Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Salmon river flow report

Here's the July recap of river flows on The Salmon River below the Yankee Fork and at Salmon, Idaho.  Of interest is that the upper river ran slightly above median for the whole month.  Meanwhile, the river at Salmon, Idaho, was pretty much right on its long term average values--a typical seasonal decline.
There are two graphs for each points--cubic feet per second and gauge height.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunbeam Village Grill

The Sunbeam Village Grill is back in business this summer with burgers, beer and ice cream just in time for the incoming tide of fishermen, rafters, campers, tourists and local residents.  Highly-regarded Ketchum-Sun Valley chef Shannon Orr leased the grill  from Sunbeam Village proprietor Doug Fenn.  When Shannon gets involved in a project she doesn't do anything half way. She's "all in" and it sure shows with the shine she's put into the Sunbeam Village Grill, now one of  the coolest hang out spots along The Upper Salmon River.

The restaurant's motto is "Quality Food with a Wilderness Backdrop."  Shannon's burgers, brews and sides worth the drive from any where. When we first met Shannon up on The East Fork in 2006, we felt she was going to put down roots someplace in Salmon Country.  To have her set up shop in Sunbeam Village is a great tribute to the area's future potential.
Shannon and her Staff serve up great burgers with all the fixin's and sides.
Rachel and Doug are ready to take your order at the Sunbeam Village Grill.

"We're having such a wonderful time here," Shannon reports. "We supported the Custer days event this year and hosted an August Moon Open Mic Night," Shannon said, "So many people want and seem  to need a place to shine their talents. I say come on ."  If you are looking for an awesome little road house dishing up great burgers and brews, this is the place!  SBV Grill will be open until September 5. For more information: 208-838-2326 Email: sbvgrill@gmail.com
The Sunbeam Village Grill's building has a long history.  It's beginning a whole new chapter now.
There's a great patio dining area.
If the patio's not right for you, give these great shade trees a try.
If The Great Outdoors happens to be raining or blowing hard, the indoor dining's just right.
Shannon and her Staff are a happy crew.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Upper Salmon Weekly rainbow Trout stocking report

We received an email notice of this week's rainbow trout stocking on The Upper Salmon River.  The easier way for us to reproduce this report is to simply "take a picture" of the incoming email and then reprint that screen "picture" here.  For more information about trout stocking administered out of the Sawtooth Hatchery and the IDFG Salmon Region, click here.

This week's report shows a large number of trout placed between Valley Creek and Yankee Fork.  There are lots of good roadside fishing spots along this stretch through the canyon.  Now that the river's flow has dropped significantly to 889 cubic feet per second at Yankee Fork, it's much easier for fishermen to get out in the river.  The slower current speed also makes it possible to fish tighter spots in the riffles and rapids that make the Valley Creek to Yankee Fork stretch so intriguing and fun.

July Salmon Country Trip

We will be in Salmon Country July 27-August 5.  Here's our tentative schedule:
July 27 -  Drive to Challis.  Spend night near Deadman Hole
July 28 - Judge Clayton Heritage Day Chili Cookoff; visit Sunbeam Village/Yankee Fork area; Sawtooth Music Fest
July 29 -  Raft Salmon River whitewater with The River Company. (Elk Creek RAP to Torrey's Hole RAP)
July 29/30: Visit various chinook salmon fishing sites, interview fishermen
July 30 - Visit Sawtooth Hatchery & various Stanley sources.
July 31 - Visit Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project
August 1 - Challis-Ellis Area
August 2 - Collect more photos of Ellis-Salmon Area
August 3/4 - Two nights in North Fork area developing contacts.
August 5 - Return to Idaho Falls.

Chances are we will be able to update the website from Stanley, Challis and Salmon.
Thanks for your patience while we are away from the computer.

Many Cheers!  jp

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Morning At Deadman

We've been focusing quite a bit lately on Deadman Hole in Section 18.  There's two reasons: A) We have our own Deadman Hole Reporter (DHR) and B) the "buzz" is that Deadman is one of the few places to catch chinook in Section 18.  We are quite curious as to the fishing pressure there so we asked our DHR, Stephen N. to have a "look-see" from the up rive side of Deadman this morning.  Being a Saturday, we figured maybe it might have some fishing pressure.

