Friday, May 9, 2014

Kayakers beware: Lolo Creek is unsafe

Dangerous areas like this have appeared on Lolo Creek since last year’s Incendiary Creek Fire, according to Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office.

Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office would like kayakers to be aware that Lolo Creek is extremely treacherous at this time, due to what happened with the Incendiary Creek Fire last year.

In August of 2013 the Incendiary Creek Fire burned approximately 1,100 acres in the Lolo Creek drainage in Clearwater County. Lolo Creek is the boundary line between Idaho and Clearwater counties, and runs into the Clearwater River.

In the spring of each year Lolo Creek becomes a popular area for kayakers, with most starting at the Lolo Creek Bridge near Weippe and ending at the Clearwater River.

During the fire last summer several large trees fell across the creek, completely blocking it. There were at least six trees completely across the Lolo Creek and concern that more would fall across over the winter. There was also concern about rock and mudslides along the creek due to the loss of vegetation from the fire.

An April flight over Lolo Creek found only a couple of problem areas where trees have fallen into the creek. The first area is approximately half a mile down from the bridge near Weippe. There is a complete blockage of the creek from trees, and it is not possible for a kayak to go over or under this blockage. This blockage is on a fairly calm part of the creek and should be easily seen from upstream. The bank would allow portage around this blockage.

The next blockage is from a single tree and appears that you could navigate around it. There are also several other trees that are currently sticking out over the creek and could become a problem during higher water or if they break off.

One of the challenges of Lolo Creek for kayakers is the inability to scout ahead before starting down the creek. In the past this has caused difficult Search and Rescue Operations for Clearwater County, when kayakers have gotten in trouble.

If you are considering kayaking on Lolo Creek this year, please be aware of the potential dangers.

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