Saturday, June 30, 2012

Whazzup with salmon fishing season?

The chinook salmon fishing season officially opened June 23rd--a week ago today.  We know precious little about how the season is progressing.  We personally visited the Pahsimeroi Hatchery on June 21.  We were told it was the first day they had checked their trap and they only had six chinooks.  We also visited the Sawtooth Hatchery on June 19 and there were no chinooks. We visited the East Fork Weir and likewise--no chinooks.  We heard from a couple of seasoned observers that chinooks had been seen in some deep pools near the Yankee Fork.  The only true credible report we have to pass on was printed in Rob Thornberry's column in the June 28th edition of the Post-Register in Idaho Falls.  Rob said 9 chinooks were reported caught on opening weekend, mostly near the Yankee Fork confluence.  Since then the IDFG website has been down for days.  The inability to access the IDFG website highlights our collective reliance on the internet as our main source of wildlife information.  Although the main IDFG website appears to be "down for the count" we did resurrect a great video that IDFG did back in 2008 when the chinook season was reopened on The Upper Salmon River after a 30 year hiatus.  The video is embedded below.  You can click here to view the video as seen from the official IDFG link.  One glance at the video will tell you why people are hitting hard the Yankee Fork confluence and Sunbeam Dam.

We will have a more detailed report about Sunbeam Village in an article to be posted soon.

June river flow recap

June is always a great month on The Salmon River and its tributaries.  June's the time when most all the snow comes off the watershed.  The river can surge to sudden highs and fall toward tepid lows, all in the space of a mere 30 days.  This year was no exception as everything cut loose during the first week of June, bringing about two steep peaks on June 5-6.  After the inevitable retreat from those high flow marks, the river has put together a couple of weak rallies and ends the month on its June low flow mark.

As you will note in the article below, the Climate Prediction Center says above normal temps and below normal rainfall are likely over the next three months. The Salmon River typically begins its normal seasonal decline near the end of June as it drops down to a low baseflow during the peak of chinook salmon spawning season.

In the near future, we will research past similar years' historical data and do an article on what we might expect out of the river this year.  In the meantime, here are the June 1-30 hydrographs for the two primary flow monitoring points on The Salmon River between Stanley and North Fork.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot Dry Ahead

The funny looking graphic above is a mosaic of computer graphics from the NOAA/NWS Climate Prediction Center. (CPC).  The CPC churns out four key products for both temperature and precipitation (AKA: rain).

They are forecasts for the 6-10 day, 8-14 day, one month and three month time frames.  We produced this mosaic simply so you can get the drift of the next three months at a glance.  The darker the orange-reddish colors above, the more above normal (AKA: Hotter) CPC thinks it will be in each time frame.  This mosaic is arranged beginning with the 6-10 day forecast in the upper left and goes clockwise around to the three-month in lower left.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize CPC is trying to tell us it's probably going to be above normal temps through September.

Now take a look at the graphic below.  It shows CPC's thoughts on precipitation during each of the same time frames.  Um...sure looks like is going to tend to be below normal water coming down from the sky.  The brownish color represents CPC's prognostication for below normal precipitation in each of the periods.  We changed the file titles so they are easier to read below each component of the mosaic.

Bottom Line: CPC thinks it's going to be Hot Dry Ahead from now through September.  What does this mean for The Salmon River?  Stream flows will now trend downward and possibly might drop at a steeper than normal rate of seasonal decline.  Meanwhile, the forests will tend to dry out faster.  The typical onset of summer forest fires might be a tad bit earlier.  However, the real danger is that if CPC is correct, the forest fire season might be more intense than normal and might last longer than normal.  Note that the key word here is "might."  Whenever it comes to predicting weather and water, prudent readers will take such prognostications with a mighty big grain of salt.

For what it's worth, we've been watching CPC predictions since BTI (Before The Internet).  CPC's computers play the odds and on balance CPC's predictions will tend to be more accurate over time than any other source we've ever found over the past 30 years.  If you're going to bet on the long-range weather, CPC is the way to bet.

Click here to go to CPC's fine website.

SIHA Forum & Lecture Series begins July 6

The Sawtooth Interpretive & Historical Association (SIHA) kicks off another season of their popular Forum & Lecture Series (FLS) July 6th with a presentation by John Beecham entitled, "Living With Bears in Your Backyard."  You can click on the images below to see much larger (and more readable) versions.  SIHA's FLS has grown to be one of the "must do" summer activities in the Stanley-Sawtooth Valley area.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

IDFG Salmon Region Access Guides available

The IDFG Salmon Region Office received another press run of their awesome Access Guide.  Copies were distributed during the last few days to all licensed IDFG vendors and other locations from Stanley to North Fork.  The timing of this publication's distribution couldn't have been better as it coincided with the arrival of many sportsmen for the June 23rd opening of the salmon fishing season.  The Access Guide is free but can't be mailed out because the postage costs as much as the guide.