About the only thing our DHR saw was one guy fishing from near the top of the rock and some other people who may or may not have been fishermen "thinking" about fishing from the top of the rock.  We've never reeled in a fish up that far vertically out of the water.  We suspect it would be quite a chore with a 20-30 pound chinook on the end of the line.  Wouldn't you love to get a video of someone reeling a chinook up the face of that rock?

We don't know how deep it really is in Deadman Hole.  We suspect it's pretty deep below the face of that rock.  One of these days, we'll drop a weight on a string down there and see just how deep it really is.  Maybe we could sponsor a contest called "How Deep Be Deadman?"

All kidding aside, Deadman has long been a productive fishing hole and there's every reason to believe it's going to continue to be productive forever.  Thanks for reading & Happy Fishing, jp
 Our DHR, Stephen took a long shot to show how the Deadman Rock is situated in its little nook on the river.
 This shot gives a much better idea of the extent of the hole at Deadman Hole.  High water is pretty much slamming the right side of this rock.  There's an extensive pile of driftwood off to the right of the big eddy. A few years ago, somebody even built a make shift leanto out of the drift wood down there.
Here's the crop we did to show the people on top of the rock.  Click the photo and you will get a much larger version so you can see the people better.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Deadman Hole Ramp Placed

Our intrepid Deadman Hole Reporter (DHR), Stephen N. took The Family Dog, Trevor, for a walk tonight at the Deadman Hole Recreation Site construction area. The DHR sent along three photos showing the new boat ramp the BLM is putting into Deadman. Obviously, it had to be a piece of major prefab reinforced concrete. They sure wouldn't be pouring concrete in water that high!  The DHR noted, "The Machinery is blocking so no idiots try to launch there."  We have also duplicated one of Stephen's earlier photos and added a red "A" to mark the spot of the new ramp as well as a red "B" to mark the old, decrepit, substandard ramp farther down river. THANKS, Stephen, "ya dun good" and Trevor is very photogenic!  By the way, our DHR also said he saw "Only a couple of cars and a nice dory anchored at Tunnel Rock, fishing."  Click here to read more about the BLM's Deadman Hole Extreme Makeover.  We also have another article up and running on Deadman Hole.  You can scroll down to see it or click here to go there.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Upper Salmon Trout Stocking

Summer trout stocking is one of the mainstays of every state's fisheries management program.  As you might expect, Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game has a robust statewide trout stocking program.  Visitors to the Sawtooth Valley and The Upper Salmon River have come to expect and depend on IDFG's stocking program.   Although much of the stocking activity takes place off The Salmon River proper, we feel presentation of the stocking information is important to our readers and we will continue to report about it here. Click here to see the IDFG Salmon Region July Stocking calendar.  (Information on the trout species is below the stocking data.)

Sawtooth Fish Hatchery Educator Catherine Wiechmann kindly provided some addition information regarding the stocking in italics below:

 The fish are all catchable Rainbiow Trout reared at Nampa Fish Hatchery.  They are resident fish at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery until our stocker transports them to local waters. They are 8-10 inches in length when stocked. The triploid aspect means that they are sterile; they are bred with 3 chromosomes rather than the normal two so they do not reproduce and over run local waters. Sawtooth Fish Hatchery Stocking is curtailed from Aug. 15th to Sept. 15th when Chinook spawning is going on on the hatchery, but other local trout stockers will continue to stalk through August. The week of September 15th is the last fish stocking.  (THANKS, Catherine!)

Kamloops is just a strain of rainbow trout that has been domesticated and popularly used by hatcheries.  They do well growing quickly in a hatchery, and  once put into the natural environment, they continue to grow to large sizes, which is obviously favored among anglers.

This is what one website says about Kamloops:

"The moniker “Kamloops trout” is often applied erroneously to other trout strains. Officially, Kamloops trout are a Gerrard-strain of rainbow trout, indigenous to the fertile waters of British Columbia’s Lake Kootenay, which is southeast of the city of Kamloops. This is a deep, glacial lake, and the genetics these fish developed over the millennia equipped them for survival and prosperity in it.

Kamloops trout are shaped like oversized chinook salmon, football-like, with fat, humped backs, small heads, and massive tails. They sport a red hue along their sides, and have dark backs and bellies. They are, in a word, one of the most gorgeous freshwater fish you’ll ever see.

