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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.

Hangman Creek flows spike; rafters gearing up

RIVER RUNNING — Every local veteran rafter, kayaker and canoeist knows the recipe: Snow followed by warm temperatures and rain are the ingredients for the brief surge of flows needed for whitewater action on Hangman Creek.

Brownwater action, I mean.

The river spiked from under 200 cfs yesterday to more than 6,000 cfs this morning after last night's downpour on the snowy landscape.

Rafters love these conditions.

Canoeists would be safer to let the flows settle.  I personally like paddling the level around 1,200 cfs (see photo).

But it won't be long before Hangman settles down and once again becomes too low to float.

Sea kayaker details journey on B.C. coast

PADDLING — A free program on a British Columbia sea kayaking journey from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, for the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club at Mountain Gear's corporate office, 6021 E. Mansfield. 

The two week adventure of paddling along the exposed coast of Queen Charlotte Sound will be detailed by Roy Massena, who has kayaked extensively in Pacific Northwest waters and has encountered more than his share of challenging conditions. 

Flash flood ordeal recounted by paddlers

NOTE DATE:  The date for this program was incorrect in today's print version of the announcement.

PADDLING – Four Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club members who survived a close call with a  freak flash flood event while kayaking the Green River of Utah will present a free slide and video program on the trip Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. at the Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley (go north on Fancher Road from Trent and turn right just before the tracks).

Debbie Pierce, Lisa Helmbrecht, Marlene Landis and Susan Luchesi were trapped on a quickly disappearing sand bar out of reach of rescue-attempting park rangers until the flood formed a temporary dam that gave them a short window for escape.

Paddlers continue chilly New Year tradition

PADDLING — For the 19th year, paddlers from the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club bring in the New Year with an outing on the Little Spokane River. Wednesday was no different, although the temperatures were more on the mild side compared with other years.

Eric Erickson, above, is pictured by canoe partner Juile Titone during the float in 2000.  As Titone said, he was “looking determined to reach the potluck-and-wood stove part of the day.”

Kayaker found dead on Palouse River

PADDLING — A kayaker's body was recovered this morning from the Palouse River, according to the following statement released this afternoon by the Whitman County Sheriff.

Alison Webb, 54, who was on the Palouse city council, was found dead early Friday morning, her life apparently claimed by hypothermia after capsizing in the freezing cold.

COLFAX, WA- Authorities have recovered the body of a kayaker who was reported missing late Thursday evening. 

At approximately 8pm on Thursday evening, Deputies from the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office were notified of an overdue kayaker near the town of Palouse, WA.   The kayaker, Allison E Webb, 54yoa of Palouse, WA, reportedly set out on a late afternoon kayak trip on the Palouse River.  When she failed to arrive at her destination, family members became concerned, conducted a brief search and later notified 911. 

After Deputies determined that Webb started her float trip near Wellesley Road in Latah County, officials from Idaho were also notified.  Due to the extremely cold temperatures search crews from both sides of the border immediately began a ground and aerial search of the river and terrain. Officials from Latah and Whitman Counties searched through the night and into Friday Morning.

At approximately 8:30 Friday morning, search crews from Fairchild Air Force Base (36 Rescue Helicopter) assisting in the effort located the body of a deceased female, later identified as Allison E. Webb.  It is believed Webb died after capsizing her kayak and being exposed to the extremely cold overnight temperatures.  The exact cause and manner of death will be determined by the Whitman County Coroner’s Office.

Crews from The Latah County Sheriff’s Office, Latah County Search and Rescue, Whitman County Emergency Management, MedStar, Fairchild Air Force Base, Whitman County Sheriff’s Office, Palouse Fire and EMS, Border Patrol, Whitman County Coroner and the American Red Cross all assisted in the search effort. 

Adventurer kills, eats faithful dog in 2-month survival epic

ADVENTURE — Here's a Canadian survival story with an unusual twist that has some animal lovers saying a desperate man made a heartless decision.  