IDFG Wildlife Technician Caryll McConnell said, "Having worked with Greg Painter extensively on this guide it is very nice to see such a positive review! It was a joy to work on for me personally and I believe fulfills a much needed void for sportsmen and tourists."

We wrote a longer article on the Access Guide and you can read it here.

Chinook Salmon Season Update

(NOTE: We have created a dedicated page for the latest Chinook Salmon Fishing Season Updates.  You will be able to find the most current update easily via the link below our header above or you can click here to go there. The article below is currently duplicated on our "Fish" page. We will leave this page in place indefinitely to support its linkage on Big Fish Tackle Dot Com.) 

The chinook salmon harvest results were released shortly after 4 pm Monday by Brent Beller, Fisheries Technician, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Region 7, Salmon, Idaho.  Here's what Brent had to say about the current status of the salmon fishing season:

"Angler effort picked up significantly this past weekend compared to the one before, but there were still a lot of open holes out there. For the week, sixty three adults and six jacks were kept, while 27 non ad-clipped adults were released. Anglers averaged approximately 25 hours per Chinook caught and 36 hours per Chinook kept. Last week, most fish were caught downstream of the Yankee Fork, while this week a much larger proportion were caught upstream of the Yankee Fork. To date, season totals are 78 hatchery Chinook kept and 29 unclipped Chinook released. As of today (July 2nd), the number that have been trapped at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery is 160 hatchery adults, 13 hatchery jacks, and 10 wild. The best is yet to come since fishing should only keep improving as more Chinook continue to move into section 19."

The next report will be released next Monday afternoon, July 11th or possibly as late as Tuesday morning.Current Hatchery returns are below.
Pahsimeroi Hatchery
Broodstock Goal - 600 Hatchery Adults
TrapDateHatchery Adults Trapped
To Date
Hatchery Jacks Trapped
To Date
Wild Fish Trapped
To Date
Pahsimeroi River Trap7/2/20121032628

Sawtooth Hatchery
Broodstock Goal - 700 Hatchery Adults
TrapDateHatchery Adults Trapped
To Date
Hatchery Jacks Trapped
To Date
Wild Fish Trapped
To Date
Sawtooth Trap (Salmon River)7/1/201211397

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Stanley RAP

The Stanley RAP is also known as the "Salmon River Bridge" RAP.  It's blatantly obvious once you known where it is but can be a little stealthy to see for your first time.  It lies between the intersection of Highways 75 and 21 and the Confluence of Valley Creek and The Salmon River.  The RAP is not far above where Valley Creek comes into the Salmon.  There's a small one-lane bridge across the Salmon here that accesses private property on river right.

The RAP is mostly unimproved.  There is a signboard and a permit register box, that's about it.  The site is not hardened and parking is limited.  Turning radius is barely adequate.  Getting a heavy hard hulled boat into the river will require a lot of choice words and maybe a twisted ankle or knee.  The vast majority of usage of this RAP is by people floating in inflatable watercraft.  We suspect there's places you could launch a drift boat but it's likely they are on private property.

See also:

Mormon Bend RAP

The Mormon Bend RAP is a great little developed river access tucked into a fine riverside campground.  The ramp is really well done, the parking areas are huge and the turning radius is excellent.  Sight distance for getting off or on the highway is relatively safe.  All-in-all, Mormon Bend is the best RAP on the far, far upper reaches of The Salmon River.

Too bad there's nothing its equal farther upstream.  Too bad there's an outrageous stretch of whitewater downstream.  The Mormon Bend RAP would probably get far more use if it was paired with suitable nearby RAPs as well as a safe stretch of river downstream.  As it is, the bulk of usage of this RAP comes from people who have launched up at Stanley.

The turnoff into the campground is located at Highway 75 Milepost 196.1.  The RAP is located 6.3 miles downstream from the most commonly used Stanley area RAP.  Mormon Bend RAP is 7.3 miles from the Elk Creek RAP.

For a Google Earth Flyby converted to a YouTube video see our recent article:

Below is a graphic showing the general lay of the river from Mormon Bend down to the Yankee Fork area RAPs.

Shotgun Rapid

The Mormon Bend RAP (discussed above) is the last practical place to land a boat before descending down into the whitewater stretch of The Salmon River.  People using a small pontoon or very small inflatable can probably get out of the river at the Rough Creek Bridge.  However, if you miss getting out at Rough Creek you're in for a pretty tough go through some very testy whitewater, the chief ruffian of which is Shotgun Rapid.  Shotgun is a sawed off double-barrel blast of buckshot no matter what the water level.  This rapid has the ability to wipe you out of your boat throughout the river running season.  You can easily scout it from the road and even a casual glance at this cruncher will remind you of the old adage, "You can't get in trouble in the river if you stay on shore."  Being onshore to look at Shotgun is a very comforting place to be!