The species is famous for its success as a predator, surviving year after year over a lengthy lifespan, feasting on kokanee, growing to incredibly immense proportions by trout standards. But it’s not just their propensity to grow huge that makes Kamloops so popular with anglers. It’s their endurance and dogged fighting capabilities that stamp an indelible impression on anglers who tangle with them."

Read more about the kamloops by clicking here.

Alturas and Stanley Lakes have been stocked three times this summer. (See bottom report for latest numbers.)  IDFG generally stocks both of those flagship lakes four times each summer season.  Even though the lakes are not in our normal news coverage area, we clipped out information about the first two stockings of 2012 as well as the full ten-year stocking record for both lake.  You can click here to see that data.

NOTE: If you catch a tagged fish, contact Fish & Game by calling the toll-free Fish tag Hotline: 1-866-258-038.  You can also report the tag at fishandgame.idaho.gov.  The tags have a number on them and are orange or green. The tags are attached behind the top fin of the fish.  Some of these tags may have rewards.

Today we did receive the latest two Upper Salmon stocking report from Catherine Wiechmann, Fisheries Biological Aide, Hatchery Educator at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery.  We're presenting them here as screen captures from the PDF files she sent along.


We are working on several articles right now.  All of them are slow to come together.  Here's a rundown on what's ahead.

Tribal Fishing

We'd like to better understand the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Treaty Rights relating to fishing as well as the Tribe's fishing regulations and fishing techniques.  It's a very complicated story so we might break it into several articles.

(Status as of 9/12/12) This article is going to take months, if not years, to tackle. At this point, we're not even sure how to go about it since the key person from the SBT won't return our phone calls.

Whitewater Park

Salmon's Riverfest may be an annual thing but efforts to create a Whitewater Park in downtown Salmon are ongoing all year.  What's the latest?  

(Status as of 9/12/12)  We finished the article and as of today it is the 2nd most read article on the website, ranking only behind the Halstead.  It's on track to be the first non-Halstead article is go over 200 page views.


Cobalt miners and environmentalists have been working together four years to the benefit of watershed projects in Lemhi County.  How did this partnership form and what's it been doing?

(Update as of 9/12/12)  Preston Rufe at FCO has helped us get all the background articles necessary to do this article.  We're hoping to have it done by the end of September.

Clayton Heritage

Clayton Heritage Day is coming up July 28th.  The signs on either side of Clayton once said "Population 26" and now they say "Population 7."  What's up with Clayton?

(Update as of 9/12/12)  We served as the Chili Cookoff Judge July 28th. Once the Halstead coverage got underway, we put this one on the back burner (pun intended) until the smoke dies down.

Sawmill Station

Anybody who's ever been to Salmon Country knows Sawmill Station.  However, do they know about the people who created and run the place?  We're going to get that story late this month and it will come out in early August.

(Update as of 9/12/12)  We did do a real nice pictorial story on Old Sawmill.  You can click on their ad in the left column to read it.  We plan on adding more material to this "story" within the next few weeks.

Idaho Center

We've heard the geographical center of Idaho is located in Custer County close to The Upper Salmon River.  Where is it and how can you get there?

(Update as of 9/12/12)  We put a lot of time into this story and planned to hike to the Center Point in early August.  Unfortunately, the Halstead Fire closure area include the Center site.


Will the Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project actually start moving rocks and water this year?

(Update as of 9/12/12) The Challis Messenger's Anna Means and Todd Adams helped continue our coverage on this newsworthy project by letting us use one of their stories.

North Fork

We plan to spend at least a couple of nights at North Fork on this next trip.  We'll come back with one article for sure but hopefully more than one about the down river end of this website's coverage area.

(Update as of 9/12/12)  We did indeed spend some time at North Fork in early August and gathered a LOT of story material.  It simply wouldn't be a good time to do this story until the Mustang Fire is dead out.

