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St. Joe River roads slowly opening, runoff increases

PUBLIC LANDS — It's still wintery just a fiew miles up the slopes  from the upper St. Joe River valley in any direction, but crews have scraped the debris at least partially off the river road all the way up to Spruce Tree Campground.

Warm weekend weather foercast likely will spike the river flows even higher — and disrupt the fishing that's been surprisingly good recently. 

Read on to see Idaho Fish and Game Department Conservation Officer Jerry Hugo's detailed report on conditions up the Joe and Little North Fork Clearwater as of Thursday.

Yakima River spring chinook fishing opens Friday

SALMON FISHING The Yakima Reservation boundary reach of the Yakima River will open to spring chinook fishing on Friday, the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department announced this afternoon.

The season is set to run through June 30.

Read on for details.

Free forest access Saturday for Trails Day

PUBLIC LANDS – Saturday is a thrifty time to visit Washington and Oregon national forests that require an access pass for popular recreation sites.

In honor of National Trails Day, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service will waive the fees at sites that normally require a recreaction access pass.  

The passes come in various forms:  a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

More upcoming Free Days include:

  • National Get Outdoors Day - June 11
  • National Public Lands Day – Sept. 24
  • Veterans Day – Nov. 11

Another way to celebrate National Trails Day would be to join the volunteers in a work party to maintain the trail in the  Iller Creek Conservation area on Saturday. See details in this previous post.

Motorized Vehicle Use Maps out for Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — Motorized Vehicle Use Maps are available for the Bonners Ferry, Priest Lake and Sandpoint Ranger Districts. The maps can be found at Idaho Panhandle National Forests offices along with the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District’s map, which was introduced in 2010.

Free to the public, the maps display the roads and trails currently designated for motor vehicle use on the districts.

The MVUM for the forest’s northern districts is based on the current road and trail systems in place. The MVUM does not add or subtract from current legal routes, but is intended to provide a clear depiction of legal motorized vehicle routes available to the public.

Read on for more details and the importance of having this map aboard any motor vehicle heading onto the forests.

Richland man summits Mount Everest 15th time

MOUNTAINEERING —  Ang Dorjee Sherpa reached the 29,036-foot summit at 4 a.m. May 13, marking the 15th time he has completed the feat.

“This year wasn’t that great, until May 1,” Ang Dorjee said Tuesday after returning to his home in Richland, Wash. “It was very windy and snowy.”

Ang Dorjee, a world-renown mountaineering guide, was the second of three teams from the New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants to reach the summit.

The first team summited May 11, Ang Dorjee helped guide three climbers in his team to the summit Friday the 13th, and the last team reached the top May 19.

Read on for more details from a Tri-City Herald story.

Washington wolf plan calls for 15 packs in state

ENDANGERED SPECIES — There's something for everyone to dislike in Washington's revised draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

  • The number of breeding packs needed statewide before endangered species protections could be lifted is increased from nine to 15.
  • Landowners would have few restrictions on shooting wolves endangering their domestic animals or pets.

On Saturday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hearing more details on the state's plans for wolves and other endangered species during its meeting in Olympia.

Read on for a roundup of features in the new draft plan from the Wenatchee World.

NIC’s challenging adventure race June 18

ADVENTURE RACING — The seventh annual NIChallenge adventure sprint race is coming up to challnge teams of two or four to a 3-5 hour workout that involves paddling, trail running and mountain biking, special challenges and navigation trials.

When:  9 a.m., June 18

Where:  At a yet-to-be-announced location North Idaho.

How:   Register online by June 13.  Cost: $80 a person.

Information: (208) 769-7809 or contact NIC Outdoor Pursuits

Read on for more details.

Copper River salmon like Columbia springers, only more expensive

SALMON FISHING — Copper River salmon are making their annual splash in restaurants around the region, bringing in staggering prices of $30 a pound in West Side markets.

Experts I've contacts say it's basically a successful marketing strategy.

"A Copper River chinook salmon is not different than a Columbia River spring chinook salmon," said Tony Floor, a retired Washington Fish and Wildlife Department salmon program manager who works for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

What the marketing seems to have done, is assure that only the best quality spring chinook —bright and properly iced and transported —  get the Copper River label. The gillnetted fish that sit in a plastic garbage can down by The Dalles wouldn't make the grade.

