'Stellar' Idaho snowpack means good summer whitewater rafting
Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:19 PM
BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated streamflows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are ranging from 90-120 percent of normal, which should provide for a stellar, fun-filled whitewater river season this summer, officials said Thursday.
“Our bookings are very strong this year and we feel lucky to have such a fabulous snowpack, especially compared to much of the West,” said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene.
Idaho’s snowpack levels are much stronger than levels well below 50 percent in California and Nevada, Grubb notes.
Idaho is known nationally as the “whitewater state” with more than 3,000 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids, the most of any state in the lower 48. Thousands will take week-long wilderness river vacations on the Salmon River, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River or Hells Canyon of the Snake with Idaho outfitters. Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie rivers with Idaho outfitters. Great water conditions will benefit jet boat trips as well on the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon.
A wet month in February featuring precipitation levels exceeding 200 percent of normal in the Boise and Snake river basins and 150 percent of normal in the Salmon and Payette River Basin is what boosted snowpack levels to what they are now, experts say.
“It’s all good news. It just keeps getting better every day,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We need the cool temperatures to continue in the mountains and normal precipitation levels to continue in the spring to maintain these forecasts.”
Main Salmon and Payette River outfitters are excited about the snowpack levels, too.
“The Main Salmon River has an amazing snow pack this year so rafting season is going to be great: big water, beautiful sandy beaches and exciting rapids,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions.
“The water outlook on the Payette River system looks solid at over 92 percent of normal,” said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. “There is still plenty of time to collect a bit more precipitation, which will put the icing on the cake. Both rafting and kayaking look great for the entire summer, with super whitewater levels on the South Fork through Labor Day and on the Main Payette through mid-September.”
Deep snowpacks in the Upper Snake Basin should provide enough flows for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide boatable flows through the white-knuckle Murtaugh section near Twin Falls this spring. That’s always a bonus for whitewater boaters.
The only downside this year are below-normal snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, which are 52 and 68 percent of normal right now. Those rivers may not get high enough for rafting this year, but should be doable by kayak.