A dry March with above normal temperatures typical of mid-May reduced Idaho's snowpack and decreased streamflow forecasts across the state according to the Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report issued last week by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
NRCS has recorded below average snowpack and precipitation in central and southern Idaho for the past four years. This year, many snowpacks were average or above-average in January and February but then plummeted to below normal levels with a premature snowmelt in March.
The Owyhee basin offers an indication of water losses that can occur from a melting snowpack. The basin snowpack decreased from 155 percent of average on March 1 to 71 percent of average April 1. Across the state, snowpacks average about 80 percent of normal, down from near 100 percent in February.
Streamflow forecasts range from a low of 7 percent of average in the Bear River basin to 80 percent in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Henrys Fork. Elsewhere, forecasts are 45-75 percent of average.
For recreationists, the early snowmelt means streams may peak in early May instead of late May, if current weather conditions continue. The Owyhee River near Rome peaked March 21 at 15,000 cfs. Residual streamflow forecasts are for 55-65 percent of average in the Owyhee basin and 67 percent for the Bruneau River. The Middle Fork Salmon River is forecast at 63 percent, main Salmon River at Whitebird 77 percent, and the Selway, Locsha and St. Joe 77 percent.
For the complete Idaho Water Supply Outlook Report, visit www.id.nrcs.usda.gov/snow.
The Yellowstone Association Institute announced its Summer 2004 Backpacking schedule. A total of 21 courses make up the catalogue, ranging from a three-day wildlife stroll to an eight-day autumnal deathmarch through some of the most isolated wilderness area in the lower 48 states. The former course, entitled "Where the Wild Things Are," begins May 29. For $310, class members will hopefully spy on wolves dining on bison dining on grass, as well as an occasional grizzly bear, elk or coyote. For backpackers looking to narrow down the scope of their nature program for the same fee, the Institute will also offer three three-day "Grizzly Bear Basecamp" courses on June 2, July 5 and September 10, and two "Wolf Basecamps" on June 9 and June 21. These intensive courses will provide students with a comprehensive overview of Leave No Trace techniques through field applications before diving headlong into remote locales like Pelican Valley and Slough Creek.
The institute is also offering several more unusual, history-oriented treks that will push curious backpackers to their breaking points. The first is entitled "Flight of the Nez Perce Backpack," and embarks on August 15. For $385, historian Lee Whittlesley will guide hikers for four days along portions of the route followed by the tribe in their horrendous 1877 flight from the United States Army. On August 22, the Institute will offer its longest course, an eight-day procession through the Yellowstone's remote southeastern corner known as "The Thorofare." This $685 history lesson will lead hikers through evidence of long gone trappers, Indians, explorers and developers to engender a greater appreciation of the power of wilderness and the relationship between humans and nature. For a complete list of the dozens of additional Yellowstone Institute classes, go to www.yellowstoneassociation.org.