Wildfires last summer mean river hazards for boaters

The Forest Service reports hazardous logs in some waterways.

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comApril 25, 2013 

The upper Middle Fork of the Salmon River is shown just upstream from Dagger Falls, with July flows.

PETE ZIMOWSKY — Idaho Statesman file

Early whitewater boaters should be aware there are downed trees blocking several areas of Marsh Creek and the upper Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

The U.S. Forest Service issued a warning about the hazards after making a reconnaissance flight from Dagger Falls on the Middle Fork to the launch site at Marsh Creek and Idaho 21, northwest of Stanley.

Each year, early-season rafters and kayakers have serious accidents and close calls on Marsh Creek and the upper Middle Fork when logs wash into the stream.

Marsh Creek is a popular access to the wilderness run on the Middle Fork when the roads to Bear Valley and the launch site at Boundary Creek and Dagger Falls are still snowed in.

Downed timber in the river can be a problem each year, but it is especially troublesome this year, after a massive forest fire last summer.

"The fire burned most trees along this headwaters section, so anytime the wind blows or snow slides, more trees block the access streams," said Dave Mills of Rocky Mountain River Tours, an outfitting service on the Middle Fork.

"The Forest Service does not remove trees from Marsh Creek or the Middle Fork of the Salmon River," the federal agency said in a news release. "Boaters are not prohibited from removing trees, however, within wilderness this must be done using nonmotorized tools."

The boundary for the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is about a mile downstream from the Idaho 21 launch site. It is illegal to use a chainsaw in the wilderness. Traditional tools, such as crosscut saws, axes, come-alongs and/or block and tackle are allowed, the Forest Service said.

The agency is urging early boaters to be prepared with equipment and proper boating ability before launching on the remote stretch.

More information on current river conditions is available from the Middle Fork Ranger District at 879-4101.

Here is the agency's report from the flight on April 17 from Dagger Falls to Idaho 21.

• One tree is crossing the river from bank to bank about a half-mile below the confluence of Bear Valley Creek and Marsh Creek.

• Five trees are crossing Marsh Creek bank to bank above the confluence of Marsh Creek and Bear Valley Creek, one being about a quarter-mile below the launch site on Idaho 21.

• An additional six trees span at least halfway across Marsh Creek.

• The Idaho Fish and Game fish trap was in place about a half-mile below the Idaho 21 put-in site.

The agency says these dangers shouldn't be considered a complete list of obstacles or hazards.

To see photos along with the report, go the Salmon-Challis National Forest website at fs.usda.gov/scnf, and scroll down to "Recent News."

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service