Next Trip

Those are the primary article on our "to do" list.  Our next trip to Salmon Country begins July 27th and ends August 4th.  Each time we visit we roam from Sawtooth Valley down to lower Lemhi, we come back with gobs of stuff to use on this website.  Lately, the we've been spending most of our time on things relating to the chinnok return and harvest.  As the salmon fishing season winds down, we will be able to shift our focus and devote more time to all the other fun stuff there is to write about.  Thanks for reading & Many Cheers, jp

(Update as of 9/12/12)  It was a great trip to Salmon Country from July 27-August 4th.  We still have a lot of material sitting unused from that trip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Deadman Hole update

Our latest update from The Deadman Hole Reporter Stephen N. shows the scene Thursday morning.  Stephen said he counted 8 vehicles and no boats.  The BLM makeover project is underway but hasn't impacted access to Deadman Hole's River Access Point.  Boaters can still use the old ramp there.  You can begin to see the on-the-ground outlines of the Recreation Site improvements as described in our article here.

The photo below is a few days old. You can easily see why a boat is about the only way to fish Tunnel Rock.  It's private property there on teh shoreline above the rocks and they are very steep and vertical.  For those with a burning desire to know, the Deadman and Tunnel Rock outcrops are andesite lava presumably from the Challis Volcanics.  Lava made from andesite makes smooth-sided blocks of lava. Blocks are formed by andesite because it is less viscous than basalt. That means that it is thicker and cools off slower than basalt. The thick andesite lava flows slowly. Strato volcanoes usually erupt lava made of andesite. Lava domes are made of andesite lava.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Section 18 - East Fork to Challis Bridge

Here is Part II of the experiment we started Friday evening.  This Google Map covers the East Fork to Challis Bridge portion of Section 18.  We have put some links into the push pin information so you can click off to longer stories about some of the features in this stretch.

We're not giving away any State Secrets by naming Deadman Hole.  It's a prominent chunk of geology right smack dab next to ID Hwy 75.  It's signed, named and has been a popular RAP forever.  The BLM is doing an extreme makeover of the RAP infrastructure there.  If the project is underway, expect reduced or even zero parking as well as typical weekday construction congestion.

The other big factor in the upper half of Section 18 is the "busy water" located at a major irrigation diversion structure as described in the bottom of this article about the opening of Section 18 to salmon fishing.  You can click here to read the article.

As usual, we invite and welcome comments and ideas on how to make this map better and more useful for you.  Thanks for reading.  jp

View Section 18 - East Fork to Challis Bridge in a larger map

Friday, July 13, 2012

Section 18 - Challis Bridge to Ellis

This is an experimental article here. We are working on a "clickable" Google Map to attempt to explain The Salmon River from Challis Bridge to Ellis.

Section 18 actually stretches from the East Fork to Ellis but we will describe that upper half of Section 18 in a different article. This is all about the lower half of Section 18

Anyway, below is the Google Map. Supposedly, you can click on any of the push pins and read what we wrote. Supposedly, we can embed photos and other stuff into each pin's description. We haven't got that far along on our learning curve here tonight.

 The bottom line of what we are trying to do with this Google Map thing is show the general layout of the Challis-Ellis stretch of The Salmon River in Section 18. Section 18 is almost entirely alluvial geology with very little instream bedrock. The river hasn't had much chance to scour deep holes in or near what few bedrock outcrops do exist.

As you know, the gravel alluvium tends to find its own equilibrium after each spring runoff cycle. Remember the old saying about gold? "Gold is where you find it." Well, the same adage applies to fishing this stretch of river--"Fish are where you find them." There might be a nice hole here and there on this stretch and there might not, depending on how the transitory alluvium actually laid down after this year's spring snow melt. We suspect that folks who like a good challenge would find this stretch of river very quirky and very intriguing.

We suspect this stretch probably fishes a lot better for steelhead than it does for chinooks.

One thing we can tell you for sure about it is that it's considered to be one of the Top Five finest floats along the 148-mile stretch of river between Stanley and North Fork. The Challis Bridge-Watts Bridge stretch has earned it's name as "The Cocktail Stretch" for a reason. So, even if you don't catch fish here, you can still sure have some mighty fine fun.

View Challis Bridge in a larger map

Friday, July 6, 2012

Events calendar added

Due to popular demand, we've added an Events Calendar.  You can see its link located at left just below the link for the fishing report.  You can also click here to see it.  Currently, the Calendar lists events for this July only.  Soon we will have the calendar rigged for all upcoming events this summer and fall.  July is always an eventful month all along The Salmon River.

