Salmon River snowpack above average in early December: This morning the snowpack in the Salmon River drainage is 110% of average. Earlier it was nearly 200%, after some early storms, but, though diminishing between storms, is still strong. However, it is very early to mean a great deal. Last year at this point our snowpack was only a little over half average, and yet we ended up with very high spring river flows. I used to think that snowpack at this time was a reliable indicator of summer river flows, but the last few years have changed my mind. Early snow is important, though, because it packs down, freezes, and lasts longer into the spring. Late winter snows often bring a low snowpack up to average, but don’t provide a lasting impact–kind of like cheat grass. When the Salmon River snowpack is above average this time of year, we are optimistic about good river flow the next summer.
We got our first ice in the Salmon area last week, nearly a month later than usual. The river had been high all fall. In the beginning of the week, the river began to drop. The jet-boat operators on the Salmon River used to say if the river drops abruptly in late fall, it’s time to get off the river, away from their lodge, right away. Ice will be coming soon, and jet boats don’t mix with ice. The upper elevations are freezing, reducing flow in the tributaries. Slush is forming in the river, and floating downstream. That was a good indicator this year. The river dropped about a third in volume early last week, and a day or two later ice was flowing. Down river, where the jet-boats operate lodges, the ice would arrive a day or two later.
We are beginning the winter activities–mostly inside. Steelhead fishing is mostly over. The wood sheds, hay sheds, and freezers are stocked. Ground is freezing, so dirt jobs are done. Desk time. I’m working on the annual newsletter. We’re getting reservations for summer trips. A couple of our Middle Fork trips are full, though we have space on other dates. We have a small rate adjustment this year, but trips deposited before the first of the year lock in the 2017 rates. We’re working on some specialty trips for the Main Salmon, will post updates as they firm up. Demand for trips seems to be increasing in the last couple of years, as we finally get away from the too-long-lasting recession.