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Paddling Yellowstone Rivers bill a sham from a scourge

PUBLIC LANDS — Paddling the idyllic streams in Yellowstone National Park would be a treat. 

Laws have prohibited boats on most of the waters to adhere to the park's mission of protecting the fragile ecosystems and offering refuge to the wildlife away from the roads that handle millions of visitors.

So how should paddlers and other conservation-minded park visitors stand on Rep. Cynthia Lummis's proposals to force the Park Service to organize programs that would allow canoes, kayaks and rafts on more Yellowstone waters?

Firmly against — for more reasons than one.  Check out this commentary by Todd Wilkinson in the Jackson Hole News & Guide:

NPS can't afford cost of adding paddling to Yellowstone Park waters
Wyoming U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis paints herself as a fiscal conservative, which is hard to reconcile with her bill to allow paddling on the waters in Yellowstone National Park. The measure is expected to add $4 million to the park's already considerable costs in the first five years alone. Is she a friend to the outdoor community, or a foe?  Look at her record.

Video: Kayaker gets full view of Moyie River rapid

WATERSPORTS — With many paddlers heading to North Idaho to immerse themselves in the wild spring flows of the Moyie River, here's a reality check from the helmet cam of Celene Olgeirsson, a member of the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

The message: Follow Olgeirsson's example: Dress properly; go with a group; get your roll down pat; match your skills to the water, and have a good time looking forward to the next rapid.
  

Canoeist takes ballet to the water

PADDLING — A video of a man's canoe ballet is a peaceful end of the week and a reminder of what a little practice with a paddle can accomplish.

The video is from the 2007 Mid-West Freestyle Canoe competition.

American Freestyle canoeing is the art of paddling a canoe on flat water with perfect control of its movements. The canoe is usually leaned over to the side to help the boat turn sharply and efficiently and paddle strokes are taken on either side of the canoe depending on the individual move. Balance, paddle placement and turn initiation are a few keys to this control. Since the movements seem dance-like, some practice this art timed to music, which is the ultimate in control.

CdA sea kayakers rally for dying whale

WATERSPORTS — This story about a group of Coeur d'Alene-based sea kayakers and their poignant encounter with a dying gray whale calf is generating some endearing emotions among readers.  It's a story about hope.

Here's a video of the experience produced by sea kayaker Sam Morrison:

Baby Gray Whale Rescue from Sam Morrison on Vimeo.

 

Portage required to cross Coffeepot Lake

WATERSPORTS — Although the boat launch is closed because of low water at Coffeepot Lake east of Harrington, paddlers and anglers with small boats can still get on the water.

But to get through to the west end of the lake, be ready for a long portage across the dry divide, as the photo above indicates.

Kayakers make splash in flood-stage rivers

WATERSPORTS — Whitewater paddlers have been enjoying an early season throughout much of the Northwest, knowing that it might be a short one with the dearth of snow in the mountains.

But the kayakers in this just-posted video are taking on huge water in the Skykomish  River and in the roadside run through the Wenatchee River's Tumwater Canyon.

How's your roll?

Updated: Spokane River flow rules below paddlers’ expectations

UPDATED Jan. 28, 10:55 a.m. with more explanation from Department of Ecology.

RIVERS — The state of Washington adopted new state rule on  instream flows for the Spokane River today, but the levels are likely to disappoint rafters and environmental groups, who had pushed for higher flows, according to a story filed by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

The instream flow for the river’s main stem varies by season, peaking at 6,500 cubic feet per second in late spring where the river roars through downtown Spokane, and tapering to 850 cubic feet per second in late summer. Each cubic foot of water is about 7 ½ gallons.

River advocates posted this detailed reaction of their disappointment for the adopted rules:

Today river advocates criticized the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) for adopting a flow rule for the Spokane River that allows further dewatering of the popular urban river.  The Spokane River flows from Lake Coeur d’Alene through eastern Washington to its confluence with the Columbia River.   The River supports important fisheries and wildlife, and a vibrant boating and recreation industry.  Two thousand people sent comments to the agency opposing the draft rule and asking that river flows be protected.