But doctors treating Marco Lavoie after his rescue in the wilderness of northern Quebec say he may not have survived his four-month ordeal had he not killed and eaten his dog.

Some fascinating points to the story:

  • Lavoie, 44, was close to death when a rescue crew found him last week.
  • His canoe and vital supplies were destroyed by a bear at the start of a planned two-month trip in August.
  • Lavoie's German Shepherd may have saved Lavoei's life by chasing away the bear in the initial attack.
  • But three days later, facing the possibility of starvation Lavoie, killed his doting companion with a rock.
  • The first words Lavoie reported spoke to medical staff: 'I want to get a new dog.'

Lavoie had lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia when rescuers found him Wednesday. News reports from Monday indicated he was still in critical condition.

Could you kill your faithful canine companion if you thought it would be the difference between your life and death?

Spokane Mountaineers more than a climbing club

OUTDOOR GROUPS — The Spokane Mountaineers, an outdoors club that's been exploring the region's mountains, waters and trails for nearly a century, will describe their activities in the annual Meet the Mountaineers presentation, Monday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m. at the Spokane REI store, 1125 N. Monroe St. 

Members plan to offer a visual tour of club schools, programs and outings, including bicyling, climbing, conservation, hiking, paddling, and skiing.

Info: 509-270-8867

 

Sea kayakers paddle at night where the plankton shines

PADDLING — Sea kayak outfitters are leading paddlers out of the San Juan Islands as well as Bellingham Bay on night-time excursions to see one of the bright little wonders of the sea.

When conditions are right, the stroke of a paddle paints a swath of bioluminescent light that resembles a swish of Tinkerbell's wand.

“When we accidentally paddled over a school of startled juvenile herring, they jumped out of the water looking like kamikaze lightning bugs,” writes Tan Vinh in a story for The Seattle Times.

The natural spectacle of bioluminescence is caused by single-celled planktons that emit light.  

Outfitters offering bioluminescent night tours include:

• Community Boating Center in Bellingham will hold its next tours on Sept 5 and 6. $50 per person. 360-714-8891 orboatingcenter.org.

 Salmon Bay Paddle in Ballard leads stand-up paddleboard tours at Shilshole Bay. $85 for one person or $65 per person at group rate. 206-465-7167 or salmonbaypaddle.com.

• Discovery Sea Kayaks in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, does tours around Griffin Bay. $99 per person. 866-461-2559 or discoveryseakayak.com.

Read on for Vinh's first-person experience.

Beavers, wind, bloom put damper on Bonnie Lake fishing

FISHING — No vehicles were parked at the Whitman County road pullouts near the bridge put-in for the Rock Creek that gives access to Bonnie Lake the other day.  That was our first clue that fishing for perch, crappie and bass could be a little off center of perfect.

My buddy Jim and I paddled my canoe upstream for nearly a mile of serpentine creek, narrowed by summer vegetation growth, and came to a beaver dam just before reaching the lake.  

After dragging the canoe over the dam, we paddled into the lake aided by a brisk wind that made uplake travel brisk, but suggested the return could be interesting.

Our first casts revealed we couldn't see our jigs until they were retrieved to about 18 inches or less from the surface.  A bloom was on and water clarity was severely compromised.

We caught some perch, crappie, bluegill and bass, but never more than a couple in any given spot.  We wrestled with anchoring to stabilize in the wind and we just couldn't dial in a consistent bite.

The only notable catch was one 14-inch crappie; the rest were small.

A beaver ushered us out at twilight, with nighthawks swooping in the sky above, as we paddled pack down the outlet stream past its lodge and dam as if to say they would be enjoying the solitude after we left.

Spokane River advocates eye untapped recreational potential

RIVERS – Like the water flowing through town, efforts are steadily and quietly progressing to improve the Spokane River corridor.

A new river access at the stateline being developed by multiple agencies could be finished by November, says Andy Dunau of the Spokane River Forum.

The access will provide a convenient 3.5-mile float for anglers to Harvard Road.

The Spokane Conservation District is teaming with Trout Unlimited to boost native redband rainbow trout near Starr Road, he said. Large woody debris structures are being installed to provide habitat for juvenile trout.

S-R columnist Sean Vestal on Wednesday pointed out several exciting trail projects and possibilities from Riverfront Park downstream that are beginning to realize the untapped potential of the river gorge.

Learn more:

Program: Dunau will reveal how to find groups connected with the Spokane River and demonstrate a new Spokane River Water Trail website mapping resource for detailed information about the river’s flows, access points, paddling routes and much more in a free program Wednesday, 7 p.m. at REI.

Sign-up online to reserve a spot, rei.com/spokane.

Volunteer: Spokane River Centennial Trail work parties are set for today, Aug. 17, 25 and 31 to spruce up trailheads with painting, litter pickup, weeding and other light work organized by Friends of the Centennial Trail. Info: 795-4609. 

New Spokane River Water Trail resources detailed

RIVERS — Andy Dunau of the Spokane River Forum is gearing up to reveal how to find groups connected with the Spokane River and demonstrate a new Spokane River Water Trail website mapping resource for detailed information about the river’s flows, access points, paddling routes and much more.

The free program is Wednesday, 7 p.m., at REI.

Sign-up online to reserve a spot.

Stand up paddleboarding program at REI

WATER SPORTS – Get the basics on Stand Up Paddleboarding in a free staff-presented program at REI on Thursday, 7 p.m.

Field report: Kayaking Lion Creek near Priest Lake

PADDLING — Spokane kayaker Brian Jamieson and some friends had a hoot paddling the slick granite slides of Lion Creek near Priest Lake on Saturday, as you can see in his helmet-cam video above.

Lion Creek is a popular destination for Priest Lake visitors, who have worn out the bottoms of many swimsuits slipping down the slides on their butts in lower water.

Video field report: Paddling Lightning Creek at 3100 cfs

KAYAKING — Here's a wet glimpse of North Idaho's Lightning Creek at flows of 3,100 cfs on Thursday through the lens of Celene Olgeirsson, who was with a Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club group.

Montana fired up about Dragon Boat fest at Flathead

PADDLING — Although the event is still months away, it's not to soon to consider forming a team to paddle to fame in the 2013 Montana Dragon Boat Festival Sept. 6-8 at Flathead Lake.

Sponsored by the Flathead Community Foundation at Flathead Lake Lodge, the 2012 inaugural event drew so much interest that organizers were forced to turn away a number of teams.

Race competition was fierce, but friendly. Thousands of fans and spectators viewed the event.

Check it out.

Treat dad to an outdoor adventure this weekend

FATHERS DAY— Give dad what he really wants for Father's Day — some good, healthy outdoor time with the family.

Here are four suggestions:

FISHING — Most of the region's lakes and streams are in great fishing condition for the weekend, and some Spokane-area are getting a Fathers Day bonus with additional plants of triploid rainbows. Montana is sweetening the holiday attraction by offering Free Fishing Days on June 15-16.  Nobody needs a license to fish in Montana over the weekend, but you must follow all of Montana's other fishing regulations.

BIKING — The Spokane River Centennial Trail and the Fish Lake Trail offer excellent and safe family biking opportunities in Spokane. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a prized rail trail between Mullan and Plummer, Idaho. Or go for big adventure near Lookout Pass on the Route of the Hiawatha rail trail, featuring tunnels and towering trestles.  Shuttles, bike rentals and even lunches are available.

