Thoughts on the ocean, the environment, the universe and everything from nearly a mile high.

Panorama of The Grand Tetons From the top of Table Mountain, Wyoming © Alan Holyoak, 2011

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scatter my ashes, at least some, at Warm River

I'm not saying I'm going to be cremated when I die, and I'm not saying I'm not, but if I were, I'd want at least some of my ashes scattered in the Warm River Canyon, Idaho.
This canyon is one of my favorite outdoor destinations in eastern Idaho. This is where we like to camp, and where I prefer to fish. There aren't a lot of big fish up here, but there are usually plenty of them (last week I caught 16 in about 3 hrs of fishing).
In this entry I want to share some of the beauty of part of the Warm River Canyon. To get to where these photos were taken you need to drive north from Rexburg, Idaho, on Idaho Hwy 20, and then east on Idaho Hwy 47 through Ashton, Idaho. Stay on that road for about 13 miles and you will come to the Bear Gulch Turnout which is maintained by the Forest Service. Park at the north end of the pull-out and walk down and through the culvert that goes under the highway.

Turn left when the trail splits. You are now on a rails-to-trails route that was once part of the Ashton to West Yellowstone RR that was in service as recently as 1979. Within about 1/4 mile or so you will see the old RR tunnel.

When I started coming here nearly a decade ago the tunnel was open and you could walk or bike through it.  Two years ago, however, there was a partial cave-in. The Forest Service then closed the tunnel and blocked the entrances with chain link fencing. Since then the USFS made a trail that goes around the outer edge of the mountainside, bypassing the old RR tunnel. Before you get to the tunnel though, stop and look off to the south. You can see the Warm River winding its way downstream. That is an impressive vista during all seasons of the year.

Now you are past the RR tunnel. As you walk you will be presented with many nice views of Warm River. You can get even more if from time to time you walk to the edge of the trail and look down. You will also see many nice fishing holes.

The trail is smooth and gradual, and is an easy walk for just about anyone. The trail actually goes all the way to West Yellowstone, though I've never been that far, so you can walk as far as you'd like, though after a while the river and trail diverge. Anyway, The the left of the trail is a steep uphill slope, and to the right of the trail is a rather steep downhill grade going to the river. In many locations you can see the river easily and climb down to the water's edge. This usually involves climbing down rock falls, but it's not too bad if you take your time.

Before you have gone too far you can look upstream and see the first easily accessible fishing hole. I call it the Beaver Pool because the first time I went to Warm River my sons and I saw a beaver swimming there. Also, as you can see, this is prime trout habitat, with many large boulders, pocket pools, fallen trees, etc. The river is also small enough that it is not too difficult to cast a fly all the way to the opposite bank. You do, however, need to be careful wading in at this point because there is a lot of vertical drop, the water moves quickly, and things can get dicy if you lose your footing.

This a view of the Beaver Pool from downstream. The pool is formed by a mass of fallen trees and boulders.  There are upper and a lower segments of the pool, and I've caught fish in both. This is a great place to bring kids fishing. This particular pool typically has fish in a few spots, and if you just sit at the edge of the trail and look down into the pool on a sunny day its often easy to spot trout.

Here's another small hole upstream of the Beaver Pool. I think most people hike back up to the trail and skip this little hole because it's a little tough to get to, but I've found that it's worth the work. There are often a few fish hanging out here. Plus, it's absolutely beautiful!

If you keep heading upstream you will see a somewhat imposing formation of rocks on the opposite side of the river. Below those rocks is a long, smooth, beautiful pool. It's got good fishing, and if you get too hot I you could even take a dip here. I've seen people swimming and playing in the water in this pool. If you decide to cool your feet or swim, though, you will soon learn that the Warm River doesn't actually have warm water.
The Warm River is only relatively warm. It got its name because it is primarily spring-fed, and it has a more or less constant temperature year-round...and the water is somewhere in the 40s. You get used to know, once your legs go numb. If you visit Warm River in the winter you usually see it steaming...but in the summer this is probably one of the most picturesque spots along this segment of the river.

Here is a closer view of this same hole, and like the Beaver Pool, it's not at all unusual to see fish there.

As you continue upstream you will see downed trees, and some more nice pools - again, prime trout habitat.  I think that many people skip these holes because it takes some negotiation to get to them, but I think it's great fun!

The scenery just doesn't just keeps going and going and going. If you decide to fish, don't be surprised if you catch brook, rainbow, and brown trout along this stretch of river. Again, they won't usually be especially big, usually between about 8"-12", but it's a good time.

To wind up this entry that is already too long, most people who come to eastern Idaho to fish either skip the Warm River in favor of the South Fork or Henry's Fork of the Snake River because it lacks the fame of those rivers as fishing destinations, or they just don't know that it's here. And, if someone is touring and sightseeing Warm River is a well-kept secret. Most people just drive right by on their way to the upper and lower Mesa Falls.
. But for me, a wading and shore fisherman, the Warm River has the perfect combination of fishing, hiking, and camping. So, on those highly unusual days when I don't end up catching anything I'm still glad I was there, because the canyon is always beautiful and relaxing.
Oh, and as far as wildlife goes, you often see osprey and many other kinds of birds. I have also seen marmots, moose, black bears, and other critters from time to time. Nice!
So, when I die, if I do have ashes to spread, make sure that at least some of them end up on the river upstream of the old RR tunnel.

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