No need to labor in Idaho over summer's last bash

Plenty of pristine spots are smoke-free and without wildfires - just travel wisely

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comAugust 28, 2013 

0829 local recreation

Payette Lake at Ponderosa State Park in McCall is a perfect place to cool off for Labor Day weekend. No wildfires are affecting recreation in the area due north of Boise.




    Closures of some recreation areas as a result of wildfires might be lifted later in the week.

    For updates on your favorite area, call:

    Sawtooth National Recreation Headquarters - 727-5000.

    Stanley Ranger Station - 774-3000.

    Ketchum Ranger Station - 622-5371.

    Boise National Forest - 373-4100.

    Payette National Forest - 634-0700.


    If you're going camping, remember that restrictions for burning are in effect. That means campfires are allowed only in developed fire rings at official recreation sites.

    Forest Service officials say campers have been making the mistake of building campfires in rock fire rings found in undeveloped camping spots, which is illegal under fire restrictions.

    A general rule is you may have a campfire only in a metal ring in a fee campground.


    The lightning-caused Beaver Creek Fire near Hailey and Ketchum, which has burned 111,488 acres, was still 93 percent contained Wednesday, and fire managers stuck to their prediction that it would be fully contained by Saturday.

    The Elmore County Sheriff's Office escorted Atlanta residents displaced by the Little Queens Fire back to their homes Wednesday. The fire, at 20 percent containment, has burned a little more than 23,200 acres.

    The size of the lightning-caused Kelley Fire about 7 miles southeast of Featherville was downgraded to 300 acres on Wednesday. There were 150 personnel assigned to the blaze, which was 5 percent contained.

    The Elk Complex remained 95 percent contained Wednesday, and fire managers expect full containment Saturday. It has burned 131,000 acres.


    California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said the powerful blaze burning in and around Yosemite National Park was 30 percent contained by Wednesday night. It has chewed through 301 square miles of forest and is growing by at least 5,000 acres a day, but that's not as active as it was. Cooler temperatures and light winds have aided firefighters.

When it comes to outdoor recreation for the last big weekend of summer, it's not all bleak and black, despite a busy fire season.

Even with upward of 400,000 acres of land burned or still smoldering across Idaho, there are still places to play on Labor Day weekend.

Head to the areas north of Boise toward Council, Cascade, Riggins and McCall, and northeast toward Idaho City, Lowman and Stanley.

Also, numerous trails and campgrounds along Idaho 75 north of Ketchum reopened Wednesday and are ready for campers.


Dave Olson, forest spokesman, said that despite almost 300,000 acres burned along the South Fork of the Boise River, Anderson Ranch Reservoir and areas around Pine, Featherville and Atlanta, the rest of the 2.6 million acre forest is open.

But that doesn't mean you'll have smoke-free camping.

"The smoke from California is still around in the mountains, but localized smoke, other than from the Little Queens Fire, is minimal," he said. That's the one burning near Atlanta.

Olson suggested the following areas for campers and recreationists:

• Destinations around Cascade including Warm Lake, South Fork of the Salmon River, Johnson Creek and West Mountain.

• Payette River system.

• North Fork of the Boise River east of Idaho City.

• Bear Valley and Deadwood Reservoir areas north of Banks to Lowman Highway.


Sun Valley Resort has reopened its chairlifts, gondola and other recreation amenities after the Beaver Creek Fire posed a threat.

The gondola and Christmas lift are running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 8, and Roundhouse restaurant is serving barbecue. Lookout restaurant will be serving $3 tacos Friday, Saturday and Sunday to celebrate the holiday weekend.

The city of Ketchum resumed its largest annual event, Wagon Days, which started Wednesday and goes through Monday.

Some fire closures were lifted for areas near Sun Valley and Ketchum, including:

• Areas north of Clear Creek.

• Areas west of Idaho 75 near Ketchum and Sun Valley.

• Portions of Bald Mountain.

• Portions of the Sun Peak Recreation Site.

• Portions of the Lake Creek Recreation Site.

• Trails near Idaho 75 around Ketchum, and the Wood River, North Fork and Easily campgrounds.

Forest officials recommended trails east of Idaho 75 such as Trail Creek, Corral Creek, Proctor/Bear, Summit Creek, all of East Fork trails and the Little Wood area trails.

There are still closures west of Idaho 75 near Hailey, north of Croy Creek Road, east of Willow Creek Road and south of Clear Creek.

For a map of closed areas, go to and click on Beaver Creek Fire.


The reservoir is accessible from Pine-Featherville Road off U.S. 20, north of Mountain Home.

The water is low and docks are out of the water. Launching can be difficult.

Camping and recreation restrictions and closures are still in effect on the northwest shore of the reservoir from Pine to Anderson Ranch Dam.


The Little Queens Fire is still affecting recreation.

The Middle Fork Boise River Road remains closed from its junction with Swanholm and Phifer Creek roads east to Atlanta.

Also, national forest land south of the Middle Fork of the Boise River is closed.

Any changes would be announced at under Little Queens Fire.

Also, there is an area closure near Atlanta that includes the Black Warrior and Queens trails, and access to the Sawtooth Wilderness from the west.

Those closures are expected to be in place for several weeks. Trails in the Sawtooths coming from Grandjean and Stanley are open.


The South Fork below Anderson Ranch Dam remains closed to angling, camping and other recreation, but the road is open.

"Fishing access is prohibited," Olson said. "We are looking at the burn intensity along the river, and it is very intense upstream from the Cow Creek Bridge, and less so downstream.

"Snags and rocks are the public safety main issue."

Firefighters say the Elk Complex was among the most intense wildfires they've seen. A fire closure is in effect for the South Fork of the Boise River upstream from Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

It includes the South Fork of the Boise River Road 227 from the forest boundary near Featherville, east to Skeleton Creek, then south to the Lime Creek Trail. The closure also includes Baumgartner Campground.


Trails in the White Cloud and Sawtooth mountains are open, as are other areas throughout the Sawtooth Valley. Campgrounds also remain open in the Stanley area.


The only fire closures for Payette National Forest are in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, said Brian Harris, forest spokesman.

The areas with fire restrictions are about 35 miles southeast of McCall near Thunder Mountain and Monumental Summit.

Campgrounds and recreation areas in McCall, Donnelly and New Meadows are open and ready for Labor Day visitors.

Brundage Mountain has chairlift rides for sightseers, hikers and mountain bikers Friday through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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