Thursday, July 29, 2021

New full-color guide to the Boise River provides details on navigating the river from Lucky Peak to Parma

Adam Bass, right, with Chel and the new Boise River guide.

Hi all, 

Just when we're seeing more and more people floating non-traditional sections of the Boise River in rafts, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and inner tubes, the Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) has produced a new guidebook for the Boise River, providing details on navigating the river from Lucky Peak to Parma. 

Adam Bass is the author of the full-color, waterproof guide. BREN had a little party at Idaho River Sports on Wednesday night to celebrate the launch of the new guide. The spiral-bound guide is available for sale for $35 retail.

Tom "Chel" Chelstrom wrote the first detailed guide to the Boise River in the mid-1990s, and updated it five times over the years.

"My first printing of “Canoeing the Boise river” served to jump start our community’s awareness of the recreation opportunities beyond Barber Park to Ann Morrison," Chel says. "I am delighted that Adam has incorporated some of that early work and made a much more detailed, user-friendly guidebook.

"The book is a great tribute to the efforts of so many people to improve access and information about the river. Shout out to IRU, Boise River 2000, the Boise River Trails Coalition and Boise River Enhancement Network for 25 years of great work!"

Here's Drew on the Boise River with his friend Jenny McIntosh.

Adam Bass said this about the book:

"The Guidebook introduces river users to the beautiful plants and fascinating wildlife of the lower Boise River as well as the natural and human-created hazards. Experienced boaters can use the Guidebook to safely explore our backyard treasure and become ambassadors for a healthy river." 

In the introduction, Bass writes "The Boise River flows nearly 70 miles from Discovery Park, just below Lucky Peak Dam east of Boise, to its confluence with the Snake River west of Parma. The river provides wonderful paddling opportunities and scenic views over its entire length. There are many accesses and most are easily reached on major roads, which make for simple shuttles."

They break the river down into the following sections: 

  • Lucky Peak to Barber Park 
  • Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park 
  • Glenwood to Eagle Road - South Channel 
  • Glenwood to Eagle Road - North Channel 
  • Eagle Road to Linder - South Channel 
  • Eagle Road to Linder - North Channel 
  • Star Road to Lansing Lane 
  • Middleton Road to Wittenberger Park 
  • Wittenberger Park to Notus 
  • Notus to Parma 
  • Parma to Fort Boise  
Each section has notes on put-ins and takeouts, hazards or points of interest, wildlife you might see along the way, etc.

BE SMART AND SAFE OUT THERE! 

Try to scout unfamiliar sections of the river before you go, or at least hazards that you expect to encounter such as irrigation diversions. The best advice is to "scout" any hazards before floating them. 

The guidebook says, "Paddling on rivers is never completely safe. Develop your skills on lakes, paddle within your ability, and always wear a properly fitted PFD (life jacket). You are responsible for your safety while paddling and only you can judge the suitability of the Boise River for your skill level."

Also ... "Keep other river users in mind," Bass says. "If you plan a trip through town, keep in mind other floaters. If you plan a trip downstream of Eagle Road, keep in mind potential
waterfowl hunters. Always be aware of fishermen."

Truth be told, Chel approached me about printing a guidebook on the Boise River when he was researching all of the different sections of the river shortly after I had published my first edition of "Paddling the Payette," a guide to 24 day trips on all forks of the Payette River. At the time, I didn't think there would be much of a market for a canoeing guide to the Boise River ... because it was a very small small number of people who do that type of thing. 

But now that SUPs and sit-on-top kayaks are commonplace on the Boise River -- and full-sized rafts with anglers on board -- there definitely is a need for a detailed guide about the more unsung sections of the Boise River, in my view. 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - Be sure to check water levels on the Boise River before you go ... check the Idaho river flows page to get the latest flows, such as the gauge in Caldwell: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/id/nwis/uv/?site_no=13211205&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00010

Be sure to bring plenty of food and water with you. Wear good river shoes/sandals for navigating around hazardous areas. 

And have fun!

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR IDAHO CITY YURTS! 

Hey folks, Idaho Parks and Recreation is having a hard time recruiting volunteers for stocking up the Idaho City yurts with fresh firewood and other things for the winter season. Contact Steve Schaps, thewildwestguy@gmail.com if you'd like to help out.

August 11-12 - Skyline Yurt organized by Brian McMahan. Meeting at 7:45 am at the Idaho Parks and Rec office on Warm Springs Road.  Carpooling available.

August 17-18 - Hennessey Yurt organized by Leo Hennessey himself. Meeting at the yurt at 9-10 am. 

