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Sunday, May 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

St. Joe River roads slowly opening, runoff increases

Snow-covered trailhead for St. Joe River Trail 48 near Spruce Tree Campground on June 1, 2011. (Jerry Hugo / Idaho Fish and Game Department)
Snow-covered trailhead for St. Joe River Trail 48 near Spruce Tree Campground on June 1, 2011. (Jerry Hugo / Idaho Fish and Game Department)

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

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

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

The upper St. Joe River is finally beginning to let go of winter, but run off is high with a lot more snow yet to melt.

  • The U.S. Forest Service has scraped clear rocks and graded the Red Ives road all the way to Spruce Tree Campground, but there is a narrow spot at the usual “boulder slide” just above Wahoo Creek.
  • Travel on side roads above Avery is still limited to a few miles up each; due to snow, mud/rock slides & slumps, complete blowouts and log jams flooding the roads.
  • Many camp sites above Avery and including Spruce Tree Campground still have patches of snow in the timber, but the sites are opening up fast.
  • The trail on up the river from Spruce Tree Campground is still very much snowed in.
  • I’ve only checked a handful of fishermen since the higher flows began, but they tell me the fishing is actually pretty good on streamers and nymphs.
  • You still cannot get over Gold Summit. Idaho side is open to the 83 mile marker and then you hit snow. Federal highways is still planning on re-paving and putting in new culverts on our side this summer.
  • I also only checked a handful of bear hunters in unit 7. But those hardy enough for this wet/cold weather are harvesting a few bears.
  • On patrol up Bird, Eagle, Quartz, Bruin, Gold and to Red Ives Ranger Station, I found where about 20 white tailed deer had succumbed to the hardships of this past winter.
  •  Pretty quiet, cold and wet up there right now – but an awesome opportunity to avoid the crowds and go early!
  • The highlight of my patrol on June 1 was the sighting of two seldom seen birds! (both at Red Ives Ranger Station): A Lewis' woodpecker and Audubon's warbler.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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