You can click here for a slideshow by David Denning of two of his guides running Shotgun June 1st this year.  Trust us, it doesn't get any easier when the water level drops.

For some further discussion of this stretch of river, please read our May 23rd post

Sunbeam Dam

Sunbeam Dam isn't a RAP.  Far from it.  It's a huge hazard.  We talk about it here so as to emphasize the dangers of encountering this Class VI-V man made rapid.

Sunbeam Dam was built around 1910 to supply power to a mine up on Jordan Creek in the Yankee Fork watershed.  The entire business model of this operation stunk and the mine went belly up not long afterwards.  The idea behind the dam was rooted in nearby Sunbeam Hot Springs not far upstream.  As muddled thinking went back in those days, the warm water from the hot springs would keep the reservoir from freezing, thereby assuring power generation during the winter months.  The trouble was that the mine itself was such a loser it couldn't possibly make money.  Meanwhile, Sunbeam dam completely destroyed the chinook and sockeye salmon run.  As the only dam ever built on The Salmon River, it was a complete and total ecological disaster.  To their credit, even the local people recognized this back in those days and called for the removal of the dam.

There are two primary stories about how the dam was breached.  The colorful version purports it was dynamited by irate vigilante salmon fishermen acting on behalf of their beloved chinooks and sockeyes.  The other less romantic version claims that IDFG took upon themselves to rid the river of this world class boondoogle.  To our knowledge, both prevailing stories have their own legion of proponents each claiming they have "evidence" to support their story.  Whoever did the deed, it happened in 1934 and even 79 years later the redfish run still hasn't recovered.

The photos below show Sunbeam Dam at the approximate water level we have right now--roughly 5+ feet on the USGS Yankee Fork gauge or approximately 2500-3500 cfs.  No matter what the level this rapid can eat you alive.

My wife and I once witness a two-person inflatable kayak attempt to run the wave during mid-summer low water.  The wave spit out the paddlers but kept the boat spinning in the keeper.  We stayed over a half hour watching the paddlers make futile attempts to free their boat before we became bored and drove on down stream.  Do not ever under estimate the power of this hazard.  It is easily one of the most--if not THE most--dangerous place on The Salmon River between Stanley and North Fork.

Below is a couple of great photos by David Denning showing one of his guides running Sunbeam a couple of weeks ago.  Look closely and note the top of the old dam showing in the very bottom of both photos.  It's a lot narrower slot that it appears from the overlook.

Yankee Fork-Elk Creek RAPs

Technically, there are two RAPS below the confluence of The Salmon River and its major tributary, the Yankee Fork.  The uppermost of these two RAPs is named "Yankee Fork" and the lower is "Elk Creek."
Many people simply refer to either or both of these RAPS as "Yankee Fork."

The upper RAP is very small and generally thought to be suitable for kayakers.  The lower RAP is large and well developed. It is used primarily by licensed commercial rafting outfitters who launch for a trip through the rated rapids downstream.  During the peak of the rafting season it can be very difficult to find a parking spot here.

Neither immediate up or down stream stretch of river here is suitable for casual novice boating.  The river above this point can be extremely hazardous.  Likewise, the stretch below this RAP contains its own menu of dangers.  In our opinion, no one should attempt to boat either stretch--above or below--these pair of RAPs unless they are exceptionally well equipped, experienced, trained and qualified.  For a list of commercial outfitters permitted and licensed to run either of these stretches see the "Outfitters" page in the links below this website's banner.

There is a Class III rated rapid immediately below the Elk Creek RAP called "Piece of Cake."  If traffic and parking conditions safely permit, there's some great spectator sport viewing of rafts passing through this fluffy piece of whitewater.

The general area of the Elk Creek RAP is located in the vicinity of Highway 75 Milepost 203.2

O'Brien RAP

Once again, neither Upper nor Lower O'Brien Campgrounds are RAPs in the traditional sense.  They are not set up for boating access.  However, Lower O'Brien would be suitable for launching a small pontoon cat or a small inflatable raft.  A group of our friends launched a full on multi-day river trip at Lower O'Brien back in 2006 using rafts that measured up to 16 feet so it can be done.  Bear in mind that any use of the river within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area requires a free use permit.  The closest place you could find these permits would possibly be Torrey's Hole or the RAP near the Yankee Fork.  If you are passing through Sawtooth Valley heading downstream be sure to pick up a supply of the permits from the Stanley ranger Station (weekdays) of from the permit box by the Stanley RAP that's located just above Valley Creek.

