Jet boat racers will have another one of the region’s prized fishing streams to conquer in May.
Participants in the
The championship series starts on May 21, with two days of racing on the St. Joe River followed by two more days on the Coeur d’Alene. The racing will head to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley starting May 27 and feature a 24-mile run up the Grande Ronde River from its mouth to Boggan’s Oasis. The series will conclude on May 29 following two days of racing on the Snake River.
Both the Coeur d’Alene and the Grande Ronde rivers are new additions since the race was last held in the United States in 2012. On May 27, racers will start at Hells Gate Marina on the Snake River, head upstream to Heller Bar and then proceed up the Grande Ronde to Boggan’s Oasis, a distance of 52 miles.
Following a short break, the boats will turn around and run back to the start of the race.
As the river enters a roadless section just above the mouth of Joseph Creek, it necks down and racers will encounter The Narrows, a rapid with a huge standing wave known to be a raft flipper.
If flows are around 3,000 cubic feet per second or lower, racer Ryan Hudson of Lewiston said there will be no way to sneak the run.
“There’s only one line through The Narrows and you have to be dead on and once you are committed there is no turning around,” he said.
After The Narrows he said the river flattens and becomes shallow as it twists and turns through basalt canyons.
“I think it’s going to be a blast,” Hudson said.
Asotin County Commissioner Jim Fuller, who is also a race official and the father-in-law of racer Ryan Rogers, said the commission approved the Grande Ronde course earlier this year. He noted the race plan complies with a county ordinance that allows jet boats on the Grande Ronde from March 16 to Sept. 14, and bans them the rest of the year unless flows exceed 3,000 cfs.
“The consensus of the board is it’s a go,” he said. “It brings a lot of people to the valley.”
But not everyone thinks the river is a good one for the high-octane sport of jet boat racing. Fishing outfitter John Sullivan of the Grande Ronde Guide Service said he sees the river as one that is better suited for rafts and drift boats than motor boats. He also noted that floating traffic is heavy in May and that much, but not all, of the river is roadless or lined with private property, both of which will limit spectating.
“Why invite folks to the race and then don’t let them see it?” he said.
Sullivan is also concerned the race could be a problem for nesting bald eagles.
“I know of two active bald eagle nests, birds sitting on eggs within a couple of yards from the river,” he said.
Sean Visintainer of Silver Bow Fly Shop, who guides fishermen on the Coeur d’Alene, lower St. Joe and Grande Ronde Rivers, doesn’t see jet boat racing as a positive trend.
“As popular as drifting and wade fishing has become, there’s a safety issue and certainly an inconvenience issue for anglers, not to mention the impact to shore erosion and fish that have spawned or are still spawning,” he said.
“These are very special rivers.”
The series will wrap up with two runs up the Snake River. On May 28, racers will complete three 15-mile circuits between Hells Gate Marina and Three Mile Island.
On the last day, they will follow the traditional Thunder on the Snake course from the marina to Bear Bar and back.
Outdoors editor Rich Landers contributed to this report.
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