“This is a terrible decision for the Spokane River and our community,” said Paul Delaney, a co-founder and board member of the Northwest Whitewater Association in Spokane who has been running the river for 35 years.  “They never talked to us.  They never did the basic use surveys of thousands of people who use the river.  And then the agency disregarded basic survey information we provided on boating use of the Spokane River.  In the end, the agency’s decision jeopardizes the Spokane River and the water future for this part of eastern Washington.”

The state rule sets flows for the Spokane River, including summertime low flows at 850 cubic feet per second (cfs).   Flows that are not protected eventually will be taken for out-of-stream water uses, including Idaho pumpers, the City of Spokane, and the Office of the Columbia River’s Spokane-Rathdrum ASR project.   

Although Ecology has defended its decision by pointing to a study that concludes that the 850cfs flow is good for fish, scientists have since pointed out that the study is inadequate for setting flows needed by Spokane River fish.   The proposed flows are also inadequate for salmon fisheries, which are proposed for restoration in the Spokane River.

In setting flows, the Department of Ecology failed to consult with boaters who use the Spokane River.  American Whitewater undertook a survey asking Spokane River boaters about their flow preferences.  Survey results show that all boaters prefer flows higher than 1000 cfs and most prefer flows in the range of 5000 cfs.   Flows less than 1000 cfs are considered unfavorable to boaters and can cause damage to some craft.

“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows is a dangerous move for Washington State’s rivers,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior water policy advisor with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP).  “Water may be political currency, but we also have stewardship responsibilities to protect the state’s rivers.”

Ecology also failed to do basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge.  CELP released an atlas of 37 key observation points of the Spokane River’s downriver reach, starting at the Monroe Street bridge in downtown Spokane.  The study documents five different flows ranging from 2,800 to 1,000 cfs.

“We need to protect our rivers; the water frontier is over,” said Osborn.   “The law is clearly on the side of the Spokane River:  ‘Perennial rivers and streams of the state shall be retained with base flows necessary to provide for preservation of wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigational values.’”

Brook Beeler, DOE communication manager, submitted further explanation from agency officials:

The rule to preserve and protect flow was written to balance all of the community’s needs for the river, including fish, recreation, water use and hydropower.

The river is a complex system and its flow is dependent on a variety of factors. They include seasonal weather, groundwater use, and operation of hydropower facilities on the river. The higher flows requested by many recreational users have rarely been seen in summer on the Spokane River since the Post Falls Dam was constructed in 1907.

It is important to note that instream flow rules do not add water to the river — they are a regulatory threshold to determine whether there is water available for new uses. The rule doesn’t require business, water providers or local government to add water to the river. In order to increase river flow, the hydropower operations on the river would need to change, which is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license process – not the instream flow rule.

Existing water rights like the city of Spokane’s right and other water providers cannot be affected by the rule. New requests for water in Washington will be individually evaluated to determine if water is available and in the public’s interest to issue new water use permits.

We are committed to working with local governments, environmental advocates, local businesses and the community on water management decisions to preserve a clean and flowing Spokane River.

For more information, see these links:

Spokane River flow rules below paddlers’ expectations

UPDATED Jan. 28, 10:45 a.m. with more explanation from Department of ecology.

UPDATED at 5:25 p.m. with comments from river advocates.

RIVERS — The state of Washington adopted new state rule on  instream flows for the Spokane River today, but the levels are likely to disappoint rafters and environmental groups, who had pushed for higher flows, according to a story filed by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

The instream flow for the river’s main stem varies by season, peaking at 6,500 cubic feet per second in late spring where the river roars through downtown Spokane, and tapering to 850 cubic feet per second in late summer. Each cubic foot of water is about 7 ½ gallons.

