Stories From Stanley, Idaho

Returning to The River of No Return: Steelhead in Stanley

Returning to The River of No Return: Steelhead in Stanley


Spring on the Salmon River.  Life, once paralyzed by winter's grip, slowly emerges. The frozen banks of the river give way to warmer water, as blankets of snow recede from the sagebrush hills, revealing new forage for famished wildlife.  Amidst the rebirth, another journey is nearing its end.  The determined steelhead trout make their final push up the Salmon River, past the sleepy town of Stanley, and onto their final destination; a chance to spawn, either artificially at the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, or in the wild watershed of central Idaho.  These fish have made an incredible journey.   Beginning in the upper end of the Salmon River in the Sawtooth Basin, the young smolts migrate tail first to Pacific Ocean.  Here, they will spend 1-3 years feeding, growing, and reaching maturity, returning to their place of birth and ultimately their death.  As the steelhead move from salt water back into fresh water, they stop feeding, losing 30-50% of their body weight along their migration.  The adult fish will swim over 900 miles, through 8 dams, on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers, winding their way through the swift, untamed waters of the Salmon River, evading predators and hopeful anglers along the banks of the river.  After spawning in the gravel and cobble of the Idaho streams steelhead quickly succumb to the magnitude of their travels, exhausted.  Rejoice!  As steelhead and other anadromous fish complete their long journey they bring with them important trace minerals and nutrients from the ocean that bring new life to the plants and animals of the Sawtooth Valley. 



Anglers have been targeting these ocean-running trout since early fall in the lower portions of their migration, but the opportunity doesn't arrive until March and April on the upper salmon in the heart of Idaho.   That means cold austere conditions for the steelhead fisherman.  It takes a special breed to wade into the Salmon this time of year, but there's something equally special when landing one of these challenging fish in the company of snow capped peaks.



It's no mystery when the fish have arrived, as hook slinging fisherman follow closely behind.  Catching one of these fish is not an easy task.  Many will wait hours, most will wait days, and some will simply go home empty handed.   But, whether streaming streamers, bobbing bobbers, or spinning spinners, the sole objective is not fish in the frying pan, but the experience and challenge of fishing the famed River of No Return. 



For those unfamiliar with spring on the Salmon River, there are days one could not ask for a better remedy to cabin fever.   The warm golden light shimmers on the river, winding down the canyon; bugs hop and skip across the water; dippers and mergansers frolic in the current, feasting on aquatic insects; eagles and osprey perch, waiting for an opportunity at a meal.   Other days, the relentless grip of winter tightens, snow drifts up from below your feet, and the water turns to a cold, gray abyss. These are the days we lament crawling from our warm trucks, away from our hot coffee, to the icy river banks.   It's all in the game of steelhead fishing.  Like an ancient ritual, come rain or shine, the show must go on. 


Even if the fish aren't biting, warm lodge rooms are waiting.  Local restaurants are serving up hot eats and cold drinks. Spring has arrived in Stanley and the river is bustling with activity once again.  Come get your feet wet and don’t miss this magical time of year in the Sawtooths!  For lodging information click here, looking for places to eat while you're here check out these restaurants.



Featured Local Events

DATE: March 2 - 4, 2018

TIME: Multi-times

LOCATION: Park Creek Ski Area, Alturas Lake Ski Area, Community Building, Stanley, ID

March 3rd & 4th, 2018 — Sawtooth Ski Club 16th Annual Ski Festival

  • SATURDAY, March 3rd, Park Creek Ski Area
    Highway 21, 7 miles W. of Stanley
    11am-2pm Homemade Chili & Treats
    Poker Run!!!
    Winning hand called at 1:30 pm
  • SATURDAY EVENING 5:30-8:30pm
    Stanley Community Building
    Dinner Extravaganza
    Incredible Silent Auction, bring your checkbook!
  • SUNDAY, March 4th
    Alturas Lake Ski Area
    Highway 75, 20 miles S. of Stanley
    11am-3pm Soup Kitchen Social
    Great ski trails and a great time!!!

The Sawtooth Ski Club will host the 16th Sawtooth Ski Festival March 3rd and 4th. Come ski, play, feast, dance, shop and socialize, all while supporting Cross Country Skiing in Stanley Sawtooth Country! At 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 3rd at the Park Creek Ski Trails, homemade chili and treats will await eager participants at the annual Poker Run. Donating fun lovers ski or snowshoe a fun course, stopping at stations to collect cards and when the game is called at 1:30, whoever has collected the best poker hand wins a most excellent prize! At 5:30 Saturday evening at the Stanley Community Building, our ski club celebrity chef will present a delicious dinner and at the same time an amazing silent auction will take place. Many local businesses, arts and crafts people and friends of the club donate lovely things, wonderful services, ski and fashion accessories and deliciously fantastic items to the auction. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 4th at the Alturas Lake Ski Trails Soup Kitchen Social, enjoy great skiing along with with trailside soup and cookies. All events are donation based, so be sure to bring your check book or cash for the donation jars. The Sawtooth Ski Festival is our only fundraising event of the year. We depend on memberships, donations and Ski Festival proceeds to fund our efforts to provide quality groomed cross country ski trails at Park Creek and Alturas lake. Call Karen Keiski at 208-774-3487 if you wish to volunteer for any of the events or donate to the silent auction. See you at the Festival!


LINK: http://sawtoothskiclub.com/

TEL: 208-774-3487

CONTACT: David or Karen keiski@ruralnetwork.net


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