The turnoff to access Upper and Lower O'Brien is located at Milepost 104.4 on Highway 75.  Our theoretical RAP indicated by the "x?" above is located approx. 2.0-2.5 river miles upstream from Torrey's Hole and about 5-6 river miles downstream from the Yankee Fork (Elk Creek) RAP.

The stretch above Upper and Lower O'Brien Campgrounds is definitely a challenging rated whitewater river.  Only those with proper equipment, skill and training should attempt to navigate this stretch of river.  It is highly recommended that anyone wanting to fish the river above the O'Brien Campgrounds utilize the service(s) of a licensed commercial outfitter with the proper equipment and professional guide(s) capable of safely traveling this portion of river.

Torrey's Hole RAP

The Torrey's Hole RAP often qualifies as Grand Central Station on The Upper Salmon River.  It is heavily used by licensed commercial rafting outfitters as well as the general public.  It is the largest and most well developed RAP on The Upper Salmon River.  There is a very large parking area, toilets, a wide paved ramp into the river, large turning radius as well as excellent safe ingress and egress from Highway 75.  The only other public RAPs that come close to the level of improvement at Torrey's Hole are Corn Creek, North Fork, Shoup Bridge, Challis Bridge and possibly Bayhorse. A case could be made that Torrey's Hole is the best RAP on The Salmon River above the Frank Church.  Despite the large size of this RAP it can become very crowded when incoming commercial rafting trips all bunch up at the end of the day.  If this year's salmon fishing season turns hot at the same time the outfitters are enjoy a crush of paying customers, you can expect gridlock at Torrey's Hole.  Be forewarned.

We have some photos of Torrey's but can't find them this morning.  We'll take some new photos next weekend and post them soon.  Torrey's is located at Highway 75 Milepost 210.65.  The RAP is 8.85 high way miles upstream from the Squaw Creek RAP.  (Torrey's is 9.7 river miles upstream from Squaw Creek.)

The river above Torrey's (down to Lower O'Brien Campground) is considered a whitewater stretch of river suitable only for boaters who have proper equipment, safety gear and, above all, experience and training in navigating rated whitewater rapids.  It is not recommended for novice boaters and should not be attempted unless you are very well prepared.

The closest major public access upstream from Torrey's Hole is located just downstream from the Yankee Fork confluence at Highway Milepost 203.2.  It is approximately 8 miles by river from the Yankee Fork area RAP to Torrey's.  If you are interested in fishing that stretch of river, we strongly urge you to use the services of a licensed commercial outfitter utilizing proper equipment in the hands of skilled, knowledgeable professional guide(s).

There is a small portion of the river, perhaps 2.0-2.5 miles between Lower O'Brien Campground and Torrey's that might be suitable for paddlers using a small pontoon cat or an inflatable raft.

The stretch from Torrey's downstream is definitely mellow compared to what one would encounter upstream.

Whiskey Flat RAP

Whiskey Flat is not really a normal RAP in the traditional sense.  It's a campground next to the river. We don't think there's any easy way to launch or land a drift boat here.  However, it's probably suitable for use with a small pontoon or a light weight inflatable raft.  We will take a much closer look at this site on our upcoming trip to Salmon Country.  The turnoff into this site seems to be at Highway 75 Milepost 213.4 just upstream from the recently rebuilt bridge over The Salmon River.

The highway distance downstream to Squaw Creek is 6.1 miles. The highway distance upstream of Torrey's Hole is 2.75 miles.  It's likely that river mileages are slightly higher than the highway mileages.

Squaw Creek RAP

( Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles about RAPs (River Access Points) on The Upper Salmon River" in the area that will open to salmon fishing on June 23rd.  We started on the lower (downstream) end of this section and are working our way up river.  The RAPs we discuss here are those suitable for launching or landing a boat.  We aren't describing all of the various foot access points along the river nor RAPs on private property.  The information provided here is courtesy of the IDFG "Salmon River Access Guide" and from personal experience.)
 The Squaw Creek RAP (red "X" above) is very easy to find.  It's located exactly one mile east of Old Sawmill Station on Highway 75.  Sight distance on the highway is decent.  The turning radius is adequate.  There is some parking but it is relatively limited.  Camping is allowed at this RAP.