River advocates posted this detailed reaction of their disappointment for the adopted rules:

Today river advocates criticized the Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) for adopting a flow rule for the Spokane River that allows further dewatering of the popular urban river.  The Spokane River flows from Lake Coeur d’Alene through eastern Washington to its confluence with the Columbia River.   The River supports important fisheries and wildlife, and a vibrant boating and recreation industry.  Two thousand people sent comments to the agency opposing the draft rule and asking that river flows be protected.

“This is a terrible decision for the Spokane River and our community,” said Paul Delaney, a co-founder and board member of the Northwest Whitewater Association in Spokane who has been running the river for 35 years.  “They never talked to us.  They never did the basic use surveys of thousands of people who use the river.  And then the agency disregarded basic survey information we provided on boating use of the Spokane River.  In the end, the agency’s decision jeopardizes the Spokane River and the water future for this part of eastern Washington.”

The state rule sets flows for the Spokane River, including summertime low flows at 850 cubic feet per second (cfs).   Flows that are not protected eventually will be taken for out-of-stream water uses, including Idaho pumpers, the City of Spokane, and the Office of the Columbia River’s Spokane-Rathdrum ASR project.   

Although Ecology has defended its decision by pointing to a study that concludes that the 850cfs flow is good for fish, scientists have since pointed out that the study is inadequate for setting flows needed by Spokane River fish.   The proposed flows are also inadequate for salmon fisheries, which are proposed for restoration in the Spokane River.

In setting flows, the Department of Ecology failed to consult with boaters who use the Spokane River.  American Whitewater undertook a survey asking Spokane River boaters about their flow preferences.  Survey results show that all boaters prefer flows higher than 1000 cfs and most prefer flows in the range of 5000 cfs.   Flows less than 1000 cfs are considered unfavorable to boaters and can cause damage to some craft.

“Excluding rafters, kayakers, and canoeists in setting flows is a dangerous move for Washington State’s rivers,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn, senior water policy advisor with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CELP).  “Water may be political currency, but we also have stewardship responsibilities to protect the state’s rivers.”

Ecology also failed to do basic assessment of the scenic values of the Spokane River as it flows through the gorge.  CELP released an atlas of 37 key observation points of the Spokane River’s downriver reach, starting at the Monroe Street bridge in downtown Spokane.  The study documents five different flows ranging from 2,800 to 1,000 cfs.

“We need to protect our rivers; the water frontier is over,” said Osborn.   “The law is clearly on the side of the Spokane River:  ‘Perennial rivers and streams of the state shall be retained with base flows necessary to provide for preservation of wildlife, fish, scenic, aesthetic and other environmental values, and navigational values.’”

Brook Beeler, DOE communication manager, submitted further explanation from agency officials:

The rule to preserve and protect flow was written to balance all of the community’s needs for the river, including fish, recreation, water use and hydropower.

The river is a complex system and its flow is dependent on a variety of factors. They include seasonal weather, groundwater use, and operation of hydropower facilities on the river. The higher flows requested by many recreational users have rarely been seen in summer on the Spokane River since the Post Falls Dam was constructed in 1907.

It is important to note that instream flow rules do not add water to the river — they are a regulatory threshold to determine whether there is water available for new uses. The rule doesn’t require business, water providers or local government to add water to the river. In order to increase river flow, the hydropower operations on the river would need to change, which is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license process – not the instream flow rule.

Existing water rights like the city of Spokane’s right and other water providers cannot be affected by the rule. New requests for water in Washington will be individually evaluated to determine if water is available and in the public’s interest to issue new water use permits.

We are committed to working with local governments, environmental advocates, local businesses and the community on water management decisions to preserve a clean and flowing Spokane River.

For more information, see these links:

Pend Oreille River Water Trail detailed in program

PADDLING — The Ins and Outs of the Pend Oreille River Water Trail will be detailed in a program for the Spokane Canoe  & Kayak Club, 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 24, at the Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane.

