Latest Posts

Snake’s Hagerman Stretch: Great Whitewater for (Supervised) Beginners

HAGERMAN • Kids giggled and screamed with excitement when the raft plowed into Slide Rapids’ 4-foot waves on the Hagerman stretch of the Snake River. Whitewater engulfed the raft and unleashed a refreshing spray on the 90-degree July day.

Class II and Class III rapids, bouncy roller coaster waves, mellow stretches, wildlife and canyon scenery in this seven-mile section of the Snake between Hagerman and Bliss draw lots of families, especially in the hot months.

“I love it,” said rafter Steve Erlandson of Pocatello, just after completing a run with other rafters. “It’s a good family run,” he said, beaching his raft at the take-out ramp near Bliss Bridge.

This part of the Snake is a hidden treasure and seen by few from U.S. 30 on the rimrock bluff above. It is considered one of the best family whitewater day trips in southern Idaho as it winds through desert canyons and agricultural lands below Lower Salmon Falls Reservoir. The river’s waters, bolstered by plentiful natural springs for which the Hagerman area is famous, also yields good fishing for trout and sturgeon.

“A majority of the people that go with us on this trip are beginners,” said Olin Gardner of Idaho Guide Service, a river outfitter licensed on the stretch. “A lot have never been rafting before.”

In addition to being a good beginner stretch, the Snake provides excitement for veteran rafters and a place to run whitewater year-round. In fact, several groups of boaters traditionally celebrate by running the river on New Year’s Day.

This summer the Snake is a key in the whitewater scene as other rivers across the state experience drought flows and become low, rocky and difficult to run.

Although the river is considered a family whitewater stretch, some large rapids spice up the mellow stretches. Kids and adults should wear life jackets approved for whitewater, and parents should keep a close eye on the kids in the bouncy waves.

It’s a real whitewater river and not a “tubing” stretch or a float that can be done in department-store rafts. Snake River flows are typically high and currents swift and strong. Families need to be experienced in whitewater rafting. Rafters who have never done the Hagerman reach should go the first time with other experienced rafters or with an outfitter.

Some boaters consider the last rapids — Slide Rapids — the roughest set on the river. It’s just upstream of the take-out ramp. It can be scouted by going a few hundred yards upstream from the bridge on a dirt road on the west side of the river. There are a couple of large holes and an undercut cliff in the rapids, but experienced rafters negotiate the whitewater fairly easily.

There is a long rock garden below the rapids, then rafters have to watch out for large bridge abutments before the take-out ramp at the Bliss Bridge. Some rafters who want to avoid Slide take out at Idaho Power’s Relish Ramp, which is well upstream of the rapids and off River Road.

There are other exciting rapids, too.

The first, Prom Date, is a long stretch of large waves. The next, Captain Crunch, is near a giant stone left from a bridge. It has fast-moving water with a couple of big holes. Some rafters call it Pillar Rapids.

Chris’ Hole is next and has a steep elevation drop with a giant hole.

Another set is Frank Lloyd Wright Rapids, which is short with big drops. It’s near a home designed by the famous architect.

Idaho Power has several launch sites on the river. The Lower Salmon Falls Dam launch has a raft slide, large parking lot, vault toilet with changing room and big parking area. Another launch is at the confluence with the Malad River and has similar facilities.

The take-out below Bliss Bridge also has a toilet, ramp and parking area. For information, go to Idahopower.com and click on Our Environment, then Recreation, then Parks, then Hagerman Valley.

Idaho Guide Service (Idahoguideservice.com) offers float trips for the Hagerman stretch. Cost is $60 for adults and $49 for 17 and younger. The price includes lunch. The float takes about four hours and usually runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This is a great little section,” Gardner said. “It’s often overlooked, and it’s right in our backyard.”


Hidden History: Harriman’s Alaska Expedition Visits Shoshone Falls

Even before the town of Twin Falls was founded, many noted personalities visited the valley.

In May 1899, E.H. Harriman, then the executive committee chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, and more than 100 of the country’s best scientists, photographers, artists, writers and naturalists visited Shoshone Falls and the Snake River Canyon.

Harriman, 51 at the time, was one of the most powerful men in America. But by the late 19th century, he was worn out and his doctor told him to take a vacation. Harriman decided to go to Alaska to hunt Kodiak bears.