The year's July remaining events include a speech by author Steven Hawley July 10 in Salmon; Custer Day July 14 out in The Land of The Yankee Fork; the Mountain Mamas Arts & Carfts Fair in Stanley July 21-22; Throwdown in Dogtown July 21 in Stanley; Clayton Heritage Days July 28 in Clayton and the Sawtooth Music Fest July 27-28 in Stanley.  SIHA's Forum & Lecture Series continues each Friday during the summer.

Please send along news of events you wish to see listed on the calendar.  Also, some of the events listed are lacking in details.  If you know how to add more information to any of the events listed, please let us know.  Thanks for reading!  jp

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Idaho Canoe Club floats Upper Salmon River

The scene above is the ICC Facebook page banner.

More than three dozen members of the Boise-based Idaho Canoe Club (ICC) headed to the Sawtooth Valley last weekend to float the far Upper Salmon River. ICC members have made the club trek on this stretch an annual tradition for several years.  It's newsworthy for the SRI website that the group floated a seldom-used reach of river located above the Sawtooth Hatchery.  As you can see from ICC member Andrew Roman's fine photos, this looks like a great stretch of river.  The views are awesome   (Thanks for allowing us to use your pictures, Andy!)

Most folks paddle from no farther upriver than Buckhorn Bridge. Buckhorn is situated perhaps a mile down river from the hatchery.   Likewise most folks heading to The Upper Salmon plan to run stretches such as Stanley-Mormon Bend; Mormon Bend-Elk Creek; Elk Creek-Torrey's Hole, etc.  Seeing Andy's great photos of folks having so much fun so far upstream makes us want to go check it out.

ICC members mostly hang out on a Facebook group page.  (If you have a FB account, click here to go to ICC's page.)There are over 220 members of the online group.  ICC is an affiliate of the American Canoe Association.  The club is very active both locally and within a day's drive of the Boise metroplex. You can click here for the ICC website. It's great to see such a large number of club members sharing the camaraderie that only a special river can bring to such an annual get together.  While in Sawtooth Country, some of the ICC members also paddled a section of Valley Creek through Stanley.  Others paddled the Stanley to Mormon Bend run as well.

The heavily used raft and kayak sections of The Upper Salmon River are in near perfect form right now. Today's flow at Yankee Fork is 1790 cfs (4.33 on the gauge).  The river's dropping on a steady, seasonal glide path downward.  Right now it's 300 cfs above its median flow and is providing clean, fluffy, fun whitewater.  The commercial outfitters are at their peak o' the season and Life is Good on The Upper Salmon River.
Click the album to see all the photos.  Click here if the album won't load.

Idaho Canoe Club-Salmon River-July 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fishing for Info

As the 2012 Chinook Salmon Fishing Season moves toward its inevitable peak within the next few weeks, it's time to discuss how we attempt to gather information about "whazzup" along The Upper Salmon River.

Here's how we are trying to develop our sources.

First, you can pretty much forget about contacting anyone below the Royal Gorge Resort.  Information is already sketchy at best by thetime it works that far down river from the fishable areas of Sections 18 & 19.

Let's start at the top.  The first "go to" place is McCoy's in Stanley.  If they don't know about it, it doesn't exist.  The Stanley Chamber of Commerce did great webpage for them.  You can find it by clicking here.

We have various other sources in Sawtooth Country, including, of course IDFG and the Sawtooth Hatchery.

Moving down river, the next place we check is the Sunbeam Village Grill.  Shannon Orr there is trying to keep an "ear" to her fishermen customers.  She's mega-busy serving up her awesome burgers and brews so it's hard to get current information out of her each day.  But when she talks, we listen.  You can click here for the article we wrote on Shannon's Place.

Our next down river source is a Dear Friend who lives near the Thompson Creek confluence.  If Mike doesn't know "whazzup" then on one does.

Not far downriver from Mike's Place is the Old Sawmill Station.  This is THE place we'd recommend you go to learn about anything and everything relating to The Upper Salmon River.  The people who run this place are The Real Deal.  They are the "locals" of LOCAL.  They aren't imported workers, they have lived in this region for generations and they know everything there is to know.  Period.

Trouble is when I call them up to ask about how's it going with the chinook season, Dana will say, "Fishing's real good."  Well, yeah...but..how 'bout some details?"  And Dana says, "Everybody's smiling."  I guess there's your sign.