It is 8 river miles downstream to the East Fork RAP and 7.3 highway miles.  The Squaw Creek RAP is located 9.7 river miles downstream from the Torrey's Hole RAP and 9.1 highway miles.
Here's a view of the Squaw Creek RAP's hardened ramp.  It's not as good as some of the more modern ramps but at least it is hardened.
Typically, the main flow of the river here hugs the river left bank.  It's pretty bony right in front of the ramp itself.  Chances are flows during at least the early part of the upcoming salmon fishing season will be sufficient to clear the river cobbles here.  The bridge shown downstream is for mining use only.  The public bridge is upstream of this RAP.
Here's a scan of the page from IDFG's "Salmon Region Access Guide."(SRAG). You can click on the image to see a much larger version.  The nice thing about the SRAG guide is that it describes the actual land ownership situation and provides clear boundary delineations at each site.  Note the interpretive sign.  These signs are located at most of the RAPs from Sawtooth Valley to down below North Fork. They are of a unified style and format acceptable to the various public agencies involved in managing the resources of The Salmon River.  The signs show mileages to the nearest up and downstream RAPs as well as historical information.  Each such sign is totally top notch and a real service to river users.

The East Fork RAP

The East Fork RAP (red "X" above) is just below the legal boundary for the reach of river open to salmon fishing June 23rd.  It is located on river left immediately below the Highway 75 bridge not far upstream from the East Fork confluence.  This RAP is one of the few remaining unimproved access points along this reach of The Salmon River.

The East Fork RAP is 8 river miles downstream from the Squaw Creek RAP. The highway distance is 7.3 miles.

In the past 10 years, the BLM Challis Field Office has really gone the extra mile improving various RAPS between the SNRA boundary and lands administered by the BLM Salmon Field Office.  Unfortunately, the East Fork RAP didn't benefit from such improvement efforts.

Interestingly, this RAP is not specifically covered or described in the IDFG "Salmon River Access Guide."  That could be because of private property and/or easement issues. We have never noticed that this RAP is posted.  We will do some checking this month to determine what the actual land ownership is for this RAP.

(NOTE: As of 8/6/12 the consensus appears to be that this area is BLM land.  We learned August 2nd that the Idaho Dept. of Transportation will construct a two new bridges beginning in 2013.  The bridges will be built on the south sides of the existing East Fork and Salmon River bridges.  Our BLM sources did not know how this construction project might impact the use or future configuration of the East Fork RAP.  When the Ice Corner and Slate Creek bridges were built, floating under the construction sites was prohibited.  We plan to go to IDT's Rigby office to do soem further checking into this situation.)

 The East Fork RAP does not have a good eddy to catch when arriving from upstream. The East Fork ramp is native soil and river gravels.  The turning radius to access the area is marginal and on loose sandy soils.  Parking is practically non-existent and often problematic.  The turn off from the paved highway is definitely not optimal either.  We highly recommend you scout this RAP prior to using it.

As you know, the nature of boaters and fishermen is such that they will use any practical RAP no matter what. The old adage "any port in a storm" easily applies to the East Fork RAP.  During high use periods such as steelhead season and the upcoming salmon fishing season, expect this area to be cramped and congested.  If you plan to leave a vehicle at this RAP, be courteous to your fellow fishermen and park as far away from the ramp as possible.  Ideally, users would park across the river in the BLM's East Fork Recreation Site rather than near the ramp itself.

Below are the only two photos we have on file for this RAP.  We did get a lot of photos August 1 and will post them soon.  My wife and River Runnin' Sweetie Susun is shown in these July 2010 photos.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Salmon fishing season approved for Upper Salmon

Despite rumors to the contrary, there will be a salmon fishing season on The Upper Salmon River.  The IDFG Commission approved a season Monday June 11.  Opening day is June 23rd.  Salmon fishing will be allowed from a point about 250 yards upstream of the East Fork Confluence to a point just below the Sawtooth Hatchery. The Salmon River is closed to salmon fishing from the South Fork confluence to the East Fork confluence.  That includes Corn Creek, Shoup, North Fork, Salmon City, Elk Bend, Ellis Bayhorse and Challis.  The season is likely to end when 900-1000 chinook salmon are caught.

The downstream boundary is the bridge over The Salmon River just upstream from The East Fork Confluence.  The upstream boundary is just below the Sawtooth Hatchery.

IDFG plans to issue a news release soon about the season.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Upper Salmon Camping

With a potential salmon fishing season possibly beginning June 23, it's time to review the camping situation on The Upper Salmon River from The East Fork to the Sawtooth Hatchery. (We will talk about boating access in a separate post.)

Old Timers and Salmon Heads already know their favorite camp nooks and niches.  This discussion is for readers who might not be all that familiar with that portion of Salmon Country and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).

The camping zones are: Sawtooth Valley, camps along the river, Yankee Fork, the lower SNRA, Sawmill Station and East Fork.

