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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.

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.