, Bush’s “Clean Skies” legislation made it easier for corporations to pollute. The USA PATRIOT Act has nothing to do with patriots and everything to do with spying on citizens. And now we have H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 that, in reality, would undercut the 1964 Wilderness Act and destroy what remains of the nation’s once-great natural heritage.

Good ride, but rafters didn’t make the 8-second count

WHITEWATER — Remember the mechanical bull riding made popular in Urban Cowboy?

A pair of boaters in a 14-foot cataraft got a feeling for that rotating, jerking motion as they ran Slalom Rapid and got hung up in Seymour's — a keeper wave on the South Fork Payette. The river was running 5850 cfs.

Public meetings seek ideas on city parks budget cuts

CITY PARKS — In 2013 the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing an estimated 5.5 percent budget reduction totaling about $1 million.

Parks officials have set two public meetings this week to help form priorities for the program cuts that will need to be made:

Tuesday, June 26, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Southside Community Center, 3151 E. 27th, in the Spokane Parks Foundation Ballroom.

Thursday, June 28, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook, in the Hillyard Senior Center, Conference Room. 

If you can't make it to one of the meetings, please give your opinion in this short survey.

You can also learn more about the 2013 Budget at spokaneparks.org.

Elk in velvet promise of bigger things to come

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While the cows are tending to their calves, bull elk are growing antlers.

Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us this week that spring is beautiful time to be an elk.

Pheasant chicks handed out by thousands

WILDLIFE — More than 6,400 pheasant chicks have been distributed in the past few weeks to people in the  Spokane region who vow to raise and release the birds into the wild.

The annual chick giveaway program is facilitated by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

The chicks are mostly hens, the byproduct of captive rearing programs that raise pheasants for hunter release sites.

Roosevelt headed to full pool by by July 4

RESERVOIRS — The level of Lake Roosevelt is about 1284 on June 22.

The lake is continuing to fill and spill is occurring over the drum gates at Grand Coulee Dam. The peak of the spring runoff is expected in the next two weeks. In addition, increased rainfall has resulted in high inflows into Lake Roosevelt. The predicted amount of rise in lake level is anticipated to be approximately 1 foot per day over the next week. The level of the lake is expected to be 1288 by June 30. The lake is expected to continue to rise .5-.75 feet per day, reaching the full pool elevation of 1290 on July 4.

Be cautious while recreating on Lake Roosevelt over the 4th of July holiday as the lake level will rise and a limited amount of beach will be available around the lake. Shoreline campers are advised to camp well away from the water’s edge.

For a daily lake level forecast call 1-800-824-4916. This forecast is updated at 3 p.m. each day.

Climbing ranger dies during rescue on Rainier

MOUNTAINEERING — Sad news from Mount Rainier National Park as a ranger attempting a rescue fell 3,000 feet to his death on Thursday.

See the story here.

Patrol issues tickets to ORVers in Colville area

PUBLIC LANDS — They had no trouble finding violations.
A group of state and federal officers who conducted an ORV emphasis patrol recently on public lands east of Colville filed the following stats:
  • 207 ORV/User Contacts
  • 21 Citations (i.e. no helmets, road closure, fishing w/o a license)
  • 22 Verbal Warnings
The patrol was designed to address heavy ORV use on forest roads and trails in sections of Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties, especially in areas where soil and vegetation degradation has been an issue.
It's pretty clear from the results that emphasis is warranted.


Tagged salmon must be released in upper Columbia

SALMON FISHING — Starting July 1, anglers will be required to rlease all chinook and sockeye with external floy tags and/or with one or more holes (round, approximately ¼ inch diameter) punched in the caudal (tail) fin. 

 The Washington Fish and Wildlife announced the rule change on  Thursday. the rule will run through Oct.15.

Location: Mainstem Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam, including the Similkameen and Okanogan rivers.

Read on for details.

Gold Pass open to access St. Joe River

FISHING — A path was plowed this week through the lingering snow on Gold Pass, the popular access route from St. Regis, Mont., to the St. Joe River.

North Idaho angler Ralph Bartholdt posed his family on the pass to prove the point. Here's his pass and fishing report:

Gold summit is passable, (has been since last week) although there is road work going on near the Idaho bottom.

Fishing on The St. Joe was pretty fair. Nymphs to Tarantulas in the soft seams.

Video captures awe of North Fork kayaking championship

PADDLING — This great action and slow-mo video recap captures the intensity of the paddlers and the power of the water during the recent North Fork  Championships whitewater kayaking championships in the BIG flows of Idaho's North Fork Payette River near McCall.

The contest involved 80 impressive paddlers from all over the globe, including 30 of the world's best paddlers. They competed down Jacob's Ladder - a Class V rapid that is terrifying to run, let alone race through gates.

