Thursday, March 19, 2015
Dworshak gears up for warm-weather recreation
Enjoy springtime in picturesque north Idaho at outdoor recreation facilities operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir.
Merrys Bay day-use, Dam View, and Canyon Creek campgrounds open April 1. Dent Acres campground will open April 13, with campsite fees at $10 per day by self-deposit registration. Regular-season camping will start May 21, with full hook-up sites available for $18 per night. Reservations for the regular season can be made by calling 877-444-6777, or by reserving online at www.recreation.gov.
Dent Acres Boat Ramp opened March 16. The nearby ramp restroom will be open. Canyon Creek, Bruces Eddy and Big Eddy ramps are already open.
Visitors wanting to launch boats may encounter large houseboats using the ramps to exit the reservoir. Park rangers ask boaters to be patient or use a different ramp, as loading and removing the houseboats can require considerable time on the ramp.
The State of Idaho Parks and Recreation recently notified the houseboat owners and the Corps that they no longer intend to offer moorages for houseboats as part of their lease to operate Dworshak State Park recreation facilities because of increased liability, staff safety and anticipated moorage failure.
“What started as a test to determine feasibility of a large-boat marina to provide additional recreation opportunities and economic benefits to the surrounding community has run its course,” said Dworshak Natural Resource Manager Paul Pence. “Over the past decade or so, the moorage buoys have failed because of high winds and the fluctuating rise and fall of the reservoir. We’re down to one functional buoy, and several vessels whose buoys failed have been tied off to various Corps structures - it’s not safe for the boaters or the public property.
“With no new concessionaire or user group willing to invest in a large-boat marina, it’s time to call this experiment done,” Pence agreed with the State’s decision to no longer renew the annual moorage rental contracts. “It would take a big pot of money to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for these large vessels, and recreation budgets have continually declined.”
Despite a recreation budget almost half of what it was in 2006 (approx. $1.23 million versus about $778,000 in 2015), staff at Dworshak makes the most of what they have to continue improving the quality of recreation on and around the reservoir and providing safe and fun experiences for visitors.
Safety is the Corps’ top priority! Please, remember to allow plenty of line when tying-off vessels along the reservoir shoreline to allow for water-level fluctuations. Corps officials advise boaters and others using waterways, both in Dworshak Reservoir and below the dam, on the Clearwater River to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow. The weather may be warming up, but the water in Dworshak Reservoir is still very cold. Always be aware of hypothermia, and wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
The region’s snow pack and weather impact flood risk, and consequently Corps Reservoir Management decisions. Current snowpack for the Clearwater sub-basin is 72 percent of normal, and Dworshak Reservoir is just 30 feet from full pool.
“A low snow year creates good early season recreation conditions for Dworshak since not as much space in the reservoir needs to be reserved for potential inflows,” said Pence. “The higher pool elevation makes it a short hike to the shoreline campsites.”
Given 2015’s current snowpack outlook, weather and continuing environmental operation requirements, visitors can anticipate seeing the following water-management operations at the Dworshak reservoir through April:
March 1 - water supply forecast for April to July runoff is 74 percent of normal March - currently releasing minimum discharge to conserve water and slowly refill the reservoir April 1 - flood risk management target elevation 1,577.7 feet (22 feet below full pool) April - transition from flood risk management draft to refill; anticipate elevation of 1,580 feet by April 30
For updated water level and boat ramp information, call 800-321-3198. For more information regarding facilities access and current conditions, call 208-476-1255, or stop by the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The visitor center also has fun displays for kids, including a water safety room where they can play in a boat, create water safety posters and try on life jackets.
For more information about activities, programs and recreation opportunities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir, stop by the Visitor Center, or connect with them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dworshakdam.