Free the River

Historic Deschutes River--

at current site of Mirror Pond.

Artist's conception of a free-flowing Deschutes River through Drake Park without proper riparian restoration.  

Our river could more closely approximate the beloved Boise River, as it flows through Idaho's capital city.  

See below:  For photos and a recent article on Boise's popular recreational attraction and increasingly viable wildlife habitat.  Boise might be a model for us in Bend; it is certainly proof (and reassurance) that a scenic and popular urban parkland does not have to exist at the cost of river and habitat degradation that a deadbeat dam causes.   And--as we are now discovering--the budget in tax dollars is far, far less for healthy, free-flowing river maintenance than for periodic dredging and accompanying costs.


The following Idaho Statesman article also appeared in the Bulletin​.

(Large upstream dams exist on the Boise River--much like the Wickiup on the Deschutes River--yet, as this article shows, healthy downstream conditions can be achieved, regardless.  This is a model and inspiration for what we can achieve here.)

 Roger Phillips: Wild trout thriving and 
multiplying in the Boise River
rphillips@idahostatesman.comJanuary 30, 2014 
We have a lot to be proud of in the Boise River, especially if you’re an angler.
It flows through the middle of Idaho’s largest metropolitan area and within sight of the state capitol and Bronco Stadium. The Greenbelt and its walkers, joggers and bikers parallel the river while Canadian geese honk from the river and nearby ponds, and bald eagles keep a watchful eye from above.

What’s below the surface is no less impressive. Trout, and lots of them, feed in riffles and hide beneath brushy shoreline. They’re not just any trout — they’re wild, naturally reproducing redband rainbow trout.

If you’ve ever tried to catch those trout, it can be humbling.There are lots of them, possibly more than you realize, and some that are much bigger than you’d expect.

Crews were out in fall checking different sections of the river.The news has been good. The river’s trout population has seen explosive growth since the early 1990s, after minimum winter flows were established, according to Art Butts, regionally fish biologist for Fish and Game.“It’s remarkable how this river has recovered,” he said.

​Trout numbers have stabilized since then, and they’re down slightly from the 2010 survey, but the fish are also larger on average.There’s a healthy mix of young and old trout, and there seems to be plenty of natural reproduction.

Speaking of spawning, despite finding abundant young trout, Butts said they can’t pinpoint where the fish are spawning, even though the numbers of small trout in the population make it obvious they are. He said if they can identify spawning habitat, Fish and Game may be able to increase the trout population more.

“We need to start looking a little more at how the river functions,” he said.Butts thinks the river can support even more trout if spawning areas can be identified and habitat improved.

“I think it’s a pretty neat stream, and I think it’s only going to get better,” he said.

The Boise River is an interesting stream that differs from its upstream tributaries, the North, South and Middle forks.The best trout habitat is from Lucky Peak Dam down to about Star, then water conditions downstream tend to favor warmer-water fish.

In the stretch between the dam and Star, there are numerous diversions but few natural tributaries, and tons of development. The river flows are regulated by the dam, and the flow cycles differ from its free-flowing tributaries.

​Those streams rise when snowmelt comes out of the mountains, then flows decline throughout late spring and summer.The Boise River rises with the snowmelt in the spring but stays at a higher, regulated flow as cool water is released from the depths of the reservoir all summer.It gets thousands of hours of fishing, and people catch a lot of trout there.

It’s just not easy, and that’s part of its charm, and also what makes the whole thing remarkable. A river runs through Idaho’s most populated and densely developed area, it teems with wild trout, but they can confound even expert anglers.

 "A river runs through Idaho’s most populated and densely developed area . . . "