Clark Fork Flats - September 14, 2010

posted Sep 15, 2010, 4:22 PM by Richard Sevenich   [ updated Sep 16, 2010, 8:05 AM ]
The Clark Fork River is the major water source for Lake Pend Oreille, although not the only one. The nautical chart refers to the entry delta as the 'Clark Fork Flats'. These are significantly more extensive than the Pack River Flats. There are two common launch points in the flats - Johnson Creek and the Drift Yard. The latter captures about 10 acres of driftwood each spring runoff, preventing the debris from entering the lake proper. The Drift Yard launch site is closed from March to June 15 to protect waterfowl habitat during the nesting season.

Hide and Seek Amongst the Channels

I have launched a number of times at Johnson Creek, but this was my first time at the Drift Yard launch. There were 5 of us and Jim Dubuisson, familiar with the area, acted as our guide. In our 2 1/2 hour paddle, we saw herons, Canadian and domestic geese, various ducks, one juvenile bald eagle, and many cormorants. A few weeks from now we'd likely see many kinds of migratory birds passing through, unless diverted by Homeland Security. However, this is a hunting area (this year's season opens Oct. 2) and it would not be a pleasant paddle after opening. Maybe I'll try another paddle here before then.

Lurking in Ambush

This area ranks as one of my favorite day trip choices on our lake, with its many channels to explore and abundant wildlife. The Drift Yard launch is roughly 20 miles (east on Highway 200) from Sandpoint, just beyond Denton Slough. So it's a significantly shorter drive than the Johnson Creek launch. Of course, the latter gives quicker access to the beaches lying below the Green Monarchs.

Johnson Creek is Thataway

Finding your way

The currents in the main channels are likely daunting for kayakers during the height of the spring runoff, but they'll eventually take you to the lake. During our paddle the current was not an issue. Nevertheless, if lost, you could still follow the current to the lake - the underwater plant life (including the unwelcome invader, the agressive eurasian milfoil) is a good current direction indicator. Also, if visibility is good, the surrounding land topography pretty much tells you where you are - albeit not in which channel. If you're a techy, use your GPS e.g. after marking the launch as a waypoint and recording your track