Pend Oreille County Community Development Director Mike Lithgow will team with Ray Entz, the Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources director for the Kalispel Tribe, to present a travelogue on the newly established water trail.

The 70-mile route includes historical, cultural and geological features in addition to access points and recreational opportunities between Newport and Boundary Dam.

Minimum 850 cfs Spokane River flows trouble users

RIVERS — The Washington Department of Ecology's proposal to set a minimum allowable flow of 850 cfs is causing a stir among river users.

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy is encouraging paddlers and anglers to review the proposal and comment on the state's online survey.

  • Comments on the proposal are due today, Nov. 7, by 5 p.m.

The Northwest Whitewater Association, Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club and at least one fly fishing outfitter, Silver Bow Fly Shop, are urging users to demand higher minimum flows.

Says Silver Bow owner/guide Sean Visintainer:

We need your help! The Department of Ecology has proposed a streamflow rule for the Spokane River that would set the summertime (June-Sept) flows at a very low 850cfs. This flow is substantially lower than the Spokane's normal flow even at it's lowest in late summer. This proposed 850cfs flow could potentially be very harmful to our wild Redband trout. Low flows mean less habitat, less oxygen, warmer temps, and added strain by concentrating the trout to smaller areas.

Spokane runner up in online poll for America’s Best Riverfront

OUTDOOR CITIES — Wilmington, N.C., generated enough votes to edge Spokane this week in a USA TODAY 10 Best Readers' Choice contest for Best American Riverfront.

Wilmington "waged a tight but winning battle against Spokane for the top spot and landed the #1 slot after a frenzied weekend of voting," the online pollsters reported.   

Wilmington lies on the eastern shore of the Cape Fear River, which winds up into easternmost North Carolina from the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to Bald Head Island.  Because Wilmington is associated with the many barrier island destinations for which it serves as a gateway - Wrightsville Beach chief among them - the public often is unaware that it's a river city. 

The Top 10 vote-getting cities for Best American Riverfront are:  

  1. Wilmington, N.C.
  2. Spokane, Wash.
  3. Davenport, Iowa
  4. Dubuque, Iowa
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Louisville, Ky.
  7. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  8. Savannah, Ga.
  9. Detroit
  10. Richmond, Va.

Regardless of the poll, Spokane has a world-class connection to a river.

Think about what our "River Runs Through It" offers to visitors. And ponder what it adds to the quality of life for those of us who live here — for example:

  • Riverfront Park and free festivities such as Pig Out In the Park.
  • Foot bridges over the Spokane Falls, a year-round attraction but especially exciting in the refreshing spray of spring runoff.
  • The Spokane River Centennial Trail.
  • Historic Monroe Street Bridge.
  • Tribal powpows.
  • Spokane Jazz Orchestra Fourth of July Concert.
  • Rotary Fountain.
  • Fishing for native redband trout.
  • Access for rafters, SUP and other boats with take-outs including the No-Li Brew Pub — it doesn't get much better than that.

Don’t forget sea-kayaking basics

WATERSPORTS — Fall is a fine time for sea kayaking around the region's waters, from Fishtrap Lake to the San Juan Islands.

Even if you're an experience paddler, it's always wise to review the the basics of paddling safety  Here are seven reminders from Boat US.

Know how to re-board: All paddlecraft are different, so before you hit a lonely, remote stretch of river or bay, learn (in a safe place) how to get back in the boat quickly and efficiently as hyperthermia is a threat that increases by the minute. Some paddlers add extra floatation inside the boat as it can help reboarding. (Tip: this can be accomplished simply by inflating a beach ball or purchasing aftermarket float bags). If you do ever fall out and can’t get back in, stay with the kayak or canoe – it’s a bigger target for rescuers to see.

Don’t keep it a secret: Tell people where you’re going by filing a float plan. It could be as simple as telling your spouse, in writing, where you are going and what time you plan to return. Writing it down makes it become habit. Be as specific as you can – this isn’t the time to forget to mention you’re heading to your hidden fishing hole two miles off the beaten channel.

Understand the basic rules of navigation: You may not be out there with icebreakers just yet, but there may still be some recreational boating traffic and potential ship traffic. The simple challenge is the smallest boats are hardest to see. One simple tip to help visibility is to spray the tips of your paddles a bright color. Paddlers also can help themselves by understanding some basic rules of navigation.

Don’t leave without a bailer: With low freeboard — or the distance from the water to the gunwale — paddlecraft are prone to getting water aboard. Once it starts, it’s only a matter of time before your canoe or kayak becomes ever lower to oncoming waves. Keep water out and buoyancy up by having a bailer ready (Tip: tie one to each seat).

Thermal up or down: Neoprene gloves, a drysuit or wetsuit tops and hats are the ultimate protection in retaining body heat this time of year. However, have outdoor gear that offers versatility by being able to cool down or warm up when appropriate. Even if it may feel like summer, never leave shore in just a t-shirt and shorts. It only takes just a short change of weather or a dunking to drench you and the hypothermia clock starts ticking. A bright colored rain parka can also be seen at great distances.

Going remote? Go Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): Advances in GPS technology have brought down the cost of personal locator beacons, but if your budget is tight you can still rent a PLB from the BoatUS Foundation for $45 weekly, plus shipping. There are no additional subscriber fees and paddlers going to remote locations can order online at BoatUS.org/epirb or call 888-663-7472 (Tip: mention code “DISC10” for a 10% discount on the weekly PLB rental rate through December 1, 2014).

Keep it secure up top: If you need to get your favorite kayak or stand-up paddleboard to the lake on your car or truck’s roof this fall, check out  the three basic types of roof rack systems and ways to safely tie down the load. Your kayak has no desire to meet the road or become a hazard for oncoming vehicles.

Roskelley talk to detail Columbia River paddling

WATERSPORTS — John Roskelley, best know for his mountaineering achievements, is giving a free program on his new guidebook to Paddling the Columbia River at 7 p.m. on Sept.30 at the Spokane REI store.

Here's more info:

The Columbia River is a water trail to adventure. Thousands of miles of rugged shoreline, countless sandy bays, and long stretches of remote wilderness make this great river an explorer's dream, whether just for an afternoon on a reservoir behind one of its 13 main stem dams or being swept along by over 100,000 cfs of swift current on one of the Columbia's free-flowing sections. Paddling the Columbia from source to mouth is the extreme edge, a challenge not unlike climbing Everest or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Fortunately, the river is a resource that can be enjoyed in short sections on a weekend or holiday for a few hours to a long day throughout its 1200 mile length. The new "Paddling the Columbia: A Guide to all 1200 Miles of our Scenic & Historical River" by Spokane's John Roskelley provides the paddler with knowledge - the fundamental element needed to take action and enjoy an adventure.

Dogs aren’t fussy about how they get exercise

PADDLING — Walking the dog, Priest Lake style.

Thanks to Pecky Cox and her "As the Lake Churns" posts.

This sort of paddling is appropriate for kids

WATERSPORTS — The older Bauer boys know how to make a canoe go fast, and the younger nephews are clearly into the game even at the end of the Spokane River Classic endurance event on Saturday.

Sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, the event was for all abilities of paddlers with canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

But this boat stood out in the crowd, as you can see by their faces.

Have you ever paddled a canoe this hard — for the fun of it?

Spokane River Classic attracts colorful flotilla

PADDLING — Some very fast paddlers streaked across the Spokane River today in the debut of the Spokane River Classic, and they were followed by some not-so fast canoeists, kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and one rowboat.

But it appeared as though everyone had a blast, as  you can see in my photo gallery from today's event.

Video: Whitewater kayaking carnage compiled

WATERSPORTS — For every awesome video we've seen of kayakers skillfully negotiating whitewater rapids and waterfalls there are countless calamities, injuries and near-death experiences.

Here's  a sampling.