He wouldn’t go alone; Harriman gathered a scientific community to explore the coast of Alaska with him.

He told Clinton Hart Merriam, head of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a founder of the National Geographic Society, that he would cover the group’s expenses if Merriam would choose the guests.

The Harriman Alaska Expedition, a party of 126, explored coastlines from Seattle to Siberia and back again on the steamship “George W. Elder.” The remodeled ship featured luxury rooms, a library, a stable for animals and taxidermy studios.

The guest list included Merriam, photographer Edward Curtis, ornithologist Charles Keeler, geographer Henry Gannett, botanist Thomas Kearney, naturalist John Muir, bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes and writer and conservationist John Burroughs.

Harriman took the expedition through Idaho by rail on the way to Seattle. A telegram reached the Shoshone depot just days before the special train arrived in town.

“Word was sent around to the whole countryside to be on hand early on the morning of (May 27) with all the conveyances available to take this group to see Shoshone Falls,” H.J. Kingsbury, publisher of Kingsbury Printing Co., wrote in his book “Bucking the Tide.”

Every buckboard, wagon, buggy and saddle horse — even I.B. Perrine’s stagecoach — showed up at the depot.

“When the train arrived, the greatest collection of nondescript vehicles ever assembled in a small Western town was on hand to meet them,” Kingsbury said.


Idaho Moves Foward with No Child Left Behind Waiver

TWIN FALLS • Idaho is one step closer to getting renewal of its No Child Left Behind waiver.

The state board of education approved revisions to a 241-page document Friday. Now, it will go back to the U.S. Department of Education.

Since 2012, Idaho has been given flexibility to avoid some unpopular federal requirements and use its own system to hold schools accountable for student performance.

But after years of waiting, congressional re-authorization of No Child Left Behind could be on the horizon. Originally, action was supposed to be taken in 2007.

“Legislative action at that level is always unpredictable,” said Marcia Beckman, associate deputy superintendent for the Idaho Department of Education. “In some ways, it is much further along than it has ever been.”

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act and the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act. Both would give states more control in deciding how to measure student achievement.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 — championed by President George W. Bush — is a pass-fail system based on standardized test scores.

By the 2013-14 school year, 100 percent of students were supposed to reach “proficient” levels.

“Certainly, that is a noble goal,” Beckman said, but it’s not possible.

Schools were often given “failing” labels, even if students made academic gains.

The Idaho Board of Education approved an initial version of the waiver in April. There’s one major change this year: suspending a five-star accountability system for schools.

That’s because student growth can’t be measured. There’s only one year of test scores from the new Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Under Idaho’s rating system, schools were given a score — one being the worst and five the best.

Factors include academic growth, test scores, graduation rates and how many students are taking advanced classes.

Low-performing schools were required to create an improvement plan.

The state received feedback from school districts, saying the system doesn’t always accurately measure performance, Beckman said.

The five-star system was complex, Wendell Superintendent Greg Lowe told the Times-News in April. He’s in favor of another accountability model if it’s simpler.

The state plans to submit a new accountability system to the U.S. Department of Education in March 2016.

“The one constant and the one agreeable point in all of these discussions is that we do want Idaho to have a system whereby we judge school accountability,”said Debbie Critchfield of Oakley, a member of the Idaho Board of Education.

Other changes in Idaho’s waiver include allowing local districts to choose their own school management vendors and which tools to use for improvement plans.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has emphasized more local control, Beckman said.

Also, low-performing schools won’t need to get state approval for improvement plans.

But the state will still provide oversight, Beckman said. “We’re here to say you did it, but not necessarily to approve the plan.”


Shooting the Bull: Gaggle of Gadgets for Cleaning Your AR 15

The MSR or Modern Sporting Rifle, as AR rifles have come to be known, is unquestionably the most popular centerfire rifle system in the nation. If you own an AR or have ever had the opportunity to run one through its paces, then you know why it has become our perennial favorite.