Moving on down river, we have Clark Morley at the East Fork Campground (AKA: BLM East Fork Recreation Site.)  If Clark ain't heard it, it probably hasn't happened yet.

Then we move on down to Tunnel Rock (AKA: Malm Gluch).  This spot is just below Deadman Hole.  Our source there, Stephen N. has a keen ear and eye to all that happens at Deadman.

From there we move to Challis and we have lots of sources to consult there.  We're trying to get the local outdoor store involved: The Bent Rod.  You can click here for their website.  Their phone number is correct but the real email is: thebentroad@custertel.net

We also glean a lot of great information from an Old School Outfitter in the Challis area.  They would prefer to remain anonymous at this time bu they have been providing us with awesome information.  THANK YOU!

Down river from Challis, there's only one GO TO information source--Duane Wilson, the legendary campground host at the BLM Cottonwood Recreation Site.  If Duane doesn't know about it, it doesn't exist.

Duane from Cottonwood and Clark from the East Fork are definitely related but we can't share the details here.  You will have to learn them on your own.

Well, that's about it.  You know our sources and you are more than welcome to mine them in your own way.
All of the 2012 chinook season is in Custer County.  The Custer County line ends just right at the Pahsimeroi.  None of Lemhi County is included in this year's season--it's a Custer County thing.

(Note for Nit Pickers: The Blaine County line is many miles up river from the Sawtooth Hatchery.)

The Upper Salmon River's Custer and Lemhi Counties are easily The Two Best Counties Known To Mankind! Below is Custer County's official "promo video."

We're sure you will enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salmon fishing opened to Ellis

IDFG put out a news release this afternoon announcing that the chinook salmon fishing area has been extended from The East Fork all the way down river to near Ellis (AKA: The Pahsimeroi).  Here is the full text of the release as found via Twitter:

Idaho Fish and Game has opened another section of the upper Salmon River to Chinook salmon fishing.  The Ellis area is now open from the posted boundary about 100 years upstream of the mouth of the Pahsimeroi River upstream to the Highway 75 Salmon River bridge about 250 yards upstream of the mouth of the East Fork Salmon River.  The Stanley area of the upper Salmon opened June 23. Both areas remain open until further notice. -  IDFG News

We've called both the Salmon Region Office and the Director's Office to attempt to determine if the harvest target has been raised.  We've heard a rumor that the target might be raised to perhaps 2200 fish instead of the 900-1000 range thought to be the current target.  One of our sources said that concentrated fishing pressure above the East Fork might have played a role in extending the fishable area.  Supposedly, as the story goes, there's only 4-5 good holes between East Fork and the Sawtooth Hatchery.  By opening a longer reach of river, the fishing pressure will be spread out of a much larger area.

The bulk of the East Fork to Ellis area is ideal for drift boat fishing.  There's is a rough spot near an irrigation diversion between Bayhorse and Challis.  We ginned up some screen shots to highlight this hazard.  We will eventually move them to a separate article but, in the meantime, here they are with comments below each of the four screen shots.
Here's a Google Earth view looking downstream.  Point #1 is a bridge located at Hwy 75 Milepost 238.75. The troublesome irrigation diversion is not quite a mile downstream.
Here's a close up from Google Maps of the irrigation diversion.  Point #1 is a boater's "point of decision.  If you wind up going down the river right intake flow, you're in for a rough ride over a pseudo spillway (Point #2)  near the canal intake gate.  Getting far enough left to make the left run around the diversion rubble requires some advance preparations.  Point #3 marks the beginning of a lot of large rocks that litter the river channel.  Many of them have been washed downstream from prior attempts to create a instream diversion structure.

Here's a larger overview showing the Bayhorse (Point #1) and Challis Bridge (Point #3) RAPs.  Point #2 is the irrigation diversion.