BOATING — It's hard to beat a family tradition of being on the water with Dad. I prefer paddling the Spokane River or, say, Horseshoe Lake in a canoe or kayak.  Maybe a whitewater rafting trip on the Spokane or Clark Fork rivers with Wiley E. Waters or ROW Adventures. Sailing or motorboating is has been bringing families together for generations, as you can vividly see in this heartwarming short video, Good Run, by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister. The film tells the story of one man’s experience on the water and shows why life is better with a boat. 

HIKING — Taking a walk to a nifty spot is a simple and rewarding family outing, whether it's close to home in Riverside State Park or off in the mountains of a nearby national forest.  Need some tips?   Check out my new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which details 125 trips, including a bunch of hikes within a short drive of Spokane. (The book is available at REI, Mountain Gear and local book stores.)

My suggestion:  If you're up for stretching your legs, give Dad the book with a note that says, “We want to make this your best Father's Day ever by taking you on one of the hikes described in this book.  We'll pack the picnic lunch!”

I heard from several families who reported that offer was a big hit on Mothers Day.

NC man drowns kayaking Idaho’s NF Payette

WHITEWATER —  A 22-year-old North Carolina man has died in a kayaking accident on the Payette River in Idaho, north of Boise, the Associated Press reports.

Boise County officials say Eric Weigel of Asheville, N.C., was kayaking the North Fork of the Payette with two friends on Wednesday afternoon when he apparently flipped over and hit his head, losing consciousness.

The sheriff’s department tells KBOI-TV that Weigel was upside down in his kayak for several minutes before friends could get him to shore. He died at the scene.

The sheriff’s office says Weigel and his friends were on the final day of a 21-day whitewater rafting trip when the accident happened.

The North Fork of the Payette is known for its challenging Class V rapids. 

Sign up for canoe, kayak and sea kayak classes

PADDLING – Registration is open for the excellent annual paddling classes taught by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club:

  • Flatwater canoeing for solo or tandem boats is June 5.
  • Moving water canoeing is July 13-14.
  • Sea kayaking for novice to advanced is July 17, 20 and 21.
  • Whitewater kayaking dates are not set.

Each class is $55 per person, except the flatwater canoeing class is a free pre-requisite for the moving water class.

Sign up: (509) 448-9214.

Paddlers carefully eye Priest River flows

RIVERS – The best time to float the Priest River comes and goes, but the next couple of weeks will be worth checking out.

At its extremes – up to 10,500 cubic feet per second and down to 165 cfs – the river is basically too high for safe passage except for experts or too low to float without dragging a vessel over the rocks.

  • Ideal flows for experienced canoeists are in the range of 1,200-4,500 cfs (recorded at the gauge near Priest River, Idaho).

During summer through early fall, when most people would be lured to portions of the river downstream from Priest Lake, the water generally is too low to float without bouncing and scraping along the rocks.

However, inexperienced paddlers running inflatable boats can have a safer, enjoyable float at flows in the 600-1,000 cfs range in the Eight Mile Rapids stretch from McAbee Falls downstream.  (See description below.)

Prime times for experienced paddlers farther upstream are:

  • Spring runoff period of May and early June, but be especially ready for cold water and alert for new log jams or strainers.
  • Early October, a glorious, fall-color period when mosquitoes are gone and flows pick up to the 1,200 cfs range as water is allowed to flow over Outlet Dam to lower Priest Lake to winter levels.

Read on for more details and notes on flows from Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club diaries.

Challenge yourself: Idaho Adventure Sports Week June 2-9

ADVENTURE SPORTS — Fitness junkies who enjoy trail running, mountain biking, paddling and other outdoors sports will love the big event coming up based out of Farragut State Park.

Adventure Sports Week Idaho features 14 different races and clinics over eight days, June 2 - 9. Racers are traveling from long distances to join locals at this event, said North Idaho organizer David Adlard.

Trail runs include a June 2 Beaches 2 Boulders with 5k, 10k and 9 mile fun runs and the
June 8 Deepwater  half marathon, marathon, 50 k and 52 mile races.