August 30-31 - Elkhorn Yurt organized by me (Steve Schaps) meeting at the Parks and Rec office on Warm Springs Road at 7:45 am. Carpooling available.

August 31-Sept 1 - Banner Ridge Yurt organized by Julie Rittenberry. 

Please spread the word to your friends. Thanks!
- SS 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Three places to cool-off, camp, fish or paddle in Central Idaho, plus Stage 1 fire restrictions in effect!


Alturas Lake (courtesy Triangle C)

Hi all, 

I hope everyone is finding ways to stay cool and close to water in the midst of this major heat wave in Idaho. 

Between the smoke from wildfires causing air quality issues, combined with the heat, it's hard to get that motivated to leave the comforts of A/C. 

But in reality, the higher-elevations in Central Idaho are a great place to go, and maybe the smoke and heat will keep some people camping on the couch at home! 

This week for my outdoor tip, I'm recommending three somewhat off-beat locations for high-elevation outdoor outings near water in Central Idaho. You can go paddling, fishing or camping in these locations or just sit on the river bank or lake shore, and soak your feet in the water. Can you feel it? 

Before I share my recommendations, I've got two things to share re: trip-planning. 

1. Head's up: The Forest Service, BLM and Idaho Department of Lands have gone to Stage 1 Fire Restrictions in Southwest Idaho, Central Idaho and North-Central Idaho. Those restrictions kick in today (July 15) and tomorrow. KVTB story here

The fire restrictions mean that it's illegal to have a campfire unless you're camping in an official campground, where they have those large circular metal fire-containment structures. See the KTVB story for details. 

Air Now Fire and Smoke map screenshot. (Courtesy of Air Now)

2. Smoke map. I like this Air Now interactive Fire and Smoke map.  Good way to see what's going on with fire smoke not only in Idaho, but in the Pacific Northwest or beyond. If you're a skier, your login for OpenSnow.com should work for OpenSummit.com. OpenSummit has some great interactive smoke maps as well, which will give you a sense of how the smoke plumes will play out over the next 24 hours. 

Now, as to my recommendations in no particular order:

  • Deadwood Reservoir (elev. 5,334') - The lengthy drive from Cascade or the Banks-to-Lowman road usually keeps the crowds down at Deadwood. You can go boating, SUP'ing, camping or fishing. The fishing is quite diverse, with the possibility of catching rainbow or cutthroat trout, Atlantic salmon, or kokanee salmon. Some of the campgrounds can be reserved via Recreation.gov.
    Deadwood Reservoir, courtesy Peak Visor

  • Landmark (elev. 6,630') - East of Cascade via the Warm Lake Road, you can go camping in this area at one of several Forest Service campgrounds like Penny Springs, go fishing in Johnson Creek or maybe float a section of Johnson Creek in a SUP, kayak or canoe. Road-scout the section you're going to try to look for trees across the creek (strainers). In Landmark, you're relatively close to Yellow Pine, if you'd like to take a side trip, and close to some access points on the west side of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
    Johnson Creek airstrip provides quick access to Yellow Pine.

  • Alturas or Petit Lake (elev. 7,000'), Sawtooth Valley - It looks like the official campgrounds at these lakes are reserved or close-to-full. Perhaps you can find another place to camp in the valley or stay at Smiley Creek Lodge. You can catch rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bull trout and kokanee at Alturas Lake. More details on the IDFG fishing planner. At Petit Lake, the same species are available, plus brook trout. More details on the IDFG fishing planner. 

There you have it! Have fun out there!
- SS

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Looking to cool off in the Idaho mountains? Six keeper hikes to explore in the greater McCall area, recommended by local experts

How about your own personal snowfield? Huck liked it!

Hi all, 

Many of you are no doubt heading for the high country, high mountain lakes, mountain towns and shady spots along our wonderful rivers and streams to stay cool during this wicked unrelenting triple-digit heat. 

So if you're visiting the greater McCall area to cool off in the near future, I wanted to call attention to the current issue of Visit McCall magazine, Summer 2021. The McCall Chamber of Commerce partnered with Roger Phillips, yours truly and Scott Merchant to write about some of our favorite hikes in the vicinity.

I wrote about hiking the Bear Pete Trail from Cloochman Saddle to an overlook of Josephine Lake, Phillips wrote about "Goldilocks destinations" - Upper Hazard Lake and Hard Creek Lake, and Merchant wrote about "Wildflower Pilgrimages" to Granite Mountain, Box Lake and Lava Butte Lake.

