The Big Wood River was flooding through Ketchum this May of 2017 and I heard the spillway at Magic Dam was running. I had long wanted to check out Magic Dam, so I went adventuring —
After I posted the video I took in May I went up to check on how the spillway at Arrowrock is doing now.
We had a very wet winter and the snowpack in the upper watershed is at 200% of normal. For the last several days we’ve had our first real warming trend, with temperatures getting into the 90s. Seems the water is coming down!
Here it is running —
Here’s the a short video of it gushing —
Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River was complete in 1915. For nine years it was the tallest dam in the world. It was built to hold back water to feed the newly completed New York Canal, the largest of the irrigation projects in the Boise Valley.
As a kid I was fascinated by the massive spillway that passes to the north of the dam. Unfortunately it seems running the spillway is tough on the bull trout that call Arrowrock Reservoir home and use of the spillway was curtailed some time ago.
Until this year. We have a record snowpack and it seems running the spillway has become an option!
I checked it out on Thursday, May 18, 2017 and sure enough the spillway was running! Here’s a little three-minute movie about it.
The day after I posted this video of the spillway running I checked the spillway out again. It has warmed up and the snowpack in the upper elevations is melting. The spillway is no longer running. It is gushing —
One of the staff members at Green Valley School had a friend who lived near the Florida campus where we enjoyed our Christmas retreat. We were invited, so several of us decided to spend an afternoon visiting. After a short drive we found ourselves being shown around the friend’s orange orchard.
Our host pointed out Florida oranges have the advantage of exceptionally clean water coming from wells in the middle of a very long sandbar. We call this sandbar “Florida.”
Some researchers had become curious about where this wonderful water comes from. As I remember they introduced radio isotopes in several places throughout the midwest and waited to see which particular signatures of isotopes appeared in central Florida. It was discovered this magnificent water enters the ground up in Indiana or some such, one thousand miles away.
In other words, the water has more than a thousand miles of earth to filter through before being sucked out of the sand for Florida oranges.
I wondered just how pure the water was now that it had isotopic tracers in it, but I sure enjoyed that right-off-the-tree orange! Succulent and sweet and oozing orange lusciousness!
As we were stuffing wedges of warm, juicy orange in our mouths our host looked around his little patch of orange-orchard paradise. He drew in the fresh aroma of the warm Florida air. And he commented that this would change soon. The Walt Disney company had been around talking about building a second amusement park, even bigger than Disneyland.
This was Christmas time, 1969. We were eating oranges twenty miles south west of a quiet little town called Orlando. Walt Disney World opened in October, 1971.
Visiting the Sawtooth Wilderness Area today is as awe-inspiring and rigorous as ever. It is also something of a social event with regular exchanges of howdy-dos with strangers on the trails.
When horse packing in the 1950s, any interaction with other people in the Sawtooths was a rare event, indeed.
We once did come across another family out exploring the trails. It was so unusual we became friends and several times drove to Sunnyslope, overlooking the Snake River near Marsing, to visit.
There were only two other times we met another person during the eight treks we took in the Sawtooths. Both times they were men leading long strings of pack mules.
The U. S. Forest Service builds and maintains the trails in the Sawtooth Mountains and it is a constant job. In the spring it takes a surge of saws to open the trails through the winter’s accumulation of downed trees and areas damaged by avalanche and flood. All summer it requires regular clearing of trees blown and blasted down by wind and lightening.
Just how modern trail maintainers travel I don’t know. But the wilderness area is motor free, so I would not be surprised if long lines of mules still carry the tools and supplies needed to keep the wilderness wild while still open to human traffic.
During our horse camping trips in the 1950s, one string of mules was spied in the distance, working its way across a scree of loose stones.
On another trip, a string of mules caught up to us from behind. After a few pleasantries the forest ranger said he had been watching our tracks for most of the day. He had also been watching the prints of very large paws that had been following us for miles. The paw prints of a large lion, known hereabouts as a cougar.
And here I thought I was the only one noticing how pungent sweating horses can get!
The primary purpose of our annual winter retreat to Florida was to get the staff together to conduct the business of Green Valley School. So, soon after our arrival at the Florida campus, we were all sitting around discussing investments, purchases, and possible expansion.
There was little discussion. “Sure, that sounds good,” and we were on to the next item. Ping. Ping. Ping. Vote. Vote. Vote. We were easily on our way to having business done in an hour. I suppose tens of thousands of dollars were committed.
Then someone proposed one little $2.50 change. Suddenly it looked like we might not be out of the meeting until the end of the week.
It was proposed we raise the allowance for students from $2.50 to $5 per week and we raise the weekly stipend for staff from $5 to $7.50.
Only $2.50 more per week. It made little difference to some, but tobacco and alcohol were the only things not provided by the school. For some of us that extra two and a half bucks were well worth fighting for. Skin was in the game.
The discussion went on. And on.
Decades later I mentioned that meeting to my brother-in-law. He had been hired to establish an electric utility outside of Portland, Oregon. He said he had been in many meetings where multimillion dollar transformers, reels of wire, and other equipment had been purchased without comment. But one day they were in need of a pickup truck. Just a pickup truck to toss some tools in the back and run off to a job. For the next several hours the discussion raged — Ford? Or Chevy?
In Florida, we took that extra two dollars and fifty cents and never looked back!
For all the majestic beauty of the walk up Payette River and Baron Creek, the highlight of the trek (at least from this story teller’s point of view) was when we reached Little Baron Lake. It was getting late and we were ready to make camp.
Those who know mountain treks know that, yes, it is high altitude and you have to pack to stay warm on very cold nights. But the atmosphere is thin, the sun is direct, and walking uphill sure makes mountains hot during the day.
It had been a long, hot day on the trail by the time we reached Little Baron Lake and the clear waters of the lake were the most inviting vision you can imagine. As soon as Mom and Dad agreed on a camping spot and stopped to make camp, my two sisters went running to the lake, looking for the perfect place to get on a rock with a deep hole beside it.
Within seconds of agreeing on the proper, safe rock, off came their clothes and in they jumped, one right after the other.
And just like that they levitated right back out!
One hint to just how cold a Sawtooth lake can be on a hot August day might have been the glistening white glacier on the other side of the lake. A glacier that came right down into the beautiful, inviting water.