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The Dworshak Dam and Fish Hatchery

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Fishing Gear

America’s third-highest dam is found in north-central Idaho, just outside the small town of Orofino. In fact, the Dworshak Dam is the tallest straight-axis dam anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. During our road trip along Highway 12, it was the first pit-stop.

Idaho Dam

Construction on the dam began in 1966 and lasted seven years, forever altering the landscape along the North Fork of the Clearwater River. Besides creating a giant reservoir of three million acres, the Dworshak provides the ability to control floods and creates a never-ending source of hydroelectric power. The concrete structure stretches out over a kilometer and reaches over 700 feet in height: as tall as New York’s Metropolitan Tower.

Like almost any project that reshapes the earth, the Dworshak Dam was controversial from the outset. The Clearwater River’s North Fork had always been home to one of the world’s most important runs of steelhead trout, and the dam would to block access to their breeding grounds further upstream. In order to assuage these fears, the government established the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery, just miles from the dam site.


The hatchery is found on the Nez Perce Reservation and is run jointly by the US government and the tribe. It’s one of the world’s biggest hatcheries for ocean-bound fish; astonishing, since it’s in a state with no border to the ocean. Fish hatched here follow a 1000-mile route that takes them into the Pacific, before they return back home to the Clearwater River.

We took an self-guided tour of the premises, peering into some of the tanks which hold millions of young steelheads, and learning about the work done at the hatchery. I didn’t know (and would have never guessed) that egg-bearing female trout are captured, sliced open, and then have their eggs dumped into a bowl, so that they can be stirred up with a “semen mixture” to promote conception. GAK! Sure, the females would naturally die after laying their eggs anyway, and it’s all for the good of the species, but this is gruesome.

I was also surprised to see a couple people walking around the hatchery grounds with fishing poles. Talk about an easy catch! Part of the agreement between the government and the Nez Perce allows tribe members to continue fishing. Fair is fair. After all, the Dworshak Dam forever ruined their traditional fishing spots.

Location of the Dworshak Dam | Hatchery

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November 5, 2012 at 12:27 am Comment (1)

Pictures from Lake Coeur d’Alene

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For 33 miles, a scenic byway hugs the eastern coast of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Given the bustle of the city, the road gets into some surprisingly remote territory: over the gorgeous Mineral Ridge, through the tiny town of Harrison, and into pristine forests. We visited during the autumn and were blown away by the beauty of the drive.

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October 26, 2012 at 12:51 am Comment (1)

The Tough Little Town of Riggins

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Any doubts as to the toughness of little Riggins, nestled between two of North America’s deepest river gorges, can be dispelled by its original name, “Gouge Eye”, which originated from a legendary bar fight between rowdy locals and gold-hunting prospectors.


Unfortunately, Gouge Eye was renamed in honor of its first mailman, John Riggins. Nothing against Mr. Riggins, I’m sure being a mailman in 19th century Idaho was no cake walk, but for a town be named after a bar brawl? That’s awesome.

Just like Cascade, Riggins is a former timber town that has re-branded itself for tourism. It’s well-situated for it, midway between Boise and the college town of Moscow, and straddling the banks of the raging Salmon River. This is a great spot for whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing and hiking (as we experienced in the Rapid River Canyon), and popular with students and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

We stayed in the Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge, which was both comfortable and rustic, decorated with river rock and timber beckoning back to Riggins’ logging days. The rooms offer views of both the canyon out the front and the Little Salmon River. There was a pool and outdoor hot-tub, a two floor lounge area and, the touch that really won us over, cookies and milk at 8pm.

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September 30, 2012 at 1:58 am Comment (1)
The Dworshak Dam and Fish Hatchery America's third-highest dam is found in north-central Idaho, just outside the small town of Orofino. In fact, the Dworshak Dam is the tallest straight-axis dam anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. During our road trip along Highway 12, it was the first pit-stop.
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