Sunbeam Dam to Salmon, ID - 109 Miles and 2000'
On August 6th with the great folks of Idaho Rivers United, members of the press and concerned citizens, the Salmon to Sea trip was officially launched. Starting this trip at Sunbeam Dam was a very powerful way to start this trip. The Sunbeam Dam was in place in 1911, with no upstream fish passage available. With the help of locals actually carrying salmon up and over the dam so they could continue upstream the run survived. In 1934 the south side of the Sunbeam Dam was blown up with explosives, once again allowing salmon to continue migrating upstream to spawn. Once this obstacle was removed the runs upstream bounced back and thrived! So it is with this message, dam removal works, that I will be making my journey downstream.
It took me a couple of tries to figure out how to get everything that I need to fit into the Pyranha Burn. After pairing down the pile, all the essentials were covered. Some creature comforts were left behind. My gear list is: Pyranha Burn M kayak, AT2 Paddle 225, NRS Hustle PFD, NRS Sea Stow bags, NRS Hydrosilk top, Ridge 2 tent and LightYear 3D sleeping bag from Kelty, Kokatat Gore-Tex Drytop, sunshirts, shorts and pants, TEVA X-1/C shoe, Desert Mountain Medicine First Aid Kit, Personal Locator Beacon, Satellite Phone, Digital Camera, backpacking stove, water filter, titanium pot, sleeping pad, journal . And all that fits into my kayak!
The first day out was short one. I left the Sunbeam Dam and cheering crowd at 12:30. I was full of exciting energy and made really good time, 14 miles in 2 1/2 hours! This section is incredibly beautiful, starting in a narrow canyon and then several miles later it opens up to these incredible views (left). The geology of this area is seemingly changes around every corner. I spent the first night at Holman Campground, just upstream from the Command Center and Heliport for the Potato Fire, so there was a lot of helicopter and truck traffic with all the firefighters in the area. My wife Allison, was with me for the first night, before heading off on her own journey to Germany! She will spend the next 11 months in Germany on a Fulbright Award, we are all very proud of her, and I look forward to making it over there in December.
Before Allison left she helped me get my boat back to the river and pushed me off one last time. Good Luck and Safe travels Allison, see you in December! My intentions for this day were to go about 22 miles to Bayhorse Campground for the evening. Around noon I was starting to race a thunderstorm that was building and making lots of noise around me. I stopped for a really quick lunch and stretch before getting back in the boat and heading downstream. No sooner than shoving off did it unleash on me! It was pouring cats and dogs, it was a little chilly but my Gore-Tex drytop kept me dry as a bone. This kept up for a couple hours and then the hail started falling. Well I was very happy that I was wearing a helmet, the hail was dime sized so it had a little bite to it. I made it to Bayhorse at the tail end of the storm, hung out in the restrooms for about 15 minutes and decided rather than ending my day at 1:45 I would push it 12 more miles and end my day at the Challis Hot Springs. As I pushed off again the weather settled down the lightening and thunder was subsiding and just an occasional sprinkle would fall. I got to the Challis Hot Springs around 4:30 and got checked in and set up my camp so everything would be dry if it rained again. After a 34 mile day my body was a little fired up so I took the opportunity to take a dip. The hot springs were heavenly! I met a nice couple, Al and Joann, from Omaha, Nebraska that invited me over for dinner. We had a nice dinner of BLTs, Pasta Salad and Cherries, their hospitality was greatly appreciated after a long day.
I took another hot soak before shoving off on Day Three, what a great way to start the day! After talking with the Middle Fork crew in Salmon I decided to keep on pushing and reach Salmon a day early. This way I would have a ride to the OARS house and would be able to hang out with some really great people for the evening. This decision meant that I would have another 34 mile day and then a 27 mile day to get me to Salmon. The gradient and current in this section backs off, so it became a little more work for me to make the miles that I needed to make. Day Three consisted of lots of gravel islands to navigate and tons of wildlife. I saw: 12 Deer, 7 Osprey, 13 Great Blue Herons, 1 River Otter, 1 Immature Bald Eagle and 4 Red Tail Hawks. This was another really long day on the water. I got my hopes up by reading my home-made map wrong and thought I was making great time. A couple hours later I finally pulled onto the island that I thought was upstream. The island was great, providing me lots of shelter from the winds that were whipping all day long. There were lots of deer coming down to drink, as well as a Great Blue Heron nest across the river, better than TV any day! After a great dinner of Ginger Sesame Pasta, I passed out early.
I was paddling by 8 on the start of Day Four, trying to get to Salmon around 2, were an OARS guide would come pick me up and take me to our guide house. Again the gradient and current in this section is not very great so it is a lot of paddling. From Shoup Bridge into Salmon was a really beautiful section with lots of islands and eroded cliffs. I pushed a Bald Eagle downstream for about 8 miles this morning. It would fly off and find a new perch, I would come down and it would take off and find a new one. Nissa from OARS came and picked me up with a beer for me in hand, thanks!Wildlife Count
: 36 Deer, 30 Great Blue Herons, 5 Steelhead Smolt, 5 Osprey, 4 Red-Tailed Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles, 2 Turkey Vultures, 2 Carp, 1 Immature Bald Eagle, 1 River Otter and 3 Road Signs in the river!
I have spent the last couple of days dealing with my resupply, doing a couple of radio interviews (Utah Outdoors
), relaxing and mentally preparing for the challenges that await me downstream. It would be great to hear from you guys, what would you like to know about, what would you like to see more of, what do you think of the audio posts? Leave suggestions and thoughts in the comment section here and I will do what I can.
To keep track of me you can check out my calendar here
. I will be making some audio posts in the coming weeks, will not be able to update the website until the 26th or so.