Trumpeter swans hatch five cygnets at Turnbull

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are back in a family way at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.

The photo at the bottom of this post shows the female rising above a newly hatched FIFTH cygnet onThursday morning as two siblings look on from the nest. I made the photo just off the paved trail at Middle Pine Lake near the refuge headquarters.

The male was on the water with two cygnets that hatched on Monday or Tuesday when I arrived today just before 8 a.m.

Two more cygnets could be seen partially under the wing of the female on the nest.

I sat for a long time across from the nest, watching as the male took his pair to the far end of Middle Pine Lake and rested with them on the shore. 

At 9:30 a.m., the female began making muffled honks.  The male got in the water with the two cygnets and started swimming toward the nest.  Just as he got there, the two cygnets under the mother’s wing crawled out, the female stood up and Presto!  Up popped the very weak head of the FIFTH cygnet for a brief second before it lay back down. 

The male paraded past a few times, as shown in the other photo. The female seemed to be showing off the new arrival.

Visitors willing to walk less than a mile round trip will be able to enjoy the family all summer.

"The cygnets will be stuck there for awhile since we have Cheever Lake drawn down for dam repairs," said Mike Rule, refuge biologist.

The female mated in 2009 with the late Solo, the male trumpeter who faithfully returned to Turnbull for two decades as a widower before finding a breeding female and ending Turnbull's drought of trumpeter production.

Read Solo's story here.

Solo and his new mate raised broods in 2009 and 2010. They returned last year, but Solo disappeared before they could mate, ending what biologists estimate was a remarkable 35-48 year tenure at the refuge.

Said Rule:

The identity of the father is unknown . We thought the swan hanging around with her since spring of last year was one of her 2010 cygnets. She was seen with a juvenile swan for most of 2011. This spring she has been with a single adult swan that was very territorial. Since her 2010 cygnet is not sexually mature, it is possible an unrelated older adult formed a pair bond this past spring as a few trumpeters move through the area at that time.

Big cash prizes await PO River anglers in PikePalooza

FISHING  – Sign-up is underway for the Pike Palooza fishing derby on the Pend Oreille River, June 29-July 1, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.

Prizes up to $1,000 are being offered in a variety of categories to make the contest interesting to anglers of all ages. Categories include most fish, longest fish, total length of catch, smallest fish and tagged fish.

In addition, each fish caught give a participant a ticket for raffle drawings.

There’s no entry fee, but participants must pre-register before they start fishing. Online registration closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday (June 27). Anglers can register on site at check stations.

The event includes the river from the Idaho state line to the Boundary Dam forebay. 

Even though most of the non-native pike were gillnetted out of the Box Canyon Reservoir portion of the river this spring, pike are still available to be caught and new fish are likely coming downstream from Montana and Idaho.

If an angler catches a Washington state record northern — a long shot, agreed — a professional taxidermist will produce a replica of the fish for the contestant.

Info:  www.kalispeltribe.com/northern-pike.

  • A second PikePalooza is set for Aug. 3-5.

Sprague Lake lunker shows too late for derby

FISHING — Todd Young of Spokane used PowerBait to catch this 27-inch rainbow weighing 6.8 pounds at Sprague Lake on Saturday.

Had Young caught the fish one week earlier, he would have easily won $500 in prizes offered for the biggest fish in the Sprague Lake Trout Derby, reports Scott Haugen at Four Seasons Campground and Resort.

The 202 anglers entered in the derby weighed in a bunch of fish in the 4-pound range, and the three top fish were separated by only 1 ounce, with the winner coming in at 4 pounds 9 ounces 

Authors of new Ice Age Floods book celebrate at EWU

GEOLOGY — A just-published guidebook on the region's channeled scablands — a second volume on exploring the aftermath of the Ice Age Floods — is being celebrated Saturday at Eastern Washington University.

On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A geological field guide to northern Idaho and the Channeled Scabland" will be unveiled by geologist and Eastern Washington University alumnus Bruce Bjornstad and retired EWU geology prof Eugene Kiver.

The event is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Science Building, located on Washington Street across from Roos Field.

The floods helped gouge out Lake Pend Oreill, Idaho’s largest and deepest lake, and sculpted the weird topography of Eastern Washington. This field guide explores a vast expanse of land on the ground and with great aerial photos. Specific hikes are recommended to see key features.

After hiking and exploring the Channeled Scabland region for 35 years, I didn’t know what I was missing until I read this book.

Join the group for hikes to area’s wild spots

TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.

Columbia Highlands

  • June 23: Grassy Top-Hall Mountain hike, 8 strenous miles near Sullivan Lake.
  • June 30: Clackamas Mountain hike, 10 moderate miles.

Info: Kettle Range Conservation Group.

Scotchman Peaks

  • June 30: Spar Lake archeological hike, 8 miles, with expert on Native American foraging.
  • July 7: Grouse Lake, easy hike with Native Plant Society leader.