P.S. Think twice about trying to replicate this stuff.

Adventure Idaho racers on sleepless mission through Panhandle

ADVENTURE RACING — Five teams started the Expedition Idaho adventure race from the Silver Springs Resort early Sunday morning on a seven day quest to be first to cover nearly 500 miles through some of the most testing and beautiful terrain in North Idaho.

The event will end Aug. 16 as the weary competitors cross the finish line at the Brewsfest at the top of Silver Mountain Resort.

They'll have to travel by mountain bikes, kayaks and on foot, using only maps and compasses for navigation on trails, river and cross-country.

The race is organized by Perpetual Motion Events from Coeur d’Alene, headed by David Adlard of Athol.

Expedition racing was born in the early 1970’s when a group of friends in Alaska challenged each other to race to a point over 600 miles distant without using any mechanized transport or roadways. The sport has grown into what many describe as the ultimate team
endurance sport; with a global reach and popularity and a well-established World Series.

The World Championships are held in a different country every year, including Costa Rica this year.

The first Expedition Idaho, held in 2011, was won by the then World Champions, Team Thule, who are based in France. Competitors usually compete in co-ed teams of 4, but Expedition Idaho also is open to teams of two and three also (but not solo
competitors for safety and practicality reasons).

Teams complete in this year's race will be trying to qualify for next years Expedition Alaska.

Wet your appetite for water sports and Pend Oreille County festival Saturday

WATERSPORTS — Learn more about your favorite water sport and be introduced to a wide variety of new water-based outdoor activities at the Pend Oreille River Water Sports Festival on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the boat launch/water park in Cusick from noon until 8 p.m. 

The festival coincides with the 33-rd annual two-day Poker Paddle.

The festival, organized by the Pend Oreille County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, is FREE and offers a line-up of water sports seminars, demonstrations, agency information booths, food and beverage booths, contests, prizes and live music.

Visit with representatives from Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Boundary Dam Recreation Area, Albeni Falls Recreation Area, Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Pend Oreille River Water Trail Committee, the County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and more.

Check out the offering the county parks department describes:

Food, summer-time snacks and beverages will be available for sale or bring your own picnic basket. Enjoy the lovely riverfront park picnic areas, swimming beach, walking trails and the four live bands that are also scheduled to play throughout the afternoon. As an added feature, this Festival is also the final destination for Day One of the ever popular Poker Paddle and participants will be arriving throughout the afternoon. The awards ceremony will take place at 4:00 p.m.

Sixteen free half-hour seminars are scheduled from noon until 7:30 p.m. Topics include “Making Your Own Fishing Lures”, “Snorkeling and Scuba Diving”, “Waterfowl Hunting”, “Teaching your Kids to Fish”, “Boating Safety”, “Beginning Fly Fishing”, “Paddle-boarding”, “Bass Fishing”, “Kayaking Techniques”, “ The Pend Oreille River Water Trail”, “Water Skiing and Knee Boarding Basics”, “Ice Fishing”, “Purchasing Paddling Watercraft & Equipment”, “Beginning Sailing”, “Lake Fishing in Pend Oreille County” and “Winterizing your Boat”.

Children’s activities will include a Water Safety Photo Booth and Bucky Beaver from the Corps of Engineers and everyone will enjoy day-long demonstrations on how to make survival bracelets from paracord. Bring your duck and goose calls and participate in the duck and goose calling contest. Load up your entire family along with lawn chairs and other summer outdoor necessities and enjoy the day. Activities will take place rain or shine and everyone should be prepared for changeable weather.

The Festival is sponsored by Ben Franklin and Seattle City Light and all proceeds of the festival will be used to promote parks and recreation within Pend Oreille County.

For additional information about the Festival or Poker Paddle contact Mike Lithgow at the Pend Oreille County Community Development Department at 509 447-6457 mlithgow@pendoreille.org.