True, they’re accurate, reliable, affordable and easy to operate, but I believe the primary reason for their runaway popularity lies in their modular nature. Using readily available factory and aftermarket options, you can tailor the rifle or carbine of your dreams. The only limiting factor will be your wallet. Even with my modest budget, I was able to personalize my M4 with a four-rail hand guard and covers, a Hogue rubber pistol grip, a Ruger Elite 452 AR trigger assembly, a MagPul folding rear sight and red dot optics for less than $500.

In past columns, I’ve detailed quality AR magazine options, nifty speed loaders and trigger systems. This time I thought it might be informative to share some of my favorite AR cleaning and maintenance tools with you. These semiautomatic guns were designed for high-volume shooting and will generally run flawlessly for thousands of rounds before a thorough cleaning is required.

When the time comes for that detailed cleaning job, here are several products that will make that onerous task much easier.

Topping the list is a product designed to clean up those stubborn carbon deposits and fouling that build up on the rear of the bolt, within the bolt carrier group and on the firing pin collar. Coined the B.O.N.E. Tool by its maker, Otis Technology, it is simply a 3-inch cylindrical CNC-machined steel scraping tool. It incorporates three chiseled surfaces designed to interface with the three components mentioned above.

Operation couldn’t be simpler: Insert the tool, apply hand pressure as you give the tool a couple of twists, and the accumulated gunk and fouling is scraped from the component surfaces without marring. Speed up the process by softening the crud ahead of time with a good solvent, like BreakFree CLP or FrogLube. Two models are available: The AR 15-223/5.56 tool retails for $25, and the larger AR 10-7.62x51 (308 Winchester) iteration sells for $30. These nifty implements are a must for dedicated AR enthusiasts.

For regular bore maintenance after each range session, I like to pull a lightly lubricated Hoppes Bore Snake through the barrel several times. But when it’s time for a meticulous cleaning job, I rely on a cable cleaning system.

For economy and efficiency, I recommend Remington’s Mini Fast Snap kit. Available in all standard calibers, this pull-through tool combined with the appropriate quick-change brushes and bore swabs is ideal for pulling all the nasty fouling from the breech end to the muzzle. This method prevents the loosened crud from draining or being carried back into the chamber, bolt locking recess and firing mechanism. Want to eliminate the need to pull countless clean patches through the bore? Pick up a caliber-specific Remington blaze orange Squeeg-E attachment; one pass through the bore and you’re done.

The final item is a quality AR chamber/locking lug recess brush. I favor the “Ny-Tough” nylon bristle brush set from Montana X-Treme. Put this brush to work at the breech end of the barrel with a short, rigid cleaning rod. Next, replace the bristle brush with an AR chamber/barrel extension swab and mop out loosened fouling. Complete the job by running a lightly lubricated patch or swab through the chamber and bore.

The AR is a wonderful weapons system. With appropriate care and cleaning, it will provide you with a lifetime of reliable service.

Rich Simpson may be reached at rsimpson29@hotmail.com.


Hunters Still Have Options for Big Game Controlled Hunts

JEROME • Hunters who were unsuccessful in Idaho’s first drawing for controlled hunts in June have more chances with unclaimed tags, a second controlled hunt drawing, and Super Hunts.

Unclaimed tags for early hunts:

Unclaimed tags for controlled hunts that begin on or before Aug. 15, and close prior to October, will be available for purchase first-come, first-served. They will go on sale at 10 a.m. today, Aug. 6, at any Fish and Game license vendor and online.

These hunts include:

• Deer hunts: 1028, 1085, 1088 and 1089.

• Elk hunts: 2052, 2057, 2082, 2117, 2140 and 2184.

• Pronghorn hunts: 4029, 4031, 4033, 4035, 4036, 4041 and 4046.

For details, go to the “Features” section at Fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Second draw:

The application period for unclaimed deer, elk and pronghorn tags (for hunts starting after Aug. 15) runs Aug. 5-15. Results of the second draw will be available by Aug. 20. Any tags not purchased after the second drawing will be sold first-come, first-served at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 at any Fish and Game license vendor and online.

A list of available tags is available at Fish and Game’s offices and website (Fishandgame.idaho.gov).

Hunters can apply for the drawing at any Fish and Game office or license vendor, at 800-554-8685 or on Fish and Game’s website. The application fee is $6.25 for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents for each species.

Super Hunt option:

Another option for hunters is the Idaho Super Hunt drawing, and the deadline for entry is Aug. 10.

