Monday, December 31, 2012

SWPA is Year 2012's Top Story

Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA) members and supporters gathered at the Odds Fellows Bakery the evening of New Year's Eve to celebrate a successful Year 2012 and prepare for more progress in 2013.  SWPA was able to schedule Salmon as one of the tour stops for the The Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival which celebrates the human powered experience this year.  A festive New Year's Eve was enjoyed by all.

(Editor's Note:  SWPA reports that about 130 people turned out and $2,100 was raised New Year's Eve to support the whitewater park.  SWPA Project Coordinator Breann Westfall said, "We had a great turn-out at the film fest fundraiser. We had beer donated by Bertrams, the Odd Fellows Bakery made awesome pizza, there were great raffle prizes including a paco pad and Smith sunglasses, and we had really good films to watch from Winter Wildlands Alliance. It was great night. This is the second year we had a film fest on New Year's Eve, and we think we'll keep doing it since it works out well to get everyone downtown and ready to have a good time on New Year's Eve.")

We here at Salmon River Idaho would like to take the opportunity in this Editorial to congratulate the SWPA Board, association members and community supporters for their dedication  to creating a whitewater park in downtown Salmon, Idaho.  We are 1000% enthusiastic backers of this idea and will continue to report each new step forward toward making the whitewater park a reality.

We believe the construction and operation of a whitewater park in Salmon was the single biggest news story happening in Year 2012 along The Salmon River from Stanley to North Fork.  Certainly, IDFG continued to make well-deserved headline news with much-needed improvements to river access.  Likewise, salmon and steelhead fishing seasons dominate the annual news cycle. Big forest fires such as The Mustang and The Halstead will forever hog the headlines when they burn.  Yankee Fork Restoration efforts are definitely a newsmaker, too.  However, in looking back over our first year covering this 150-mile stretch of The Salmon River, there's really no other story as compelling as the groundswell movement to make the whitewater park a reality in Salmon, Idaho.

All anyone has to do is look at other communities that have such parks to see the awesome economic and social impacts these river facilities generate.  We can think of no better place for a whitewater park than the location identified in SWPA's plans.  Talk about "location, location, location," this spot has it all.

The whitewater park will be a genuine boon to the Salmon City economy in many ways, perhaps even beyond retail, lodging and restaurants.  It's entirely possible such a whitewater park could even be a spark to the Salmon real estate market as well.

We like to joke with our friends that if we won the Powerball, the very first thing we would do is pay to get the whitewater park up and running ASAP.  It sure can't come a day too soon for us!

As Year 2012 comes to a close today, it's really great to think of the SWPA folks getting together to watch films, eat pizza, share holiday greetings and continue to build their enthusiasm for the whitewater park.

We salute SWPA and wish you The Best of Success in Year 2013!  Thank You for working so hard to create such a great gift for your community.  Your dedication to this project is an inspiration for all of us.

Happy New Year, The Editor

Friday, December 14, 2012

Salmon River Bald Eagles

December 11th Photo by Roger Plothow Copyright 2012

Salmon River Bald Eagle numbers have surged in recent years and may be poised for further population gains.

According to IDFG Salmon Region Wildlife Biologist Beth Waterbury, as many as 20 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles now
call the Salmon River home. These mostly resident breeding birds typically produce two chicks per year. Meanwhile,
large numbers of Bald Eagles are winter visitors to the Salmon River. Nearly 200 Bald Eagles have been observed during
the annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey conducted in January. Ms. Waterbury oversees the Salmon Region’s Wildlife
Diversity Program.

The wintering birds begin arriving in December and their numbers typically peak in mid-February before they begin to
disperse to their own breeding areas. Almost all of these winter visitors are gone by the end of March. Although there
is no one hot spot for bald eagle sightings, bird watchers can usually spot Bald Eagles roughly every few miles from the
town of North Fork upriver to Challis.

The Bald Eagles prey on trout species but also heavily utilize the abundant sucker fish popular as well. Bald eagles have
also been observed hunting cottontails, jackrabbits, muskrats, waterfowl, and great blue herons!

