Monday, May 09, 2005

The wild Lochsa River

A sure sign of spring is the beginning of floating season.
My telephone lit up last weekend about different river trips folks were taking.
One of my friends from Helena came intent on trying the Missouri River between Morony Dam and Fort Benton, a vastly underrated stretch that gets overlooked in favor of the wild and scenic stretch and White Cliffs further downstream.
That friend had floated the Jefferson the week previous and described an evening in camp that included hearing owls, sandhill cranes and blue herons.
A weather advisory showed the Dearborn at flood stage.
My eyes could tell me that if you’re going to float in this dry year, the time is now.
While I didn’t float myself, I traveled along the Lochsa River that borders the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in northern Idaho.
That is a spectacular stretch that is picked up from Lolo Pass, following U.S. 12 out of Missoula west.
The Clearwater National Forest has done a great job developing the recreation along this stretch that includes many interpretive signs, pullouts and trailheads into the Selway made accessible by the rugged wooden pack bridges that span the river. For an informative brochure try this link:
The Lochsa was in full fury while we were there, full bank-to-bank.
We crossed over on the Split Creek bridge and entered the Selway hiking in a short distance to admire the river, the forest’s lush vegetation and blooming flowers. Many flowering trees were in bloom.
We stopped at a restaurant in Lowell, where the Selway comes into the Lochsa forming the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River.
We couldn’t help but notice the large number of hunters in the restaurant at noon.
Our waitress told us that the area is “thick” with bears and wild turkeys and that she was having a problem with turkeys “pooping” on her yard.
In years past I’ve seen many kayakers on the Lochsa playing in all the white water. I surprised that we didn’t see any on this high-spring weekend.
The purpose of our trip was a graduation at Washington State University in Pullman, which brought us into the Palouse country. We stayed in Lewiston where the Snake and Clearwater rivers join.
We were charmed with this area’s quaint, picturesque communities and rolling wheat farms. However, we were warned no to get too rosy a picture of the Palouse because in a few weeks the weather gets hot and the green turns to brown.

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