The August Super Hunt drawing is for two elk tags, two deer tags, two pronghorn tags and one moose tag, and one Super Hunt Combo (one tag for each of those species). Winners will be drawn and notified in mid-August.

With every entry in Fish and Game’s Super Hunt drawings, hunters get a chance at winning the hunt of a lifetime, and their entry fee helps support hunter and angler access to and across private lands.

Winners can participate in any open hunt in the state for deer, elk, pronghorn or moose, including general hunts and controlled hunts. Super Hunt tags are in addition to any general season or controlled hunt tags a hunter has. All other rules of individual hunts apply.

Super Hunt applications are $6 for each species and $20 for the Super Hunt Combo.

Hunters can enter as many times as they like for Super Hunts. For details, look for “Idaho’s Super Hunts” under the Hunting tab on Fishandgame.idaho.gov.


Comment Sought on Sage Grouse Season Proposals

JEROME • Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking public comment on two proposals for a sage grouse hunting season, including one that would reopen part of Twin Falls County to hunting.

The comment period has been extended to Aug. 9.

Option 1 for the 2015 sage grouse season is the same as the 2014 season, Fish and Game said.

Option 2 would reopen eastern Owyhee County and western Twin Falls County. This area was closed in 2007 due to wildfire impacts, but sage grouse populations have recovered and meet the qualification to be hunted at the “restrictive” level, the agency said. This includes a seven-day season Sept. 19-25, and a one-bird daily limit statewide within sage grouse range, except in designated closed areas.

To view the proposals and to comment, go to Fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/public-involvement or visit Fish and Game’s Jerome office.

A summary of public comments will be presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission at its Aug. 11 meeting in Idaho Falls, when it will set the seasons.

Sage grouse are proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act due to habitat loss from wildfire, invasive plants and other factors. The species is under state management, and hunting is legal. Sage grouse experts have determined that carefully regulated hunting is consistent with conservation of the species, Fish and Game says, and the agency monitors sage grouse annually to ensure hunting will not compromise the population.

Read Idaho’s sage grouse plan: Fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/sageGrouse.


Forest Project Closes Bald Mountain Trails

SUN VALLEY • A project to clear some vegetation from Bald Mountain has closed several trails temporarily and limited the hours of access for trails on the mountain.

Sun Valley Co. and the U.S. Forest Service began their glading program in 2014 to improve forest health on Baldy.

Bald Mountain Trail is closed above the Bureau of Land Management scenic overlook. A reroute to the top of Baldy will be available by following signs at French Connection to Lower College and reconnecting to the Bald Mountain Trail at the top of Can Can, the resort said. Roundhouse Connector can also be accessed via the detour.

The Traverse Trail, providing access from the Warm Springs side of the mountain to River Run, is closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The glading project aims to clear overstocked vegetation and trees to reduce hazards and destructive insects. An additional 25 acres of gladed terrain will be available to Sun Valley’s skiers and boarders for the 2015-16 winter season.

Information on the Forest Service’s Healthy Forests Initiative: www.fs.fed.us/projects/hfi/

During the project, the Roundhouse will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. River Run Plaza will be in full operation with the Brass Ranch and Pete Lane’s for retail and bike rentals.

The River Run Gondola operates 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.


Steelhead Runs Should Start Warming Up

LEWISTON • Warm water in the Snake and Columbia rivers has slowed early returning steelhead, but preseason projections call for decent returns of both A-run and B-run fish.

The forecast return of fall chinook and coho to the Snake River also looks promising, but high water temperatures represent a wild card for all three species.

A short section of the Clearwater River between its mouth and Memorial Bridge at Lewiston opened to catch-and-keep steelhead fishing Saturday. But the number of steelhead available to anglers is well below the 10-year average.

Only 696 steelhead were counted at Lower Granite Dam between July 1 and July 28. Last year, nearly 3,900 steelhead had made the trip, and the 10-year average is 2,863.

The counts at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River are also well below average for this time of year. Through July 28, 43,469 steelhead were counted at Bonneville. Last year, the total for the same time period was 71,875, and the 10-year average is about 75,000.