But Floor helps sport anglers justify buying the boat and outboard to catch their own rather than taking out a loan for whole Copper River salmon.

All spring chinook, he said, "by form of genetics, leave the saltwater and enter the freshwater of their destination at this time of year.

"Spring chinook, by design, make this annual pilgrimage as they historically have the greatest distance to travel. For Columbia River spring chinook, this means for thousands of years, they enter the river now, bound for upriver destinations such as the Okanogan and the Snake River along with its upriver tributaries.

"Once arriving to these upriver destinations, living off the rich oils in the fat within their flesh, they spawn in the early fall, earlier than the abundant fall chinook.

"Spring chinook from the Columbia River are the same oil-rich fish as the Copper River chinook but you’ll pay about half the price at a restaurant or your local fish market."

Heed seasonal precautions for spring hikes

HIKING — In your enthusiasm to get on the trail among the blooming wildflowers, don’t forget the basics of trekking in dryland areas:

•Take plenty of water plus a means of purifying water en route.

• Use sunscreen liberally and cover as much skin as possible with clothing, not only to protect from sun, but also from ticks.

• Ticks can be active and waiting, especially in sagebrush country. Pride yourself in the nerdy look: tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored lightweight long-sleeve shirts. Check for ticks in hair, and other places.

• Rattlesnakes are just as eager as hikers to get out and about. Be alert for them on the trail. Watch for movement in the grass. They don’t attack unless provoked, a concept that’s often lost on the family dog.

• Poison ivy infests many dryland areas, especially along river corridors, such as the Snake. While most hikers know the "leaves of three, leave it be" adage, some might not recognize the menacing plant in spring, before the leaves have come on. Watch for long or tall woody stems festooned with clumps of white berries. Contact with them can cause rashes.

• Carry a compass and a map of the area.

• Leave your trip itinerary with a responsible person who will contact authorities should you not return on schedule.

Commercial netters to target Columbia shad

FISHERIES — The Columbia River's non-native and under-exploited American shad is finally going to face some fishing pressure this year.

When the 3-pound shad swarm in by the hundreds of thousands this summer to spawn they'll be met by Indian and non-Indian commercial fishers wielding "experimental" fishing gear such as purse and beach seines, drift nets and maybe a fish wheel.

The goal is to catch large volumes of fish to feed a hungry Asian market.

Sport anglers barely make a dent in the fisheries each year.

"There’s a high demand for fish," said Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver. One fish buyer has said he would take up to a million pounds of shad.

Using traditional drift net gear last year commercial fishers landed 2,500 shad (nearly 6,800 pounds) in the Columbia mainstem in the 2S area between Washougal, Wash., and Beacon Rock.

Shad along with incidentally caught walleye, yellow perch, bass, catfish, and carp may be sold commercially to offset the costs of doing the gear tests, officials said.

Salmon, steelhead or sturgeon caught would be released.

More than 1 million shad returned to the Columbia above Bonneville Dam last summer. The run reached as high as 5.4 million in 2004.

No box with pouch wine geared to outdoors

CAMPING — The people who make Clif Bars, the on-the-go energy food, have introduced a product for consumption after the climbing, backpacking and other active sports are done for the day.

The Clif Family Winery's new Climber Pouch features a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon packaged in strong-sided and backpack-friendly containers. There is a hole on top made for clipping the pouch in with a carabiner.

The practical thing:  the pouch stands upright without a box.

Check out the review from The Gear Junkie.

Columbia chinook season extended; upper river opens June 16

SALMON FISHING — The sport fishery for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon has been extended through June 15 on a section of the Columbia River stretching 163.5 miles above Bonneville Dam.

Previously set to close June 3, fishery managers agreed Wednesday that enough fish are still available to keep fishing until the summer chinook salmon season starts June 16.

June 16– Summer chinook season opens on the Columbia River upriver to Priest Rapids Dam.

100 blazes: Canada starts fire season with a bang

FORESTS —  While fire season seems virtually impossible in the Inland Northwest during this long, wet spring, the smoke that smudged into Central Washington over the holiday weekend was a reminder of what may be on its way.