Mountain bikers can zero in on the Mad Dash races, 4 or 6hours, on June 2.

Adventure races set for June 8-9 combine a variety of sports and skills on June 8-9.

Kids are offered their own adventure race, plus a clinic on orienteering and adventure racing.
  
The week includes prizes, barbecue and other treats.

Plus, “Farragut is beautiful,” Adlard said.
  
Info: (208) 664-0135.

Capsized canoeists rescued on Pend Oreille River

PADDLING — Canoeists were rescued from Lake Pend Oreille after their boat — filled with three people and a dog — capsized in high winds that blasted Bonner County on Sunday evening, according to the Bonner County Bee.

One person in the canoe managed to swim safely to shore, said Bonner County Sheriff’s Lt.  Ror Lakewold.

The other two paddlers clung to pilings supporting the U S  Highway 95 Long Bridge, the Bee reported.

A cyclist heard or saw them and called it in, said Lakewold. The call came in about 5 p.m.

All three went to Bonner General Hospital to be checked for hypothermia and were later released, according to Lakewold.

Perhaps this should be emphasized:  They all were wearing life jackets, according to the sheriff's report.

USGS minimizes budget cut impacts on river gauges

 RIVERS — Whitewater river runners, anglers and other groups and agencies in Idaho and Washington that rely on streamflow gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey are breathing a sigh of relief.

USGS had announced that as of today (May 1) operation of “up to 375 streamgages nationwide would be discontinued due to budget cuts as a result of the $85 billion across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. Additional streamgages may be affected if partners reduce their funding to support USGS streamgages.”

But agency managers worked out ways to keep the immediate closures down to three in Idaho and none in Washington.  One closure of note to anglers: 13337500 South Fork Clearwater River near Elk City.

Click “continue reading” below for the explanations I received to my queries.

Streamgages are used nationwide to predict and address drought and flood conditions by monitoring water availability. The USGS and over 850 Federal, State, and local agencies cooperatively fund the USGS streamgaging network, which consists of more than 8,000 streamgages.

Clark Fork opens to floaters past Milltown Dam site

RIVERS — Montana Lieutenant Governor John Walsh will join other state officials today to celebrate the opening of a stretch of the Clark Fork River near Milltown that will be open for water traffic for the first time in more than a century.

What: Opening of 2.5 mile stretch of Clark Fork River to water traffic

When: Today (May 1) @ 10:45 a.m.

Where: Turah Fishing Access Site, eight miles east of Missoula on I-90 to Exit 113 (Turah), south then east for 2 miles.

Federal and local officials gathered in September to mark the end of a $100 million cleanup and restoration at Milltown Superfund site on the Clark Fork River upstream from Missoula.

Removal of the century-old dam and toxic mining sediments in an unprecedented scope was funded by a settlement with Atlantic Richfield Co.

Removing the dam eventually will be a boon to Clark Fork River native fisheries, state biologists say, but Missoula fly-fishing guides say aquatic insect hatches down from the dam site continue to be depressed.

The first advisory group meetings paving the way for the project were held in 1989 after arsenic was found in Milltown’s drinking water.

The Superfund work began in 2006 when crews began rerouting the river to drain the reservoir and expose the sediment contaminated by toxic waste flowing down the Clark Fork River from Butte-area mines.

In 2007, trains began hauling tons of sediment to holding ponds at Opportunity.

Milltown Dam was breached in 2008 and completely removed the following year. Since then, bulldozers scraped away the waste, dug new river channels and re-contoured the flood plain.

A state park is being developed at the site.

American Whitewater advocate updates river issues, dam removal

RIVERS – Thomas O’Keefe of American Whitewater will update paddlers on the approval for removing Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek and other river-liberating projects in a program for the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club Monday, april 22 7 p.m., at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley.

O'Keefe, AW’s Pacific Northwest stewardship director, will discuss the national group’s regional river conservation efforts, including recent dam removal success stories, revision of national forest plans and the future of river management for the Lochsa River and the rest of the Clearwater drainage.