If you are in a small, or relatively small watercraft, you can take out on river right just below the Hwy 75 bridge at Milepost 238.75.  It's marked by the red X in the screen shot.  It's small, steep and has poor footing but it could sure beat having to navigate the gauntlet of hazards waiting not far downstream.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spotlight on Sunbeam

Sunbeam, Idaho, is the unofficial gateway to The Land of The Yankee Fork.  Sunbeam Village sits perched on an alluvial terrace only a couple hundred yards from the Yankee Fork's confluence with The Salmon River. The Yankee Fork is one of The Upper Salmon River's largest tributaries. People have probably been stopping at this special spot for a few thousand years. When gold fever struck the Yankee Fork watershed at Bonanza, Custer and up Jordan Creek, what's now Sunbeam became a natural "rest area" for miners, freighters, hunters, fishermen and early tourists.  Sunbeam's fortunes have ebbed and flowed throughout the past 130 years, give or take a few.  Sunbeam's once again a popular spot during the chinook salmon fishing season that's underway this summer. Luckily for today's visitors, Sunbeam is on the upswing.  Two energetic entrepreneurs are breathing fresh air into the little hamlet.  Also, the nearby Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project appears set to evolve into an exciting, historic new chapter for the area.

Since Sunbeam will be the focus of a lot of attention this summer and in years to come, we're describing the area with a series of articles below.  We suspect you will find our "Spotlight on Sunbeam" series helpful in better understanding this interesting location.  We also hope the articles also prompt you to stop at Sunbeam on your next trip along The Salmon River. Spend some time; spend some money and shine your own spotlight on Sunbeam!

In the Google Map screen shot below: 1) Sunbeam Village; 2) Sunbeam Grill; 3) Sunbeam Dam; 4) Sunbeam Dam overlook parking and toilets; 5) Stairs to river level; 6) Turnoff to Yankee Fork RAP; 7) Yankee Fork boat ramp. (Note: You can click on any of the photos to see larger versions.)

Sunbeam Village

Sunbeam Village is alive again.  Doug Fenn is the new proprietor of the place.  Fenn negotiated a 30-year lease on the property and buildings so he's in it for the long haul.  Fenn is using Sunbeam Village as an outdoor adventure base for his White Otter outfitting and river trip business. Fenn is a keen student of Sunbeam's past and has put much historical information on display.

Fenn has plans to improve Sunbeam Village each year and hopes to add public camping.  Right now there's three potential RV sites but the rigs would have to holding tanks for black and gray water.  The three sites would have power and water but there's no sewer connection at this time. For more info: 208-788-5005 or www.whiteotter.com

Yankee Fork Confluence

Like many river runners, we grew up thinking, feeling and believing that all confluences were special and sometimes even sacred places.  We've made it a point throughout our lives to visit as many confluences as our travel schedule and time permits.  You won't find confluences on normal tourists maps but those who love places where two creeks, streams or rivers join often make a confluence a destination during any road trip itinerary.  The confluence of The Yankee Fork and The Salmon River is one such super special sacred spot.  It pulses with an energy all its own.  Standing here you can imagine all of the kaleidoscope of natural and cultural history and resources sprawling through the two watersheds lying upstream above you.  Imagine the tumult of time which has coursed through the veins of these two living waters!  The energy of this place has a primal attraction all its own. 
Luckily, those who manage this chunk of public land have been pretty accommodating during recent times.  One of The Upper Salmon River's largest single parking area is located here along with toilets that get regular maintenance.  Interpretive signs tell intriguing stories.  A steep but stout stairway has been anchored to the alluvial rubble, providing safe (and strenuous) access so visitors can walk right up to the apex of the confluence. There's also a trail over to the base of Sunbeam Dam and even a pretty decent shade tree near the confluence itself. (Click the panorama photo above for a much larger version.)  Look closely and you will see a crude boat ramp that comprises The Yankee Fork RAP (River Access Point).  The turnoff into this RAP is immediately downstream from the Yankee Fork bridge and is a very sharp turn.  Much better river access is located about a mile downstream at the Elk Creek RAP.  The Yankee Fork RAP is mostly used by kayakers and people with small boats.  Look even closer and you will see the cables used to calibrate the USGS stream flow gauging station at Yankee Fork.  This gauge plays a key role in understanding how The Salmon River flow behaves.  Those whose livelihoods and recreational activities are tied to The Salmon River dote on the Yankee Fork gauge. 

Sunbeam Dam Revisited

We've discussed Sunbeam Dam in another article.  (Click here to read it.)  In that earlier article, we noted there are two prevailing legends about the demise of the infamous dam--one touting vigilantes and the other saying game officials did it.  Sunbeam Village Proprietor Doug Fenn set us straight on the story.  Click on the photo of the clipping at left to see a larger, more readable version.  This pretty well settles the story about who was responsible.  The key point in the whole thing is that the dam itself was not dynamited.  Every story we've ever heard talks about how the dam itself was blown up.  Even the article at left infers the dam itself was blasted. Not so.  The river right area beside the dam itself was dynamited, allowing the river to bypass the dam on its right side.  Over the last 70 some years, high river flows have widened out the breached area.