More than 100 wildfires are burning in Canada, reports Sean Hopkins of the Washington State Department of Ecology:

Most of the smoke came from fires 150 miles north of Edmonton, Alberta.  It’s amazing the smoke traveled more than 850 miles south to impact Central WA.  

Air Quality is good now but it did get into the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.  
The town of Slave Lake, Alberta, was completely engulfed within an hour, destroying at least 40 percent of the town of 7,000.  Amazingly no injuries or fatalities reported yet.

Putting the season in perspective

OUTDOORS LOGIC —  Don't let the grim spring weather get you down.

Remember, it's only 3 weeks to summer solstice and then the days start to get shorter!

Tick update: bring extra pint of blood in your daypack

HIKING — After returning from a weekend hiking and fishing trek along the Rocky Ford stretch of Crab Creek north of the I-90 Tokio exit, Hugh Imhof emailed to say he wish he'd read my spring hiking precautions tip in the paper BEFORE he went to Lincoln County rather than afterward.

"….We were infested with dozens of them. We were all grossed out.  It was the worst I've ever experienced. You might want to print another reminder for others who may not be thinking about the little bloodsuckers."

Also on Sunday, My wife and I ran into a Mother Lode of ticks at Spokane County's Slavin Conservation Area south of town after a hike with our dogs, as I pointed out in a blog post that evening.  We're still finding ticks on us, the dogs and the room where we stripped upon arriving home.

Here are a few tips for dealing ticks during this season, when they're active and waiting, especially in scablands or sagebrush country.

Before going hiking, consider using permethrin to treat the lower leg of your pant, the collar and sleeve cuffs of your shirt (I always wear long-sleeve shirts while hiking and fishing for bug and sun protection). A treated hat or bandana is helpful, too.  

I like permethrin better than DEET repellent because you put it on your clothing rather than on y our skin. Permethrin is the insecticide used in Bug-Off brand clothing.

Pride yourself in the nerdy look: tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored lightweight long-sleeve shirts.

Check for ticks in hair, and other places during your trip and when you return home.

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:

Clearwater River angler sets bar high for springers

SALMON FISHING — Chuck Thompson of Lewiston battled a fish for 30 minutes before netting an icon of the 2011 spring chinook run up the Snake River System.

His 36-pounder caught May 22 on the Clearwater River is a glimpse at the run's heavily weighted component of fish that spent three or more years in saltwater before making the long return up the Columbia and Snake systems to Idaho hatcheries or spawning areas.

Thompson's fish measured 40 inches long. Girth was 27.5 inches at its pectoral fins, 26 inches at its dorsal fin and 20 inches at its scarred-over adipose fin, according to a Lewiston Tribune story by Eric Barker. 

The salmon weighed 35 pounds and 15 ounces— after it had been bled and stored in the boat four hours.

"It's not a state record, not even close," Barker points out. "That belongs to Merrold Gold, who caught a 54-pounder from the Salmon River in 1954.

But it's as big a fish as most people can recall coming from the Clearwater River in the past decade or so.

"I've been salmon fishing for 20 years in this area and it's the biggest fish I ever caught," Thompson said.

The fillets alone were 14 pounds each.

Fish and Game officials are seeing some large fish in this year's run. Chinook in the 25- to 30-pound range have spent three years in the ocean and are well represented in this year's run. Ed Schriever, the department's fisheries chief, said all of the fish are in good condition this year.

"These fish obviously are heavy for their length. They are in good condition. They are plump. They are well fed," he told the Tribune.

Salmon River spring chinook fishing report

SALMON FISHING — Here's today's Salmon River spring chinook salmon fishing report from  Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures in Riggins:

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game have documented a total of 21 Chinook harvested from the Salmon River; 16 adult and 5 jacks with the bulk of these fish caught in the Hammer Creek to Rice Creek area. While this is great news, overall the fishing in Riggins is still very slow; 51 hours per fish.

Continuous high flows are slowing the migration of the Chinook and keeping many fishermen from being able to go fishing.

Read on for more details from Amy:

Cougars, wolves on Washington commission’s agenda

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Cougar management and the state Endangered Species Program are on the agenda for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia. 

