Q: I wondered if I might pick your brain a bit about Magruder Road. I am thinking about taking a few days over the Fourth of July holiday to drive it and wanted to know a few things:
- Will it destroy my truck? I have a fairly new truck that I am still babying and dont want it to get scratched or dinged up.
- Would it be worth taking my mountain bike along? I know that some people do the whole road on their mountain bikes. I dont want to do that but understand that there are some even more primitive jeep trails off the main road not sure if they are mountain-bikeable, though.
- Is it too crazy to do it alone? Im kind of torn on this one. I like the idea of a few days of solitude but also dont want to get eaten by a bear or have some other calamity.
Anything else you care to share. Thanks for any guidance you can provide!
DAVE SIMNITT, via email
A: Magruder Road is such an incredible drive, and I get questions about it every summer.
I called both the Elk City Ranger Station on the Idaho side and the West Fork Ranger Station on the Montana side earlier this week, and both said the road is blocked by snow in places.
The road cuts across Idaho from Elk City to Darby, Mont., right between two wilderness areas.
Theres snow near Observation Point as you climb out of the Selway River drainage on the way in from the Darby side and at mile 13 coming in from the Elk City side. A motorcyclist broke through the snow at mile 13 but got stopped again at mile 14.
You also can drive to Paradise, the launch site for the wilderness Selway River trip from the Darby side, but thats about it. Thats worth a trip but youll have to come in from the Montana side, north of Salmon.
With the warmer weather, anything can happen, but when I was in Missoula, Mont., last week, the mountains above the Selway River still had a lot of snow.
Your best bet is to call the Elk City Ranger Station at (208) 842-2245 or the West Fork Ranger Station at (406) 821-3269 for up-to-date conditions before you go.
The 101-mile, single-lane, mostly unimproved Magruder Corridor Road is one of those trips youve got to do. It winds along the spines of mountains with expansive mountain views into both the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the 1.2-million-acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Its a way to see the wilderness areas without backpacking or taking a river trip.
There are a lot of undeveloped places for car camping along the road or off side roads.
The road hasnt changed much since its construction by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, so its rough.
You might get a few scratches on your new pickup, and it is bumpy.
Ive driven it alone and had no trouble. There is usually a fair amount of traffic along it, so if you broke down you would get help.
There are side roads that make excellent mountain bike rides and one Id take is the ride to Green Mountain Lookout.
Dont go doing technical stuff on your bike out there off lonely roads because you could get injured and not get help for a long time.
Anyway, you cant ride too far off the Magruder Corridor because you cant take a mountain bike in the wilderness.
If you did the road in one day, travel time would be anywhere from six to eight hours from Red River to Darby. Thats without rest stops.
The average speed is about 12 to 15 mph.
Its best to do it in two or three days with plenty of camp time and exploring.
Google Magruder Road and youll find a Forest Service website on the road with plenty of details.
But get up-to-date information before you go.
CUTTS IN LAKE LOWELL?
Q: Ive always fished Lake Lowell for bass, crappie and catfish, but Ive never put any thought into trout fishing there and have never really seen anyone trout fishing there.
I noticed on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website that they have stocked cutthroat trout in the lake over the past few years.
I always viewed Lake Lowell as more of a warmwater lake and didnt think trout would survive very well there.
Have you heard of anyone having any success catching trout there?
RUSTY WENTZ, via email
A: Attempts to stock Lahontan cutthroat trout in Lake Lowell turned out to be a bust.
Fish and Game studied the reservoir for three years and stocked cutts in the lake, but high water temperatures and lots of predators were too much for the Lahontans.
You may have a few rainbow trout coming down Indian Creek and the New York Canal into the lake, but thats about it.
Fish and Game last stocked the lake in 2009 with 80,000 fingerling cutts, which were surplus fish.
They probably ended up being bass food or couldnt take the 80-degree water temperatures in the summer.
Lahontan cutthroats do well in desert reservoirs but usually at higher elevations, not at a low-elevation place like Lake Lowell.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors