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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture of this part of the world.

Pend Oreille River Water Trail Concept Plan

Emily Linroth, National Park Service Intern

Since the Kalispel Tribe first paddled its scenic reaches, the Pend Oreille River has been the main route of transportation through Pend Oreille County, drawing in explorers, miners, loggers and homesteaders. The Pend Oreille County Community Development Department, Pend Oreille River Tourism Alliance (PORTA), and the Washington State University Extension Program are working with numerous public and private stakeholders to create a plan for a 70-mile Pend Oreille River Water Trail that will provide a high-quality regional recreational experience, an educational opportunity, a vehicle to spur economic activity, and a means to tell the stories of the Pend Oreille River Valley. The National Park Service supported this project through a planning grant of staff time. This August, a draft Pend Oreille River Water Trail Concept Plan was released for public review. The document can be accessed at the PORTA website: www.porta-us.com. Printed copies are available at Pend Oreille County public libraries. The final plan will be presented for adoption by the county and by other land and resource managers in September. Anyone interested in the trail is encouraged to participate in a short on-line survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/pendoreillewatertrail

The water trail is designed for paddle craft and small motorized boats, providing opportunities for multiple experiences ranging from a couple of hours out on the river to multi-day expeditions. It will link 32 existing public river access sites and six private businesses along the river through uniform signage and comprehensive maps. The Concept Plan also identifies future needs for restrooms, interpretive displays, portage routes, and access sites.

The Water Trail Steering Committee held a series of workshops over several years with the land managers and interested stakeholders to develop the trail plan. County staff and volunteers inventoried more than 90 potential existing public sites. Workshop participants identified the regional “gaps” for river access sites, amenities (parking, restrooms, camping, etc.) and signage. The committee selected 32 of the 90 sites inventoried to be part of the water trail and made recommendations to improve some of these sites. It is planned that the land owners and managers will continue to manage their sites along the water trail. Recommendations in this plan are strictly voluntary and are meant to provide input to land managers as to how they can modify and manage their sites to be more water trail-friendly. The water trail can be used today, and improvements are intended to be developed over time as funding and opportunities arise. Grants, private donations and gifting programs could all help fund the trail.

Water trails have many benefits for relatively little investment. They provide opportunities for recreation on and near the river that boost tourism and the economies of communities linked by the trail. Recreation on the river and education about its history and natural resources will foster a sense of stewardship, which is a primary goal of the trail. People boat down the river today without any clear understanding of which property along the river is public and which is private. A formalized trail will direct users to appropriate public access sites, encourage them to follow pack-it-in-pack-it-out policies, and help protect private lands and sensitive environmental resources. Besides state boating registration and permits, there are no fees or permits needed to paddle or boat the Pend Oreille River. Many of the access sites do require fees for day-use and overnight camping, and some private sites require advanced reservations.

The water trail follows the flow of the river 70 miles from the Idaho border to Boundary Dam, just one mile shy of the Canadian border. The scenic 23-mile south reach is the headwaters of the water trail with 14 access sites, including 2 public campgrounds. This reach begins in Oldtown, Idaho and travels through a number of communities and through the Kalispel Reservation to the Tacoma Creek Wildlife Area. The 23-mile middle reach flows through rural Pend Oreille County and state wildlife areas teeming with nesting birds and waterfowl. The middle reach features several campgrounds, two private businesses, prime estuaries and deltas for fishing, and multiple creeks and sloughs to explore. The north reach flows by three small towns (Ione, Metaline and Metaline Falls,) two dams (Box Canyon and Boundary) the Metaline Falls Rapid, Peewee Waterfall, and the lower 10-mile Canyon Reach with its impressive rock walls and unique geology. This 24-mile reach offers three developed campgrounds, two city parks, a private campground and cabin resort, a hotel, and a number of dispersed recreation sites.

For more information about donations and how to get involved with the water trail, please contact Michael Lithgow at (509) 447-6457 or mlithgow@pendoreille.org. Maps and more information are available on the water trail website: http://www.porta-us.com/pages/activities/watertrails.asp

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