Here's an online link from the McCall Chamber site that provides the full stories from all three of us ... Just ask an expert! https://visitmccall.org/favorite-hiking-trails-around-mccall-ask-an-expert/ 


Hard-copies of the full-color magazine are available in McCall Chamber office and local stores.

Editor McKenzie Kraemer's intro for the "Walk in the Woods" stories is intriguing: 

"There are about a million benefits to hiking - from the stunning scenery to the cardio boost of an uphill climb - but the underlying appeal, and the thing we always come back to, is that a walk in the woods has a magical way of bringing calm and connection."

My narrative on Bear Pete Trail tells the god-honest truth that I discovered the trail in the mid '90s in my quest to explore all of the bikeable trails in the greater McCall area for my guidebook, Mountain Biking in McCall. Turns out, it's a super hard gut-buster ride to scale the ups and downs of Bear Pete Mountain from the south to the north, or the north to the south, but it's one heck of a fun and adventurous full day's ride. 

I've returned to the southern trailhead at Cloochman Saddle (about 20 miles north of McCall) to hike the trail, which is much easier than trying to bike it. I'd rate the hike as being moderate with strenuous sections to the Josephine Lake overlook or points farther north. But it's definitely doable for most abilities; great for kids. 

One of the biggest benefits of the Bear Pete hike is to experience the feeling of seeing big and massive mountain ranges all around you, giant hunks of granite lording over the upper Payette River watershed on one side, and then an endless sea of mountains reaching to the north, toward the Salmon River - River of No Return, and the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. You are on the edge of wilderness for literally hundreds of square miles in Central Idaho. 

It's a place where I feel small, as a humanoid. 

See the online link to read my story about Bear Pete and get directions to the trailhead. I'll share some more pics below ... 

The Payette Crest looking east from Bear Pete Mountain

 

Wendy at the overlook of Josephine Lake

Huck sniffs the bear grass ... love it when you can see those white bulbs in bloom

Snow-covered ridgeline above 7,000 feet ... You can see forever up here! 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why is it getting so hot? Plus, a few notes on fire prevention and safety

 

Hi all - We all know it's getting hot ... really HOT for June in SW Idaho, and it's going to get even hotter next week ... up to 107 by next week. 

What the heck is going on? It's already been a dry spring ... the last thing we need is a major heat wave before July, when you know it's going to be hot in the low-elevation valleys of Idaho! 

I checked with the National Weather Service experts in Boise. A High Pressure system camped off the Pacific Coast, plus a Low Pressure system off the tip of the Alleutian Islands, are creating a dynamic where the jet stream is moving way north into Canada, and hot air from the Desert Southwest to moving north into the Pacific Northwest, where it may break all temperature records next week! 

In short, we're getting the weather that Vegas and Phoenix typically get. 

The model run pictured above shows the extreme heat in orange and reddish-orange, and you can see how the heat blob is centered right over Idaho ... Damn! This system may persist beyond next week ... so make plans accordingly!

Please be careful during the heat wave, stay hydrated and find places to keep cool however you can! If you go outside, be sure to wear a hat, sun screen, etc., bring plenty of water, and set up a sun shade to stay out of the direct sun.

Here are a couple of my recent beat-the-heat posts that might be helpful: 

Topic #2 this week: Remember the old Smokey the Bear saying, "Only you can prevent forest fires" ? 

Well, this year, that saying is especially true. 

It's already a given that we're in for a long, hot summer. We're in it now! 


But perhaps you didn't know that 80% of all the wildfires we have in Idaho each year are caused by humans. Some of them turn into mega fires ... like the guy who was shooting at exploding targets and started the Sharps Fire over by Bellevue a couple of years ago, which burned more than 65,000 acres ... or the guy who was setting off fireworks by Table Rock and started a fire over there. And on and on. 

So just a wee bit of advice, if you need to have a campfire, be sure to put it DEAD OUT before you go to bed. And definitely before you leave the campsite. Last year, Boise National Forest fire prevention control employees found nearly 400 campfires that had been left burning after they left. 

Here are some pics that the Boise National Forest shared with a social media post about campfires left burning. Be sure to fully extinguish your campfires when you're out camping ... and if it's hot, maybe skip building the fire altogether! 

And remember, no fireworks are allowed on Forest Service or BLM lands. 

Let's be smart and do what we can to prevent wildfires in Idaho. We've all been through smoke-filled summers, and it's no fun at all! Plus, the damage to property and natural resources is something that we must avoid!

For more information about fire prevention and fire safety, go here

- SS