During the two-day meeting, the commission is scheduled to hear a briefing on cougar management, including research projects, population objectives, hunting seasons and outreach and education.

Another briefing will cover the recent release of the state's revised draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Population trends of other predators – such as black bear and coyote – and predator-prey management also will be covered.

A complete meeting agenda is available on the commission’s website.

Other agenda topics include discussion of: 

  • Efforts to protect and rebuild weak salmon and steelhead stocks. 
  • Management of coastal forage fish.
  • The state fish hatchery system.

A public hearing on proposed amendments to the list of game reserves is scheduled. The proposed amendments would clarify and update the boundary description for Swinomish Spit Game Reserve and eliminate the Ellensburg Game Farm Reserve and South Tacoma Game Farm Reserve.

The commission also is scheduled to take action on several proposed land transactions.

Fish Lake Trail mural marred by vandals

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TRAILS — Vandalism has marred a mural in the Fish Lake Trail tunnel less than two weeks after volunteers had put all but the finishing touches on the colorful farm-to-rail scenes.

Apparently on Friday night, a paint roller was used to write graffiti and ruin every panel on both sides of the tunnel near Marshall, said Dan Schaffer, who heads the friends group that stewards the trail.

Eastern Washington University art students had worked for weeks to design and outline the farm-and-railroad-themed mural. Volunteers ranging from kids to retired helpers showed up on May 14-15 to add color to the outline.

 The popular paved railroad right of way starts near Sunset Boulevard and Government Way and runs 7.4 miles to Scribner Road near Marshall.

Email tips that might lead to the perpetrator to the Fish Lake Trail friends group at traildan@comcast.net.

Tax-deductible contributions for repairing the mural can be sent to Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, PO Box 3331, Spokane WA 99220-3331.  (Dan Schaffer funded most of the first round, including artist fees, by himself.)

Info: traildan@comcast.net

Hikers negotiating Lake Chelan Trail washout

BACKPACKING — The big lingering snowpack and advent of warmer, wet weather is raising the pucker factor for any backpackers heading out on routes that cross streams.

A point I missed in my Sunday story about hiking the Lake Chelan Shoreline Trail is  that rising creeks have caused some trail damage. Over the May 14-15 weekend, rainwater flowed through the Meadow Creek drainage, washing out a section of the Lakeshore Trail.

Experienced hikers can still get through this area by hiking down close to the lake, crossing the creek and hiking back up to the trail, the Forest Service reports.  But the difficulty could change daily with the weather and the amount of runnoff coming down the creek.

Hikers looking for easier access to the Lakeshore Trail can plan trips between Stehekin and Moore Point to avoid the Meadow Creek area.

Updates: Chelan Ranger Station, (509) 682-4900.


Check status before hiking Kirkwood Ranch Trail in Hells Canyon

HIKING — After reading my series of stories on early spring hikng in Sunday's Outdoors section, several readers have emailed reports aboout rockslides and closures on Snake River Trail 102 between Pittsburg Landing to Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon. 

But according to an advisory posted May 25 on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Snake River website, the Snake River Trail is closed about 3/4 mile south of Kirkwood Ranch. 

That means the trail is still open for the 5.2-mile stretch between Pittsburg Landing and the ranch site and then 3/4-mile  farther.

A reader who recently talked to a Hells Canyon staffer said he reported the forest will need a blasting crew to fix the trail.  That might not happen until later in the summer.

 Watch the advisory website or call this number on weekdays for updates: (208) 628-3916.

Sunday outdoors was wildlife Rich

WILDLIFE — My day has been crawling with wildlife.

6 a.m.: Going out to get the newspaper, I see a robin chick has just broken out of its egg in the nest behind the house. Naked pink and squirming with a little shell still on its shoulder.  It's only 43 degrees.

8 a.m.: While running the dogs near Airway Heights, my young English setter locked on point and then looked back at me as if to seek advice. He was 20 yards from a pack of milk chocolate brown fur-ball coyote pups just big enough to run away through the tall grass.  We went the other direction.

5 p.m.  I'm back from a waterfowl viewing trek through the Slavin Conservation Area wetlands south of Spokane. Turns out my wife and I and the two dogs brought some wildlife home with us.

A quick comb and brush job on the dogs fetched at least 20 ticks.

