Snake River ‘water trail’ provides access and information for floaters

ARGUS OBSERVERDecember 19, 2013 

ONTARIO — Floaters and power boaters who use the Snake River will be able to take advantage of continuing efforts to create a recreational water trail spanning 205 miles from Three Islands State Park, near Glenns Ferry, all the way to Farewell Bend State Park, just north of Ontario, Ore.

“We are awfully blessed to have the resource of the Snake River going through our communities,” said Craig Jensen, a Payette City Council member and vice president of the Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail Coalition. “We should be taking advantage of it. It will never close its doors and leave us, like a factory or a business.”

The water trail, now nearly five years in the making, exists to promote the use of the river for recreation and to educate river users, Jensen said.

The trail is a designation as much as a physical place. The trail is outlined on a website that serves as a clearinghouse for access points and other information about using the Snake River.

The trail project also encourages partnerships among local agencies, business, nonprofits and the public, and finds ways to use the river to benefit local economies.

“What we can do in utilizing it is bring in much-needed tourist dollars,” Jensen said.

The Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail is currently broken into 11 sections, called reaches. Each reach is designed to take no more than a day to float in order to assist river users with trip planning.

“You can plan just a day trip or a weeklong float,” Jensen said.

Reaches are also mapped to show where they have boat ramps, and what amenities, such as restroom facilities or camping, are available.

According to Jensen, the water trail is an ongoing project.

“I don’t think there ever was a completion date,” he said. “It’s continuously evolving.”

The coalition’s current focus is on installing signs at points of entry to the river. He likens the signs to the ones used on interstate highways to list options for food, gas and lodging at exits.

Each sign will list the amenities available at the spot where it is installed, as well as what craft is best suited for each stretch.

The six counties and 15 cities along the water trail will continue to make improvements to their own reaches, such as better boat ramps and docks at Payette’s Centennial Park, funded by a recently received grant.

And with the plans for the Idaho Oregon Snake River Water Trail cemented and being implemented, Jensen said, the coalition is moving on to a new goal—a Payette Water Trail, which will run from the confluence of the Payette and the Snake rivers to Cascade.

The whitewater on the Payette is world famous, but people “don’t know anything about the flat water stretch from Emmett to Payette that’s perfect for rafting, canoeing or tubing,” Jensen said. “It’s very underutilized.”

That water trail is still in its infancy, Jensen said. The coalition will first develop a list of goals for the new trail, and then begin to map it and spread the word.

Part of raising public awareness about its work comes from the coalition’s monthly meetings, where, according to Jensen, more than 20 representatives of cities, counties, businesses and interested agencies attend to receive updates on the project and help it to move forward.

“We are a conglomeration of river enthusiasts,” he said.

Snake River ‘water trail’ provides access and information for floaters

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