Spokane River access open at stateline site

WATERSPORTS — A launch site for drift boats, paddling craft and rafts has been remodeled and reopened at the stateline just downstream from the I-90 Bridge.

The Stateline access site includes parking and native landscaping planted by the Spokane Conservation District and volunteer groups on 800 feet of shoreline, said Andy Dunau of Spokane River Forum.

The forum has  details about this access site and others on the Spokane River Water Trail website.

Little Spokane River shuttle starts July 5

WATERSPORTS — No more worrying about getting a lift back to your car at the put-in on Saturdays in July and August.

Racers hit Blackfoot in open canoes

WATERSPORTS —The 2014 Open Canoe Slalom National Championship starts today and runs through Sunday (June 29) near Missoula on the Blackfoot River upstream of the Roundup Fishing Access Site off Montana Highway 200.

Spectators can view the American Canoe Association event for free in the designated area upstream of the Roundup Bridge.

 For information about open canoe whitewater racing in general, see aca.whitewater-slalom.us.

Saturday features four "Citizen-class" races in which noncompetitive or inexperienced paddlers can run the course in a tandem canoe with an experienced racer.

Lake Quinault reopens for fishing, paddling, recreation

WATERSPORTS — Lake Quinault on Washington's Olympic Peninsula has reopened for summer activities including fishing and boating after a brief hiatus.  

Lake Quinault Lodge, located just steps from the lake and in the heart of a temperate rainforest, will again offer fishing, boat rentals and tours of the lake. Guests can now enjoy the glacier-carved lake via a variety of vessels including canoes, kayaks, row boats or the comfort of a guided boat tour offering visitors a thorough history of the area, views of beautiful waterfalls, record breaking trees and a variety of native wildlife.

Olympic National Park also lists trails and other attractions in the area.

The Lake, located within the boundaries of the Quinault Indian Reservation, was closed in April 2013 due to concern related to water pollution, invasive species, public safety and the need to protect and restore salmon habitat, particularly Blueback salmon.  It reopened, for swimming only, last year but as of April 26, 2014 it has reopened for all summer activities.

Post Falls Dam gates close; Spokane River flows drop

WATERSPORTS — The Spokane River's flows have subsided enough for the spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed, Avista Utilities reports. That has allowed river recreation to open for the season starting today in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables that are just upstream of the Post Falls Dam. 

The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park is opening to the public today. The swim beach will open later this week after the parks department removes fencing, installs swim safety bouys and lifeguards are scheduled. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, and on average about June 22.

 Upgrades underway this summer at the South Channel Dam adjacent to Q’emiln Park will require visitors to stay out of some areas near the construction.

Logs pose hazard to whitewater rafters in Marble Creek

WATERSPORTS — Whitewater rafters and kayakers were greeted by hazards in Marble Creek last weekend.

Logs from a logging operation apparently slid down a steep slope and into the tributary of the St. Joe River.

This is prime time for river runners before flows become too low in Marble Creek, but the stream flows fast with tight turns and hazards that make it for experts only.

Outdoor recreational outings offered to disabled

OUTDOOR RECREATION — The St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute's recreational therapy team is gearing up for a busy summer season of outdoor recreation fun for physically challenged adventurers of all ages.

Outdoor Recreation Experience,  June 21, features adaptive and regular fishing, handcycling, archery, kayaking and canoeing, plus a barbecue for participants and family members.  

SkiFest, July 19-20,  features adaptive water skiing, boating and swimming at Clear Lake. 

Payette River train serves whitewater rafters, paddlers

RIVER RUNNING — Rafters and paddlers soon will be riding the rails to a popular floating and whitewater  stretch of Idaho's North Fork Payette River.

On Saturday, May 31, the Idaho Northern and Pacific Railroad, also known as the Thunder Mountain Line, will debut the Payette River Flyer with runs between Smiths Ferry and Cascade on Saturdays and Sundays this summer.

Riders are able to bring their own rafts and kayaks onboard or opt for a guided raft trip provided by Bear Valley Rafting Company.

The train ride is not only convenient, it's also scenic. Park in one spot and let the railroad do the 17-mile shuttle to the top of the seven-mile river run.

The train travels along the North Fork of the Payette River, also known as the North Fork Carbarton, and features Class II-III rapids. The following rapids are part of the float:

  • Trestle Rapids-Class III
  • Smoothie Rapids-Class II-III
  • Wet Spot Rapids-Class III
  • Francois Rapids-Class III
  • Howard's Plunge Rapids-Class III

The Smiths Ferry loading location is across the river from the Cougar Mountain Lodge on Highway 55, with free parking available on-site. The Smiths Ferry site will be the only location where rafts and kayaks can be loaded.

The Cascade loading site is behind the Ashley Inn, 500 N. Main St. Parking is free.

Rail enthusiasts can stay off the water and enjoy a scenic roundtrip train ride from either loading sites.

The Payette River Flyer will run May 31 - Aug. 31, with Smiths Ferry departures at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, and Cascade departures at 12:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.payetteriverflyer.com or by calling the ticket office at (208) 331-1184. One-way tickets for river drop-off are $20 for all age groups, while round-trip train rides start at $25/person. All guided raft trips will be provided by Bear Valley Rafting Company and start at $60/person. One-way trips are approximately 45 minutes to one hour in length, with the round trip train ride taking three hours. Food will be available for purchase on the train.

Spokane paddlers offer canoe, kayak classes

PADDLING – The Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club is launching its annual series of paddling classes for canoeists as well as whitewater and sea kayakers starting next weekend.

The classes are taught by qualified instructors as follows:

May  18 ­– Flatwater solo and tandem canoeing.

June 21-22Beginning whitewater kayaking.

June 28-29Moving water canoeing.

July 16, 19, 20Sea kayaking.

Cost for each class is $55 per paddler and participants must become club members.

Sign up: 448-9214, or email dianecadams@asisna.com.

Hydrologist: Ski now, paddle whitewater later

WINTERSPORTS — Hold on to your spray skirts, kayakers.  The ski-snowshoe-snowboard season is not yet over.

This week's weather foray into 70-degree temperatures isn't enough to trigger the big spring runoff events whitewater enthusiasts relish.

"It's still getting below freezing at night in the upper Selkirks, and that means the snowpack is holding on," said Kevin Davis, Idaho Panhandle National Forests hydrologist who also heads the  Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center out of Sandpoint.

Sunny days and freezing night temperatures add up to prime corn-snow skiing conditions in the high country for backcountry enthusiasts, he said. But kayakers and rafters waiting for the rush of water down their favorite streams must be patient even though its sandal weather.

Harris was on Lightning Creek near Hope, Idaho, on Wednesday, pointing out the creek was low and clear and the high mountains were still white with snow despite the shirt-sleeve weather locals were enjoying around Lake Pend Oreille.

"Basically it takes 70-degree temperatures up in the mountains — that's about the trigger point that sets off the spring runoff," he said. "So far, it hasn't been getting that warm up high."

Paddling law would be bad news for national parks

PUBLIC LANDS — I've made a few classic canoe and kayak trips in Yellowstone National Park over the years, including the Lewis River to Shoshone Lake (see photo) and on Yellowstone Lake.

But even though I'm a long-time paddler and co-author of the guidebook, Paddling Washington, I can still clearly see a reason to restrict paddling in national parks, where the priority is on preserving natural ecosystems. 

It's shocking to see that a Wyoming Congreswoman has introduced a bill that would REQUIRE Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park officials to allow more paddling in the parks. 

Here's the scoop from High Country News and a person who knows and write's eloquently on the potential ramifications of the legislation.  Check it out.

Called the “River Paddling Protection Act,” the bill has already passed the House of Representatives. It gives the National Park Service three years to change its regulations barring non-motorized boating on rivers and streams. If the agency fails to act in that time, then boating in the two parks will be considered unregulated.