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Field reports: Priest Lake canoeists shift plans after icy reception

Kristina Kripaitis had to scuttle her March 14, 2015, plans to launch a canoe from Beaver Creek Campground near the north end of Priest Lake -- because that portion of the lake was still frozen despite unseasonably warm winter weather. (Mike Wootton)
Kristina Kripaitis had to scuttle her March 14, 2015, plans to launch a canoe from Beaver Creek Campground near the north end of Priest Lake -- because that portion of the lake was still frozen despite unseasonably warm winter weather. (Mike Wootton)

CANOEING – Two Spokane-area canoeists thought they’d take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow last weekend to beat the boating crowd to Upper Priest Lake.

They found Old Man Winter still has control of the northern Selkirks.

Mike Wootton and Kristina Kripaitis reported the north end of Priest Lake was still frozen at Beaver Creek put-in. Meanwhile, a backcountry skier reported good snow high above Upper Priest Lake, which remained completely ice-capped.

Wootton and Kripaitis were undeterred. Despite last weekend’s blustery weather, they retreated south to the open waters of Priest Lake’s Reeder Bay, donned dry suits and paddled with their camping gear and firewood to Kalispell Island.

“Had the entire island to ourselves over the weekend so that was pretty awesome,” Kripaitis said.

“A rainy day camping on Priest is better than a sunny day in town.”

Cascades passes could open early

TRAVEL – North Cascades highway passes are likely to open earlier than normal, because of dwindling snowpacks, to provide access to popular recreation areas.

North Cascades Highway crews cleared 15 miles of SR20 from Mazama area up to Liberty Bell Mountain this week into North Cascades National Park.

Chinook Pass could reopen on SR410 near Mount Rainier as early as April 3, the Department of Transportation reports.

This year’s extremely mild winter means the snowpack at the summit of Chinook Pass is about 10 feet lower than usual.

Crews on the North Cascades Highway reported 20 feet of snow in one spot where the depths have been 70 feet deep some years in the past.

An April 3 opening at Chinook Pass would be the earliest reopening since the highway was built.

Cayuse Pass on SR123 is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Friday, which would be its second-earliest reopening.

Spokane Riverkeeper to outline mission

RIVERS – Jerry White, the Spokane Riverkeeper, will speak about his mission to protect the Spokane River in a public program for the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, 7 p.m., Monday at the Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Idaho boaters need invasive species stickers

BOATING – Rafters and paddlers are in high gear to run the early whitewater runoff in the region’s rivers.

They’re finding most of Idaho’s Invasive Species Check Stations are open and requiring all boats to stop for inspection.

Idaho’s invasive species sticker requirement extends to most vessels, including nonmotorized boats and inflatables longer than 10 feet.

The sticker comes with Idaho boat registrations, but a separate sticker must be purchased if your boat is registered out of state or if you have an unregistered nonmotorized craft.

Stickers can be purchased from agents or online through Idaho State Parks, $22 for power boats, $7 for nonmotorized.

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