The BLM runs a great little campground located right at the confluence of The East Fork and The Salmon River.  BLM Volunteer Clark Morley has been tending this recreation site for over 10 years and keeps it in tip top shape during the summer season.  There aren't many sites and they are first-come, first-served.  Clark and his late wife, Joan, developed a large fan club over the years.  It's a great place to stay if you can arrive early enough to get a site.  Click here for the BLM's webpage on The East Fork site.

There aren't really any camping areas up on The East Fork unless you know somebody.  It's all private property for about 20 miles upstream.

The next genuine camping upstream is Old Sawmill Station.  As far as we're concerned, this is THE place for a Big Rig to camp.  They have gas, hookups, showers, washing machines and, of course, the awesome restaurant and store which carries a great beer selection.  The hospitality at Old Sawmill Station is legendary.  They simply can't be beat.  Whatever they charge to camp there is a bargain.  Old Sawmill Station also functions as a clearinghouse of sorts for hunters and fishermen.  If you want to know what's hot and what's not, you better beat feet to Old Sawmill Station.  Click here for their one-page website.

There's a couple of Forest Service campgrounds upstream from Sawmill--Holman and Whiskey Flat.  They are very basic.  Whiskey Flat has the advantage of being right on the riverbank not far downstream from Slate Creek.

Farther upstream is Torrey's Cabins.  They also offer excellent RV sites with a lot of amenities.  It's an excellent place to stay.  You can click here to visit their website.  One of the very big advantages of staying at Torrey's is the proximity to the Torrey's Hole River Access Site (RAP) virtually right next door.  Torrey's has been a popular place to stay since the 1930's and the place has faithful clients whose experiences there go back a two or three generations.  Torrey's also rents out eight great little cabins.

Lower & Upper O'Brien are two real nice Forest Service campgrounds not too far upstream from Torrey's. Next is the Yankee Fork road to the right.  There are three small campgrounds on the lower Yankee Fork. They probably aren't suitable for bigger rigs. Farther up, of course, the area remains heavily impacted by past gold dredging activities and there are a lot of mining claims and private property parcels.

We aren't sure what the situation is for camping at the old Sunbeam Resort located across Highway 75 from the remnants of the infamous old dam.  We'll check into it next time we are up that way.

Mormon Bend is the next major campground upstream.  It's flat and has wide turning areas and the Big Rigs fit well in some of the sites there.  The boat launch area is hardened and is one of the better RAP's on the Upper Salmon.  We thought this campground had reservable sites but can't seem to find them online today.

Riverside, Casino Creek and Salmon River campgrounds are all three along the river between Mormon Bend and Stanley.  Casino Creek is located on the other side of the river (river right) and was improved a few years ago.  It appears to be a favorite of sportsmen.  None of these campgrounds show up on the reservations website so they may all be first-come, first-served.

Forest Service campgrounds in the SNRA are managed by a concessionaire.

Once you reach Stanley, camping options abound.  Although there are 16 developed camping areas between the Salmon headwaters and Stanley Lake, we'd recommend only a couple of areas: Redfish Lake and Sunny Gulch.  If you know Redfish Lake you know it can be a zoo scene during the peak of summer season.  However, it is well developed and close to Redfish Lake Lodge's amenities.  Glacier View Campground (63 sites) and Outlet Campground (18 sites) at Redfish Lake can be reserved online.  All the roads and spurs in both campgrounds are paved.  Both have flush toilets and, of course, drinking water.  There are no hookups and time-of-use restrictions do apply for generators.

Our top recommendation for salmon fishermen who plan to camp in the Sawtooth Valley would be the Sunny Gulch Campground. It only has 10 sites so it can't get all that crowded. The roads and spurs are paved.  The turning radii are generous.  It's very close to the Redfish Lake intersection, lying between the Stanley Ranger Station and the Redfish road.  The campground is located on the north side of Highway 75.  This campground was completely redone about 6 or 7 years ago and it is a great place.  It's out of the mayhem of the Redfish Lake area, close to the main road and located right on the river.  Sunny Gulch is reservable.

To check into reserving a camp site online you need to go to  Use "Sawtooth National Recreation Area campground" in the search field and all of your choices will appear throughout the entire Sawtooth National Forest.  There are other reservable campgrounds in the SNRA such as Stanley and Alturas Lakes.  You do have to pay a steep fee to reserve a campsite via the online system.  If we recall correctly, it's nine bucks.  Whatever the price it's a bargain.  There's nothing better than knowing you actually have a place to camp with your name on it.  If you show up at the wrong time in Sawtooth Country finding a campsite might not be possible.  Better to pay the fee and be safe than sorry.

There may some limited RV camping options in Stanley. We suggest you check with the Stanley Chamber of Commerce to inquire as to the status of such possibilities.  Click here for the Chamber's  fine website.  The Chamber would be the place to inquire about the many overnight lodging facilities in Stanley and Sawtooth Country.

