Saturday, June 11, 2011


It's not often we get to actually witness the hand of man (and woman) at work in skillfully managing a giant river system under times of great stress.  Yesterday was such a day and we want to give those unseen people a virtual standing ovation and yell out "BRAVO!" as they take their bows on our imaginary stage.  Gosh, it's downright inspiring to know it can be done and done right and that those with their hands on the controls turned the right dials and pushed the right buttons and made it all come out OK.  It was genuine spine tingling stuff for people like us who watched the high drama unfold practically cfs by cfs.

The Snake River here in Idaho Falls peaked at 31,300, just a hundred cfs more than its level when we wrote our last blog post.  Since then, it's dropped back significantly and is running "only" 28,900 this morning.  We're 100% certain this level will continue to drop today and then stabilize somewhere in the mid to upper 20's for the foreseeable future.  The bottom line is that they all stood and delivered at crunch time and they pulled off a masterpiece of monumental water management.  Somewhere, someplace we like to think that a room full of largely nameless, faceless hydrologists stood and exchanged high fives and hoots and hollers of wild joy.  WOW, what a job they did!  Totally awesome work, folks!  Talk about toeing a fine line.  These people performed like ballerinas in Carnegie Hall.  Our hat's off to you.  Congratulations on writing a chapter of history few will ever read or know.  Ya dun good!

We spent all day yesterday on the road--hustling out of here as soon as we could get our act together to go look at the forks of the Teton River, various crossings of the Falls River and, of course, the surging Henry's Fork.  Oh, boy, as Hank The Cowdog would say, what a show.  We even went back in the boonies to check out Warn Springs and it was a real dazzler.  The twin Stars of The Show were Upper and Lower Mesa Falls.  Upper Mesa Falls looked basically the same as it always does in those postcards and tourist brochure shots although it was easy to see it had a lot more water going over it.  Lower Mesa Falls was simply stunning and put on a whole new persona for this show.  If our local readers have any chance at all to go see both of those falls during the next few days, go for it, and bring a big telephoto lens to capture the lower falls.  They are always a great place to visit regardless of the water level but they are really special right now.  And if you want to see something extra special, bounce down the back road to Warm Springs.  It's huge compared to its normal flow.  Plus, you will get to see just how wet the caldera is.  There are lakes where no lakes technically exist.  BIG lakes.  There are flowing creeks and streams laced all over the landscape in places we didn't even know could carry a stream or creek.  The same trees and landmarks are there but the landscape looks radically different with all that water.  Basically, the place is about as saturated as it can possibly be.

Meanwhile, you can see all the high elevation snow in the far upper tippy, top areas of the Snake River watershed.  We're guessing there's so much snow up there it can't possibly melt off this year and will be there largely intact when the next snow cycle starts this coming fall.  It's all really high elevation snow and, barring some epic, tropical rainstorm, it's going to come off in a very orderly manner.  So, the overall bottom line is that the Snake system basically peaked this week and will now coast into summer with no hand wringing antics in store.  If the rainstorms of the past few days had hit here instead of Montana, it would have been a totally different outcome and no masterpiece of water management could have forestalled hydrological mayhem and chaos on this river system.  Even without the rains that hit Montana, water managers had their hands full here and needed a playoff-caliber performance to stand up to the challenges they faced.  Their work is simply awesome and inspiring.

Many Cheers, jp

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