Look closely at the right side of the dam in the photo below.  Note that it is perfectly vertical, providing compelling proof that no part of the dam itself was destroyed.  Fenn showed us other photos that leave no doubt about how the dam was bypassed.  Fenn's treasure trove of old photos also show conclusively that the dam you see today is precisely and exactly the same entire dam that existed "as built" over 100 years ago.  Fenn also scoffed at the prevailing legend that rebar lurks under the Class IV whitewater run through Sunbeam. What's under the water today is merely the jagged remnants of bedrock that remain from the blasting done decades ago.

Interestingly, in the 2008 IDFG salmon fishing video shown in an article below, you can see how small the initial 1930's breach was on the right side of the dam.  We make a screen shot from the video and it appears below the 2012 view of Sunbeam Dam. Note back then the breach was so narrow you might have been able to walk across it on that board shown in the screen shot. The chinook and sockeye salmon didn't need a wide area to swim past the dam.  Game officials simply created a small bypass and The Salmon River took care of the rest over the ensuing years.

The sad story of Sunbeam Dam will live forever as a reminder of the toll of poor planning in power, water, river and fisheries management.  The structure stands both as a monument to monstrosity and also as a monument to the courageous officials and public who stood up the fish and did the right thing by dynamiting a bypass around the dam.

Discuss history of dam

Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project

What's about to unfold with the Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project (YFRP) could well be the biggest news item in Upper Salmon Country.  We fully expect to reporting frequently and extensively on the exciting YFRP developments that could actually begin happening "on the ground" yet this field season.

YFRP has been "in the works" for a number of years so there's been nothing but reports and piles of paper to show for the project.  This year could see the YFRP begin to move real rocks and actual water on behalf of the anadromous fish.  If YFRP actually does segue from conceptual discussions to "on the ground" results, it will be a huge leap forward and very exciting to watch it happen.

If you've ever traveled up the Yankee Fork you know the story.  The Land of The Yankee Fork is all about "gold in them thar hills" and "gold in them thar stream gravels."  The Bonanza and Custer ghost towns rank high on the totem pole of Idaho tourist destinations.  Likewise, the Yankee Fork gold dredge is a tourist hot spot.  However profitable it may have been, gold dredging on an industrial scale left a legacy of ecological devastation.  Vast piles of practically sterile dredge spoil provide an eye-opening vista as one drives up the Yankee Fork.

Over the past few years, a wide-ranging partnership of state, federal, tribal, and conservation interests have come together with a spirit of optimism and an unprecedented "can do" attitude on behalf of the YFRP.

We were fortunate to be able to attend an Open House in Stanley June 18 that provided fresh insights and information about the current status of the YFRP.  Officials and representatives of various partners were present to explain the "who, what, where, why, when and how" of what's happening this year with the YFRP.

It's going to take numerous articles here to attempt to put the whole YFRP into perspective.  We hope to do at least a couple of articles a month between now and when snow shuts down the field season sometime this fall.  In the meantime, YFRP has produced an outstanding 10 minute video that summarizes the project.  The video is embedded in a US Bureau of Reclamation website that is the main portal for YFRP information:


The video is also embedded below at the end of this article.

USBR's Al Simpson (fourth from left) and Evelyn Galloway (far right) discuss the YFRP with interested members of the public June 18 in the Stanley Community Center.  Simpson is based out of an office in Salmon, Idaho. Galloway works with The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and is an eloquent spokeswoman for the cultural legacy of the area.

The Stanley Open House provided attendees with a quick glimpse of the project but also provided 
various DVD's as takeaways to develop a deeper understanding of the overall project scope.
Conceptual construction drawings have been released for the YFRP.  They are posted here:
The sample below gives an idea of the complexity involved in the project's scope of work.
Additional details associated with the drawings are located here: 
The US Bureau of Reclamation assisted us in finding the YouTube version of their excellent video about YFRP.    It's a great video and definitely a "must see" if you are interested in this historic project.  We appreciate USBR help in embedding the video here.