Our website format accept comments below each of our posts here.  Please use it to post up ideas, comments, experiences and questions about camping in The Upper Salmon River region.  We welcome your participation.  And one final note--it's only an hour round trip to drive from Challis up into East Fork Country and a two hour round trip to Sawtooth Country.  There are some real nice RV facilities and lots of overnight lodging in Challis.  If the drive doesn't bother you, check out Challis.

Good Luck & Happy Camping!  jp

Thursday, June 7, 2012

IDFG Salmon Region Access Guide

 The IDFG's Salmon Region Access Guide is one of the finest such guides we have seen anywhere.  The level of detail and documentation are superb.  The 68-page 8.5 x 11 booklet is a top notch, professional piece of work that deserves to be in the hands of every use of The Salmon River and is famous tributary, The Middle Fork.

IDFG's Greg Painter took the lead in this awesome publication.  He said when he arrived in the Regional Office, he quickly saw a need for access information.  Although the bulk of the river flows across public lands, many key areas of The Salmon River streambank are private property.  Over a four year span, Painter and his two assistants researched and collected the exact details of various vital access points.  The trio left no stone unturned in putting together this excellent guide.

A sample of the type of information provided in the guide is shown below.  You can see everything you need to know to safely and legally gain fishing access by foot to Valley Creek right in the private property heart of Stanley, Idaho.  Every other such access point on The Salmon River is documented in similar style and format.

As of June 28, we received word that another press run of 2,000 copies has been received.  Copies have been placed at various locations along The Salmon River from Stanley to North Fork.

The Access Guide cannot be mailed due to cost considerations.  We will continue to urge IDFG to put this fine publication online and will keep our readers posted on any steps taken to put the guide online.  We have asked for permission to scan and publish excerpts of the guide on this website.  So far, we haven't received the go ahead to do that. At least, however, we can review the publication here for the benefit of those who were unaware of its existence.

Call the Salmon Regional Office for more information--208-756-6274

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Riverfest Photos

The 2nd Annual Salmon Riverfest enjoyed good water and decent weather Saturday.  Lots of Salmon's river runners and friends turned out in force for the raft and kayak races on The Salmon River down river from Shoup.  Here's the first photos we've received showing the heart of the two-day Riverfest activities. It definitely looks like the proverbial "good time was had by all." This album contains 32 photos.  If it won't load, click here to view the photos one-by-one. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Salmon At Salmon

Click to see larger version--The top is real obvious now.
(Final Update & Revision--9 pm June 6)  Well, everything's peaked: Valley Creek, Yankee Fork, Salmon @ Yankee Fork and Salmon @ Salmon.  The 5550 cfs (8.19 feet) held as the peak on the river up at Yankee Fork and the 9660 held down at Salmon City.  It sure was a wild ride since the May 3031 low flow ebb of this cycle.  But it's over.  Barring another major spring (or early summer) storm, this should be the past peak of the runoff season.  The river and its major tributaries should now all obey the Law of Gravity and move lower as the water volume runoff reduces throughout the watershed.  The only questions at this point and "How Low?" and "How fast to fall?"  We're going to hold off on predictions until mid-June.  By that time, we ought to be able to lay out some pretty reliable parameters for how the summer flow will evolve.  This has been a really fun flow event to watch.  We never would have dreamed there was enough snow out of the Memorial Day storm to rally the river this high.  We weren't alone.  Even the River Forecast experts called early peaks as the rise began.  We were all wrong.  The river flows to its own heart beat and it's wonderful to watch it work. Our 3 pm revision is below followed by the 7 am update this morning.
(Updated & Revised @ 3 pm June 6.)  As of mid-afternoon Wednesday, it appears the Salmon @ Yankee Fork has peaked.  It's fallen from 8.19 to 7.73 and lost ten percent of its flow.  What with the current cool weather, that's a pretty good sign it's peaked.  Yankee Fork has clearly peaked, dropping from 2000 to 1200 cfs.  Valley Creek has probably peaked as well.  The Salmon at Salmon is only a couple hundred cfs off its peak so, once again, we can't make a definitive call just yet.  We're guessing it's peaked but need more data to be sure. We began this post on June 4 and have revised and updated it about 10 times since then.  The narrative below the dashed line was our last revision at 7 am this morning.
So, what's been happening with the The Salmon River's flow at Salmon, Idaho?  The Salmon @ Salmon has sure been rockin' and rollin' the past few days as the flow has gone up, up and away.  As of 5:30 am this morning, river reached reached 9,660 (6.26 feet).  As we write this, the flow has only backed off two one-hundreths of a foot to 9660 cfs.  Can it go higher? It's entirely possible the river has one final bump up in flow.  However, it's virtually certain that June 6th will be logged as the peak of the flow cycle.

