Area snowpack has region’s rivers raging

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  • Photo courtesy of RICK BARLOW AND ROW ADVENTURES Rafters coast over whitewater rapids on the St. Joe River during a ROW Adventures trip. This year’s snowpack is predicted to keep water levels high, which will make for a great rafting season.

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    Photo courtesy of CHAD CASE AND ROW ADVENTURES A ROW Adventures river rafting tour splashes through whitewater on the Spokane River. ROW and other adventure groups are looking forward to high waters and great rafting this season thanks to substantial snowpack.

  • Photo courtesy of RICK BARLOW AND ROW ADVENTURES Rafters coast over whitewater rapids on the St. Joe River during a ROW Adventures trip. This year’s snowpack is predicted to keep water levels high, which will make for a great rafting season.

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    Photo courtesy of CHAD CASE AND ROW ADVENTURES A ROW Adventures river rafting tour splashes through whitewater on the Spokane River. ROW and other adventure groups are looking forward to high waters and great rafting this season thanks to substantial snowpack.

A snowpack of nearly 100 percent plus plenty of rain and runoff means North Idaho's rivers will be raging this year.

"With all the rain and the melt, that's great," said Candy Bening, director of U.S. sales and longtime river guide for ROW Adventures in Coeur d'Alene. "We're excited to have all of the snow and rain. It bodes well for a very nice long summer of rafting and floating."

Locally, the St. Joe, Moyie, Coeur d'Alene and Spokane rivers are at flood stage, which means the water should stay at higher levels for the season, Bening said.

"Mother Nature can throw curve balls, but having said that, we have experienced very hot summers the past few years," Bening said. "With the amount of snow and rain we’ve had this spring, we believe it’s going to be hopefully a better rafting season than we saw in the last couple years in terms of higher water."

While the high water levels are good for whitewater enthusiasts, they're not that great for fishermen. Fish tend to hide at the bottom of the rivers when the water is high, and springtime debris can affect fishing as well.

"High water equates to bad fishing," said ROW Adventures President Peter Grubb. "There's too much stuff in the water. It means the fish have more to eat and they have a harder time seeing what you're throwing out there."

But as the weather warms and flows decrease, the fish will move upriver toward the headwaters in June and July, Grubb said. As the mighty snowpack waters subside, the fishing will get better.

"Overall, it's a healthy thing," he said. "Streambeds can get altered, sediments can be moved around… I think we're going to have an excellent season."

Adventurers should be aware that springtime rivers will be cold and swift and will contain plenty of debris, such as logs and wood.

"Any time a river is high, it's a good time to stay home if it’s at flood stage in particular," Grubb said. "If you’re going to go out on a river to fish or float, it’s wise to be a more experienced person than a less experienced person."

According to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, all of the Gem State's rivers are going to have a roaring season, including the Salmon, Snake, Lochsa, Owyee, Bruneau, Payette and Henry's Fork.

"We're pretty excited! Things are shaping up to have one of the best seasons in a long time," said Erik Weiseth with Orange Torpedo river trips, which offers multi-day adventures on the Salmon and Owyhee rivers. "This is going to be a season for the record books."

The Middle Fork Outfitters Association foresees "a fabulous river season" on the Salmon River's Middle Fork outside Stanley, Idaho.

The Salmon River Basin in central Idaho has a snowpack reading of about 135 percent of normal snow-water equivalent.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Jarod Hopkinson, owner of Rocky Mountain River Tours in Stanley. "The snowbanks are huge in Stanley, and it's still snowing."

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