Wednesday Morning

Submitted by mpengilly on Wed, 2017-06-21 00:00

Good morning!

If you haven’t already, check out the blogs from yesterday- what an incredible tour of the Silver Valley!

We will be in the far reaches of the Coeur d’Alene watershed today, rafting the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, discussing historical landuse along the river and ongoing restoration. Two Dept. of Environmental Quality field technicians, Todd and Katie, will be joining us for the river float, demonstrating some of the technologies they use to test water quality and genetically identify fish.

We will be talking about cutthroat trout quite a bit both today and tomorrow. Did you know that cutthroat trout are Idaho’s official state fish? Did you know that states even have official fish designations? Well apparently they do, because “cutties” are the official fish of several western states. We’ll also spend some time on the river looking for their major food source- aquatic macroinvertebrates. Not only do macros provide a bountiful bug buffet for fish, they can also be used as an indicator of water quality and can be a great educational activity with students! Macros are one of my personal favorite topics so if you’re interested, I can talk about them all day long!

Assignments for the day:

  • How do the historic and current ecosystem services of the North Fork CDA River differ from those of the South Fork CDA River? How have people’s use of these services affected the two tributaries?
  • What are some areas you’re familiar with that have been transformed from their historic uses into recreational corridors?
  • Take some time today to research cutthroat! Did you learn anything interesting about them?
  • Don’t forget to add some observations to iNaturalist!

Tonight we’ll be camping at Devil’s Elbow, a beautiful Forest Service campground right along the river. Unfortunately, that means we will have no cell service most of the day and so we won’t be posting a blog tonight.

Tomorrow we will be touring more of the North Fork CDA River watershed with Forest Service Fisheries Biologist, Will Young. He will be telling us all about the 2015 wildfires, effects those fires had on the watershed and about the salvage logging and habitat restoration work being done by the Forest Service. Will is also an expert on, guess what…. Cutthroat trout! So we’ll be on the lookout for perfect trout habitat and even possibly snorkel in Tepee Creek to find them!

Stay tuned for extra blogs tomorrow!



cknigge's picture

I found out some really interesting things about cutthroat fish while doing some online research. I knew cutthroat were fairly sensitive to water quality, but I was not aware that ecological biologists use the number of cutthroat as an indicator of how healthy the aquatic ecosystem is doing! It's interesting that we rely on the well being of another species to determine if our drinking supply is in danger.

Randy Boyd's picture

What a great day for spending some time on the North Fork!!  How far is the group going up the river?  If you all get a chance you should go up to Prichard and then on over to Murray.  Prichard Creek runs between those two places and empties into the North Fork.  As you drive up to Murray you will notice lots of piles of gravel.  These piles are the results of dredge mining.  Dredge mining was a method of mining that is placer mining done with a big machine that goes along a creek or river and digs up sand, gravel and dirt.  Talk about digging up the banks of the creek!!  

What kind of effects did dredge mining have on the ecosystems of the area?

If you go into Murray you can go into the Sprag Pole and in the back they have a neat little museum.  Towards the back of the museum there are displays of how dredge mining was done.  There are also displays of the 1910 fire.

Have a great time floating and camping today.

Rebecca Auwen's picture

          The North Fork of the Coeur D’Alene River is in the state of being restored in order to improve supporting and cultural ecosystem services. This restoration project is needed due to a long-term accumulation of the ecological footprint left by humans (USDA and USFA, 2012).

           Following Native American lifestyles in the area and at the time of European settlement in the mid-late 1800’s, human activity has gradually caused supporting and cultural ecosystem services of the Coeur D’Alene River to decline. Examples of activities contributing to this decline are mining, deposition of sediment due to soil compaction, creation of motor vehicle trails, noxious weeds in secondary succession, removal of habitat and loss of ground cover by logging, and vandalism of cultural sites (USDA and USFA, 2012).

            The South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River is also in a highly declined state, due to pollution, according to the DEQ (2017). Following a report by the DEQ and EPA about the load of toxins in the South Fork between 2000 and 2003, the supreme court ruled their load information as invalid or void (DEQ, 2017). Without reading further about it and presuming that no later restoration plan took effect for the South Fork, this indicates that the South Fork is more highly polluted than the North Fork, which is being restored.


Bobbi Eby's picture

I've done a lot of fishing in mountain lakes and creeks, and many of the places I've fished are catch and release for cutthroat. I've always wondered why they are one of the types of fish you can not keep in many places, while rainbow and brook trout you usually can keep. After seeing our assignment, I decided to look deeper into this, and discovered that rainbows and brook trout eat cutthroats eggs. Cutthroat are such a beautiful fish, and it is fascinating to learn how important they are, and that they are used as an indicator for water quality. I remember fly fishing the Crooked Fork, east of Powell, and there were so many cutthroat in that creek! It in one of the places where you can keep them if you catch them. I am assuming this is because the Crooked Fork must be a healthy water way!