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Wildfire Forces Closure of Idaho's Lower Salmon River

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The Tepee Springs Fire has grown to almost 26,000 acres, with limited resources available to help fight it. - INCIWEB
  • InciWeb
  • The Tepee Springs Fire has grown to almost 26,000 acres, with limited resources available to help fight it.
As the Tepee Springs Fire grows closer to the Lower Salmon River, the Bureau of Land Management announced emergency closures August 27 of the river, a traditionally popular destination through the summer. The river is closed for nearly 18 miles from French Creek to the mouth of the Little Salmon River in Riggins. 

"It's a very popular area for rafters all through the summer and mid-September," said Suzanne Endsley with the BLM. "It's unfortunate circumstances, but this fire chewed up eight miles in less than a day and a half. It's aggressive and the fuels are prime. It's a public safety issue now."

Endsley said there's a chance that the fire could even jump the river, depending on how winds pick up and shift. She said a canyon like the one the Lower Salmon River runs through can act like a funnel, making fires even worse.

The fire burned into Hazard Creek, and now has caused the closer of the Lower Salmon River. - INCIWEB
  • InciWeb
  • The fire burned into Hazard Creek, and now has caused the closer of the Lower Salmon River.
The North Fork Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho County Sheriff are working to get rafters safely off the water and arrange with outfitter shuttles to take them back to McCall.

"It's not the perfect plan, I'll tell you that," Endsley said. "If the wind shifts, the fire could shut that road off, too. We're looking at alternative routes and possibly a pilot car to get people out of that area."


Endsley doesn't know exactly how many rafters are on the river currently, but each one is either an outfitter and guide service or a citizen who participated in the recreation permit lottery through the Forest Service. She called the closer a "last resort" option.

The Tepee Springs Fire started from lightning on August 12 about 20 miles south of Riggins and 20 miles northwest of McCall. Because of limited resources, low humidity and high winds, the fire has rapidly pushed north—toward the Lower Salmon River. It's currently almost 26,000 acres and 30 percent contained. An evacuation noticed for the Salmon River Road between French Creek and Riggins went into effect on Aug. 26.

The float from the popular put-in upstream to Riggins usually takes two or three days, but camping on the water's edge is extremely unsafe as the fire approaches the riverbanks. Endsley said as soon as the weather changes and the fire is under control, the order will immediately be rescinded and the river will be open again.

Almost 18 miles of the Lower Salmon River is now closed to rafters and recreators. - BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Almost 18 miles of the Lower Salmon River is now closed to rafters and recreators.