Meredith and I have each plucked a couple off ourselves. I found one crawling up the bathroom wall.  I think I flicked one off accidentally into the wild turkey and Thai stir-fry I prepared for dinner.

I'm thinking we'll open a nice bottle of Merlot for the final tick check of the day.

Photos capture Spokane River kayakers in HydroTherapy

PADDLING — Conditions were cold and wet and the Spokane River was running big for Thursday's HydroTherapy session at Dead Dog Wave and Cyclops.

The Stateline play spots attracted a hearty group of paddlers learning and practicing tricks. 

Photographer Michael Kinney captured the action with his camera in a series of shots you can view on his Facebook page

Outdoor news trends from the past week

OUTDOORS TRENDS — Compiled by Headwaters, here are a few of the past week's outdoors and environmental news stories to ponder while relaxing this weekend:

USFWS study tracks lead's effect on songbirds in Idaho basin
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is studying the effects of lead in mine waste on songbirds in Idaho's Coeur D'Alene River basin.
Spokane Spokesman-Review; May 27

Senate bill would release 43M acres of public lands from wilderness designation

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch is among the members of the Senate Western Caucus that introduced legislation Thursday to remove 43 million acres of public lands from wilderness designation and would terminate Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's "wildlands" executive order issued last December.
Deseret News; May 27

Grizzly bear recovery efforts may take them off the endangered list
Efforts to recover the grizzly bear population in the United States have been ongoing since 1983, and the number of bears in the Northern Continental Divide recovery zone, one of five such zones, may have reached the point where they can be removed from the endangered species list, but those involved in the recovery effort wonder how the route wolf delisting took will affect the bear's path off the endangered species list.
Missoula Independent; May 27

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
Washington state fish farmers say dam releases into Columbia River killing fish

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said they have no option other than to release massive amounts of water from the Grand Coulee Dam into the Columbia River in Washington state, as they need to make room for run-off from snowmelt, but the releases thus far have resulted in the buildup of dissolved nitrogen and other gases that are killing fish.
Seattle Times; May 27

Alaska officials warn folks not to mess with moose after spate of attacks
There are an estimated 1,500 moose living in and around Anchorage, and after a number of recent attacks, Alaska wildlife officials warned folks to try to avoid the large animals.
Denver Post (AP); May 27

Montana officials say flooding may be worst in decades

The U.S. Geological Survey said record flows were reported in many Montana rivers, and communities such as Roundup and Joliet reported widespread flooding.
Helena Independent Record (AP); May 27



New manager takes reins of BLM’s Spokane District

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will swear in its new Spokane District manager on Tuesday at the district office,1103 North Fancher Rd.

 Daniel Picard has been the Superintendent for the Uintah and Ouray Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs since 2007. Picard has two decades of service with the Nez Perce Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs working on water rights, dam safety, FERC relicensing, cultural resource protection, fisheries management, and oil and gas leasing.

Lake Roosevelt water levels continue to rise

RESERVOIRS — The Lake Roosevelt water elevation was 1,234.1 at noon today and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts the level will continue to rise 1-2 feet a day through the Memorial Day weekend.

The agency predicted today that the lake will be about 1,250 by the end of next week.  However, conditions continue to change rapidly which will influence the rate of rise next week. 

According to the Lake Roosvelt minimum levels for boat lauching chart, the current water elevation of 1,234 feet meets the minimun needed for five of the lake's 22 boat lauches.

Oregon burg hands out $4K in tickets to bicyclists

CYCLING — Police in the town of Amity, Ore., wrote more than $4,000 in traffic tickets Saturday during an annual charity bicycle ride that passed through the community, the Associated Press reports.

Some riders told KGW-TV they thought police were at the intersection to allow riders through since it was an organized event.

Not so.

Police Chief Dan Brown told the TV reporter his officers have tried for years to get the bicyclists to comply with traffic laws and says “we had to take it a step further.”

About 3,000 people paid to participate in the organized “Reach the Beach” tour from Portland to the Oregon coast.

KGW says that at one corner in Amity, 14 bicyclists received traffic tickets for $317 each. Amity police say riders were not stopping at the stop sign.

Reach the Beach organizers say they warned riders in brochures that they must follow all traffic laws.