Zimo: Dam the Weiser River? It's a dumb idea

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comMarch 20, 2014 

0320 out zimocol

You'll be surprised at what you find in the hidden canyon of the Weiser River.

PETE ZIMOWSKY

The river buzz this month has been about the isolated canyon of the Weiser River.

The 22-mile stretch between Midvale and Galloway Dam, just upstream from Weiser, is well away from main roads and a relatively unknown section of the river.

You either have to float the river in early spring, or hike or bike the lower part of the Weiser River Trail to see the sage and grassland canyon that is spiced with volcanic rock outcroppings.

Talk in the Idaho Legislature this winter of putting a new dam on the Weiser River and recent early spikes in flows have put the river in the limelight.

The canyon is a valuable resource for river recreation and wintering wildlife, all of which would be lost by the flooding waters of a dam.

Some estimates say waters from the reservoir would cover 10 to 17 miles of the trail and free-flowing river.

It's a bad idea for recreation and wildlife, and in addition to that, a $2 million study for the proposed dam is a waste of taxpayer money.

When state officials start talking about a dam on the river, there seems to be no talk of the recreation benefits of the area, which include hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, hunting and access to the Weiser River for rafting, kayaking and fishing.

There's also camping at the Presley Trailhead near Galloway Dam with its new improvements of water, toilet, picnic tables, graveled parking area and kiosk.

The area in question is an important part of the whole 84-mile stretch of the Weiser River Trail that goes from Rubicon near New Meadows, through the towns of Council, Cambridge and Midvale to the trailhead near Weiser.

The entire right-of-way was deeded to Friends of the Weiser River Trail in August 1997 by the Union Pacific Railroad under the federal railbanking law. It's become a popular destination for those who want to travel the old rail bed, which in many places accessed places that can't be reached by roads.

If you're thinking about floating the canyon stretch this spring to see what all the hoopla is about, here are a few tips I learned from a float trip in June several years ago:

• You'll need to set up a shuttle from Midvale to Galloway Dam.

• You can do it in a long day at flows around 4,000 cfs.

An overnighter is better at lower flows. There's a picnic and camping area about midpoint in the trip.

• Experienced drift boaters will feel comfortable with flows between 2,000 to 4,000 cfs. You'll bang rocks at about 1,500 cfs and lower.

• Rafters in medium to small rafts will enjoy flows down to 1,000 cfs.

• Experienced whitewater canoeists can do the run down to 1,000 cfs. This is not a place for flatwater canoes and kids in canoes.

• In higher flows, you'll have to navigate high water and moderate swirlies. At lower flows, you'll have to maneuver past and around rocks.

• Inflatable kayaks are the ideal craft at all flows, but especially at lower flows like 800 cfs.

See this recreation area for yourself, and then tell state lawmakers and officials the dam is a dumb idea.

WILDFLOWERS

Wildflowers are already popping up at Castle Rocks State Park, southeast of Burley. Can you believe it?

The area next to City of Rocks National Reserve is between 5,600 and 6,500 feet in elevation.

Wildflowers weren't on my radar screen because it seems like we just got rid of winter.

But the Friends of Idaho State Parks posted on Facebook a photo of Anderson's buttercup in bloom at the state park.

I'm just saying, keep an eye out for desert wildflowers, and have your camera handy.

OREGON CAMPING

If you want uncrowded camping on the Oregon Coast, go over in early March.

We head over to the coast well before spring break to enjoy one of the parks when there weren't many campers around.

There were a lot of camping spaces open at South Beach State Park near Newport, Ore., and I suppose it was the same story in other Oregon parks.

Could it have also been the four days of downpouring rain that made them uncrowded?

Well, it was quiet and the seafood and craft brews were great while hanging out in our RV. Hiking on the beach in saturated rain gear was fun, too.

No kidding. You had to be there. It sure beats crowds in the height of the season.

Think about an RV camping trip there next March.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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