Cold weather arrived yesterday throughout The Upper Salmon River watershed. Stanley spent most of its daylight hours in the 30's.  The overnight low was 28 and it's now only 30 degrees there. Both Challis and Salmon are shivering around 40 degrees this morning.  Meanwhile the weather forecast calls for even colder temperatures tonight.  That type of weather shift almost always knocks the props out from under a high flow event.

It already appears The Salmon at Yankee Fork peaked at 5550 cfs (8.19 feet) at 10:30 pm Tuesday.  Yankee Fork has clearly peaked and is heading lower.  Valley Creek is still playing tag with the 1000 cfs level but it's definitely very susceptible to the cold weather.  We expect it to start dropping soon.  Meanwhile what few smaller tributaries are monitored by the USGS also show downward trends.

If the Salmon at Salmon rises about 9660 it will be a short-lived surge reflecting residual water from yesterday's upper watershed flow.  Chances are the hydrograph will show a clear top by early evening today.

The culprit for this welcome, protracted flow surge was the Memorial Day storm's snow deposit.  Apparently, the US NRCS SNOTEL sites didn't really reflect the actual extent and depth of the storm's snow deposit.  Galena Summit, for example, showed its snow was completely gone on June 1st.   Bear in mind, the Salmon @ Salmon reached 4000 not even a week ago on May 31 so this morning's level at Salmon is a 240% increase in flow as defined from the low point of the last cycle.

As of this narrative revision, The USGS hydrograph of the Salmon at Salmon shows no indication whatsoever that the water volume there might be attempting to stabilize. However, the colder weather and up river gages can't be ignored.

Whatever the peak here turns out to be and whenever it takes place, there's a pretty good chance that this will be the final peak of spring runoff. (Disclaimer: additional heavy wet snow storms will void that prediction.)  There's also pretty good chance the Salmon at Salmon will begin a slow recession from this peak forward.

In any event, the net result of the Memorial Day storm and this runoff event has been to create a major shift in expectations for the spring-summer runoff pattern.  Prior to the Memorial Day event, things weren't looking real good for early season river flow of the Salmon at Salmon.  The river had dropped down to 4,000 cfs much earlier than normal.  Without the additional bump in flow from the storm, it was looking like the early summer levels were going to be much lower much earlier than usual this year. Now the timing of the seasonal decline is pretty much back to normal.
Hydrograph current as of 7 am June 6th

Naturally, we have a hydrograph to discuss.  The graph above shows the Salmon at Salmon flow from March 1-June 6.  The high peak was the result of rain on the snow pack in late April.  That peak flow was 12,600 cfs at 6 pm on April 27.  The two subsequent May peaks were the result of unseasonably warm weather.  The first peak was 8250 cfs at 11:30 pm May 17 and the second was 7730 at both 8 am and 4 pm on May 23rd.  Obviously, the cycle's peak last night totally obliterated both of the May peaks.

After the river hit 7730 on May 23rd, it went straight south to 4,000 in a mere 8 days.  We prepared several years of hydrographs to compare and contrast recent annual recession patterns.  You can click here to see them as well as a little commentary, too. The impact of the Memorial Day runoff is going to make a major change in the assumptions discussed with those graphs.

Once the peak is in place for this rise, the flow should once again begin its normal seasonal decline.  This particular flow increase served to put the river's flow pattern pretty much back to normal and may indeed help forestall super low flows coming much earlier in the season.  It's definitely a better scenario than the one we had just a few days ago. As always, it certainly is interesting to see how River Reality actually unfolds.

Many Cheers, jp

Friday, June 1, 2012

Shotgun Rapid June 1st

The Spring river season is in full swing on The Upper Salmon River.  Now that the skies have parted and the sun is shining and the water is high and fluffy white, it's time for some whitewater fun.  The River Company's Cassandra Burns guides her paddlers through Shotgun Rapid on June 1st.  This adrenalin-pumping drop is arguably the finest piece of whitewater in the entire 148-mile stretch from Stanley to North Fork.  Some would say it's Sunbeam Dam.  It may be a toss up between the two but the bottom line is Shotgun Rapid is in fine form right about now.

Shotgun is best run with capable professional river guides such as those working at the outfitters licensed to run The Salmon River inside the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The River Company is one of those outfitters.  You can click here to go to their website.  Many thanks to The River Company's David Denning for allowing us to use his fine photos here on our website.  We've embedded a slideshow of 18 of David's photos below.  If the show won't load, you can click here to see the photos individually for go to The River Company's Facebook. Aaron Wydra is guiding the lead boat and Cassandra Burns is guiding the second boat.  What a great way to enjoy the first day of June on The Salmon River.