Despite the slow start, fisheries managers are expecting a healthy return of steelhead — 157,720 — to Lower Granite Dam, including about 128,850 A-run fish and 28,770 B-run steelhead.

The high water temperatures in the two rivers could be responsible for the slow start, said Alan Byrne, anadromous fish manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston.

“Typically, what happens when we have warm water, the steelhead that hit Bonneville don’t move very quickly up river. They kind of wait for things to cool off,” he said. “We will probably start to see some fish come over Lower Granite, but I don’t think there is going to be steelhead in large numbers coming over until we see some temperature relief.”

When the Columbia River is warm, steelhead will often take detours into cool water tributaries like the Klickitat River, Drano Lake, Wind River and the White Salmon River.

Joe Hymer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at Vancouver said that is likely happening. But he also said it could be the run will not live up to the forecast. Both Hymer and Byrne said it’s much too early in the run to draw any conclusions from the slow start.

“They can make that up pretty quickly if they start coming over,” Byrne said.

Becky Johnson, production manager for Nez Perce Tribal Fisheries, said about 40,000 fall chinook are expected to return above Lower Granite Dam this year. Of those, about one-third will be wild fish and two-thirds will be hatchery fish. However, only about half of the hatchery fish have been marked by having their adipose fins clipped, which makes them legal for anglers to catch in open seasons. That means about two-thirds of the run won’t be available for anglers.

Both Idaho and Washington are seeking permission from the National Marine Fisheries Service to allow anglers to keep unclipped fall chinook in the Snake River. But it doesn’t appear that permission will come in time for this fall’s fishing season.

Johnson said the forecast for coho salmon has yet to be finalized. But she said an early, unofficial estimate called for 8,000 to 10,000 to return above Lower Granite Dam. Coho are raised by the tribe, which needs about 2,000 for spawning in hatcheries. The tribe and Idaho fisheries officials haven’t determined if fishing will be allowed.

Last year, about 18,000 coho returned to the Clearwater River, many more than expected. The surprising return led to the first coho fishing season on the Clearwater River in several decades.

Coho were declared extinct in 1985, but the tribe reintroduced them 10 years later.


Discounted Second Tags Go on Sale

JEROME • The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is offering a discount for big game hunters who want more opportunity. In August, resident and nonresident hunters can buy remaining nonresident tags as second tags for discounted prices of $199 for deer and $350 for elk.

After August, the prices will increase to $300 and $415, excluding vendor fees.

Any hunter who has purchased a hunting license and a 2015 deer or elk tag at the regular price can buy a discounted second tag for the same species. Tags are sold first-come, first-served. They’re are available at Fish and Game offices and vendors, Fishandgame.idaho.gov or 800-554-8685.

Fish and Game sold discounted deer and elk tags last year as an incentive for hunters to buy the remaining quota of nonresident tags, but commissioners this year limited the discount sale to August. The nonresident quota is 12,815 elk tags and 15,500 deer tags, and since 2008 a portion of the nonresident quota has gone unsold.

But Fish and Game said it has seen increased tag sales due in part to improved deer and elk hunting in Idaho and a better economy. Through July, sale of nonresident elk tags is up 25 percent over the same period last year, and up 14 percent for deer tags.

Fish and Game is forecasting better deer and elk hunting this year because of mild winters and excellent survival.

More information about the second tags: Fishandgame.idaho.gov/2tags.


Jerome Man Claims $300K in Scratch Game Prize

BOISE • “I guess I’ll have to go to a bank now,” said a Jerome man who won $300,000 on the Idaho Lottery’s Triple Platinum Scratch Game.

“I thought I’d get it all in cash bills. Instead I got a piece of paper,” joked Louis Horvath, referring to his oversized souvenir check and the actual winning check.

Always quick with a joke, the colorful, retired worker from a Magic Valley potato manufacturing and processing plant claimed the game’s first grand prize Wednesday on a winning ticket he purchased at Ridley’s in Jerome.

Horvath plans to pay down some medical expenses with his winnings and save the rest.

This is the third consecutive big win on the Lottery in the Magic Valley in the past seven weeks. Previously a Wild Card jackpot winning ticket for $275,000 was claimed from a ticket sold in Twin Falls and a $1,000,000 winning Powerball ticket was claimed from a ticket sold in Shoshone.