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MailTribune.com
  • Snake River recreation corridor is evolving

  • ONTARIO — Although the season for river recreation has wrapped up this year, those who take to the Snake River in 2014 will be able to take advantage of continuing efforts to create a recreational water trail spanning 205 miles from Three Islands State Park, near Glenns Ferry, in Idaho, all the way to Farewell Bend State Park, just north of Ontario.
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  • ONTARIO — Although the season for river recreation has wrapped up this year, those who take to the Snake River in 2014 will be able to take advantage of continuing efforts to create a recreational water trail spanning 205 miles from Three Islands State Park, near Glenns Ferry, in Idaho, all the way to Farewell Bend State Park, just north of Ontario.
    "We are awfully blessed to have the resource of the Snake River going through our communities," said Craig Jensen, a Payette City Council member and vice president of the Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail Coalition. "We should be taking advantage of it. It will never close its doors and leave us, like a factory or a business."
    The water trail, now nearly five years in the making, exists to promote the use of the river for recreation and to educate river users, Jensen said. It also encourages partnerships among local agencies, business, nonprofits and the public and finds ways to use the river to benefit local economies.
    "What we can do in utilizing it is bring in much-needed tourist dollars," Jensen said.
    The stretch of river that is now part of the Idaho-Oregon Snake River Water Trail is broken into 11 sections, called reaches. Each reach is designed to take no more than a day to float in order to assist river users with trip planning.
    "You can plan just a day trip or a weeklong float," Jensen said.
    Reaches also are mapped to show where they have boat ramps and ports and what amenities, such as restroom facilities or camping, are available on each reach.
    According to Jensen, the water trail is an ongoing project.
    "I don't think there ever was a completion date," he said. "It's continuously evolving."
    The coalition's current focus is on installing signs at points of entry to the river. He likens the signs to the ones used on interstate highways to list options for food, gas and lodging at exits; each sign will list the amenities available at the port where it is installed, as well as what craft can be used on the stretch of the river it marks — tubes, rafts, canoes or motorized watercraft.
    The six counties and 15 cities along the water trail will continue to make improvements to their own reaches, like better boat ramps and docks. Such improvements will be ongoing indefinitely, Jensen said.
    And with the plans for the trail cemented and being implemented, Jensen said, the coalition is moving on to a new goal — a Payette Water Trail, which will run from the confluence of the Payette and the Snake rivers to Cascade. While the white water on the Payette is world famous, people "don't know anything about the flat water stretch from Emmett to Payette that's perfect for rafting, canoeing or tubing," Jensen said. "It's very underutilized."
    That water trail is still in its infancy, Jensen added. The coalition will first develop a list of goals for the new water trail, and then will begin to map it and spread the word. Part of raising public awareness about its work comes from the coalition's monthly meetings, where, according to Jensen, more than 20 representatives of cities, counties, businesses and interested agencies attend to receive updates on the project and help it to move forward.
    "We are a conglomeration of river enthusiasts," he said.
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