Locals tell of winter rafting expedition in Grand Canyon

RIVERS –  Lynn and Stan Mrzygod will recount their recent 30-day, 300-mile, self-guided winter excursion through the wild rapids in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in a slide program sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club on Monday, 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear corporate offices, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

This ought to be an excellent way to chill out after a busy weekend.

Owyhee River Journals author presents program, video

RIVERS — Bonnie Olin, author of Owyhee River Journals, will present a program and video about her experiences on Thursday (March 7), at 7 p.m. at Jack and Dan's Bar and Grill, corner of Hamilton Stree and Sharp Avenue.

The program is free, but reservations are required by Wednesday to reserve a seat in the limited space. Contact Northwest Whitewater Association:

email spokanerafterguy@comcast.net or phone/text: 509-220-8018.

The Owyhee canyons in southwestern Idaho and Oregon — flushed with rushes of whitewater — are wild country, much of it proposed for wilderness.

“A trip into the Owyhee still allows you to feel like you are the first and only person to have set foot there,” she says.” It is here that it is still possible to “unplug” completely from the modern world, Olin said.  It is one of the last places in the lower 48 states in which you do not require a permit to “just go.”

Weighted lottery could help luckless river permit applicants

RUNNING RIVERS — My wife and I and a dozen friends in our would-be rafting group feel your pain if you didn't draw a coveted permit to reserve a launch date for one of Idaho's four famous wilderness whitewater rivers.

We bombed, too.

The competition is stiff for the annual drawing to run the Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway or Hells Canyon of the Snake.  But it's funny how some groups never get drawn and others seem to luck out and draw a permit every year.

Everyone who applied this year has received a query from the Forest Service, which is considering a weighted lottery for river permits roughly similar to that used in most states for issuing hunting permits.  In other words, every time you apply and don't get selected, you gain chances that give you better odds in the next  year's drawing.

It' a good idea? If you have a stake in this, read these details from the Forest Service and email them your thoughts.

North Idaho outdoorsman Todd Hoffman said he's already replied the Salmon-Challis National Forest with these suggestions for a weighted lottery:

  1. Cap preference points to five.
  2. Limit trips to one per person per year.
  3. Allow pooling of applications and preference points.
  4. Set preference points to zero for any one who draws a permit or who participates in another permit holders trip.
  5. Release any unused commercial launches to private boaters.
  6. Create an online follow up lottery for cancellations.
  7. Implement smaller caps for trip sizes, but create more launches.

Locals present program on kayaking in France

ADVENTURE TRAVEL – A program on kayaking rivers in France will be featured Monday (Feb 25) at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Office at 6021 E. Mansfield, Spokane.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Club members Jim Nelson and Charlene Longworth will discuss their river adventures on Corsica, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea.

River rafters have to be cool with rejection

RIVERS — My group of river-running hopefuls are feeling left out after all of us received “unsuccessful” notices from the annual lottery for summer floating permits on Salmon River through Idaho's River of No Return Wilderness.

The Forest Service permits for the Salmon, Middle Fork, Selway and Hells Canyon of the Snake are highly prized. Although it's disappointing not to draw a permit, nobody would want to go back to the chaos and degradation these most-popular rivers would suffer without regulation and daily group quotas. 

Here's the observation from another unlucky permit applicant from the Northwest Whitewater group:

For those of us who put in for the 4 Rivers Lottery & got skunked once again, I weep with you…
 
For what it's worth, the reason we don't score lottery launch dates isn't bad luck or poor karma. In the case of the Middle Fork, for example, those of us who never draw are victims of the immutable statistical fact that we are among nearly 10,000 applicants each year competing for each season's only 387 available launch permits.
 
[How to even the odds: talk all your boating buds into NOT putting in for permits anymore 'cause it's pointless (LOL)].