Ms. Waterbury said nesting Bald Eagles began to reappear along the Salmon River about 1990. In the past six years, the
number of Bald Eagle nests roughly doubled. Ms. Waterbury noted the breeding birds appear to be spaced approximately every eight miles along the river corridor.

Near Stanley, Bald Eagles utilize conifer trees for their nest placement and construction. Elsewhere, Bald Eagles use
mature 80-100 year old cottonwood trees capable of supporting the substantial weight of an eagle's nest.

Ms. Waterbury has observed Bald Eagles in altercations with one another over their respective turf or nesting areas. She
does not feel the eagles enter into altercations with osprey but that they often harass osprey into dropping fish which are then taken and consumed by the eagles.

Currently, the Redfish Lake area is the farthest upriver location of a nesting pair of bald eagles. Ms. Waterbury feels there are additional potential nesting areas in various locations between Challis and Stanley and downriver from North Fork.

During the Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey, the East Fork Salmon, Pahsimeroi and Lemhi drainages are monitored. Bald
Eagles have been observed up to the headwaters of the Lemhi River and generally in the watered areas of the Pahsimeroi
Valley. Some may also be found along the East Fork Salmon River. Survey data dates back to 1976. The Midwinter Bald
Eagle Survey begins at the Hell Roaring Creek confluence in the Sawtooth Valley and extends downriver to Corn Creek,
below the Middle Fork Salmon River confluence. IDFG, Salmon-Challis National Forest, BLM, and volunteers are
enlisted to conduct the survey on the second Friday in January every year.

In the past few years, the winter visitor count has averaged about 170 birds. Numbers last year totaled 194.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Bald Eagles were extirpated from the Salmon River, largely because of being shot
by humans who then considered Bald Eagles a nuisance bird. The nationwide DDT issue also played a large part in the
endangered species listing for Bald Eagles. Luckily, increased public recognition and respect for the Bald Eagle as a
shining symbol of American freedom and majesty helped set the stage for a great recovery success story.

At this point there isn't any measurable "Bald Eagle Tourism" going on along the Salmon River, due mostly to
the constraints of winter travel conditions. However, if you are looking for a place to soak up the splendor of Bald Eagles The Salmon River in wintertime is The Place to be!

Thanks to Roger Plothow for permission to use his photo and thanks to IDFG's Beth Waterbury for providing such a wealth of information about the Salmon River Bald Eagles.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Early December Storm

Although the Pacific Northwest Coast has been getting pounded for weeks, there's been precious little of that water appearing in The Salmon River watershed...until December dawned.

The first three days of December saw 3.7 inches of precipitation fall on the Galena Summit SNOTEL.  While most of the storm's output fell as rain in the lower elevations, watershed areas about 7,000 feet  received the valuable white stuff instead.  The December 3rd Galena Summit SNOTEL doesn't show the current total snow depth, only water content.  Based on other regional SNOTEL sites, we're guessing Galena now has at least four feet of snowpack, possibly more.

Over in Wyoming at the Two Ocean Plateau SNOTEL inside Yellowstone Nat'l Park, the storm produced an almost identical precipitation total.  It appears the snow that fell was very heavy and wet so yesterday's precip of 1.2 inches created a gain of only six inches of snow.  That's probably what happened on Galena Summit as well.

Stanley's high temperature Sunday was 37 degrees and the Saturday high was 38 so any precip there was almost certainly seen as rainfall and not snow.

The Salmon River at Yankee Fork bumped up from this storm and is running slightly over 1,000 cfs this morning which is more than double the long-term normal flow. The Salmon River at Salmon is only slightly higher than normal: 1680 cfs this morning vs. a long-term normal of 1,240.

The good news is that there is more water coming the Salmon's way, although certainly not as much as will be seen on the Pacific Coast.  The graphic here is the NWS idea of how much precip will fall over the next five days. Snow levels are once again progged to be above 7,000 feet.
Hopefully, the arrival of this early December precipitation is the beginning of a pattern which will bring more soon in the form of snow at lower elevations throughout the watershed.