Info: Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Dishman Hills

  • July 11: Dishman Hills Natural Area, five-mile hike including portions of area burned by 2008 wildfire.

Info: Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.

Idaho Conservation League

  • June 23: Maiden Rock, Selkirk Mountains.
  • July 7: Chilco Mountain north Of Coeur d’Alene.

Info: Idaho Conservation League Sandpoint office, (208) 265-9565.

How would you cut $1 million from Spokane Parks?

I wonder if somewhere Ron Swanson is smiling. According to the Spokane Parks Board, in 2013 the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department will be facing an estimated 5.5% budget reduction of approximately one million dollars

They need you to participate in the process. They are asking you to please attend one of the following meetings to voice your opinion:


• Thursday, June 21, 6-8 p.m. West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt, in the Newton Room

• Tuesday, June 26, 6-8 p.m. at Southside Community Center, 3151 E. 27th, in the Spokane Parks Foundation Ballroom

• Thursday, June 28, 6-8 p.m. at Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook, in the Hillyard Senior Center, Conference Room.

Photo may show fox thought to be extinct in Oregon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A red fox photographed by motion-detecting infrared camera in the Mount Hood National Forest may be a Sierra Nevada red fox, which hasn't been found in Oregon in decades.

See the OregonLive story.

Reader writes of sad highway encounter with fawn

WILDLIFE — Ginger Ninde writes to thank people who helped her through an unfortunate encounter she just had with a whitetail fawn near her home in Medical Lake:

Thank you to everyone who patiently waited on highway 902 (both directions) while an injured fawn with broken legs struggled in the road.  Many thanks to the man in the on-coming red truck with black dog for his help trying to get the little fawn to the side of the road and to the woman in the car behind him who also gently tried to help. Thank you Michelle for pulling in front of me and calling 911; words cannot express my gratitude for your kindness during such a horrible and sad situation. To the officer who arrived… thank you for ending the suffering.

I wish I could I have done something, anything to avoid hitting that young, innocent, graceful animal. It brings some solace to know what good people drive highway 902. P.S. To the one car that refused to wait… maybe you thought we were having a ho-down and there wasn’t a legitimate reason traffic was stopped. You squeezed around us in your big car as little one tried to drag itself to the side of the road. You gave your passengers a view I bet they wish they could forget.

—Ginger Ninde

Glacier Park opening Going to the Sun Road

NATIONAL PARKS — Glacier National Park officials are planning to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road over 6,646-foot Logan Pass today. 

The opening will end the spring grace period when bikers and hikers could much of the 50-mile route motor-vehicle free.

If you're driving to Logan Pass and want to stop and take a hike, bring snowshoes!  All the nature trails are covered by snow the Highline Trail from Logan Pass is closed by snow.

The visitor center will be open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The park’s free shuttle system that provides services along Going-to-the-Sun Road will begin running on July 1.

Read on for more details.

Roskelley presents climbing slides, stories

MOUNTAINEERING — Spokane's John Roskelley, perhaps America's premier mountaineer in the 1980s, will present a slide show and share climbing insights in a presentation Thursday (June 21), 7 p.m., at  the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division.

The photos and stories will relate to Roskelley's latest book, "The Roskelley Collection: Nanda Devi, Last Days and Stories off the Wall.

The book compiles his previous works.

Pend Oreille River’s Z Canyon a paddler’s hot spot

PADDLING — Kayaker David Crafton and friends have been exploring trips from my hiking and paddling guidebooks. Last weekend they packed their boats and  headed down the Pend Oreille River from Metaline downstream into the spectacular Z Canyon.

NOTE: The Metaline Falls and hydraulics downstream from the Highway 31 bridge near Metaline can be dangerous any time of year. Scout the waves and powerful eddies from the bridge BEFORE launching.  If they're over you head, pick a downstream launching point on the east side of the river just below the falls at Deadmans Eddy. 

Crafton's photo above show's what Peewee Falls looks like this week, still runnng pretty big.  It comes down to a trickle you can almost boat under in August of dry summers. You can reach the falls in an out-and-back trip from Boundary Dam Campground.

Here's Crafton's post-trip post on my Facebook wall with a notable observation and prompt for lingering at the trip's takeout

Rich, thanks again for another awesome weekend! We did paddle route #77 Pend Oreille River (Z Canyon) last weekend from your other guide book "Paddling Washington". What an amazing trip

You really should mention the Dam spillways during spring run off. Anyone going up there during the spring melt needs to do the dam tour. Spectacular!

Free paddling overview Thursday at REI

PADDLING — Get the basics of paddling gear — canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards — in a free presentation Thursday (June 21), 7 p.m., at REI in Spokane.

The presentation also will cover apparel, trip planning and transportation.