Pocatello is partially divided by the Portneuf River. Its origin and its effect on this area is quite interesting. However, instead of merely reading about it, all of us should spend time doing any one of several things such as fishing, swimming, engaging in some citizen science, reading about its history, photographing or drawing native flowers, migrating birds, four-legged animals, varieties of bushes and trees or adding other helpful information.
Our background for canoeing occurred because it was our first endeavor to make use of the Portneuf in 1965. We put our canoe into the river so we could view the valley as we floated along. We started close to the concrete manufacturing plant by Inkom and floated toward Pocatello. First, we passed a field containing two dozens of pigs that stared at us as we floated by. It was very funny to see those little heads turning slowly so they could keep their eyes on us, but we had other things to watch. Several spots along the river were covered with branches and broken logs, so we had to climb out of the river and walk a bit until we could find a place to reenter. This happened about every half mile. Then we decided that was enough.
Now, let’s take a look at what is being done to make the Portneuf more fun and much more accessible: Specifically, the opportunity to do some canoeing starting at the Edson Fichter Nature Area and ending close to the Simplot factory.
Hannah Sanger, director of the Science and Environmental Office in the Pocatello, has dedicated her time, knowledge, energy and enthusiasm toward making the Portneuf floatable. If you have walked on the Abraszewski Trail, you have seen the huge number of tree branches, trunks, timber, plus an array of plastic bottles, tires, fabrics and torn paper that the river current conveniently stops on much of the wooden array, A short time ago, machines provided by Simplot, Western State, Idaho Fish and Game and many more companies along with Watershed Down and DEQ removed tons of stuff. Some of the timber was left along the side of the river so people could take it away, if wanted. Now, the river is much more accessible although there are still logs which are easy to avoid.
Adjacent to the Pocatello Community Charter School, the river has a concrete wall on both sides. A state law forbids swimming and or canoeing within the 1.6 miles of the concrete walls (built to minimize flooding). An access across from the school can be used to get you and your canoe out of the water; then there is another access at the end of the concrete walls so you can get back into the river. These are being worked on at this time with the eventual goal of making them easy to use. Encouragement to use the river on your canoe is being spread by word of mouth at this time, but signs will be put up as part of a continued effort to have the river used for cannoning.
I walk my dog on the Abraszewski Trail, and there are several really interesting, friendly people and dogs who also walk there almost every day. We have recently noticed a canoe or two on the river and are glad to see it being used in that way. That brings me to my final comment: When people who have lived in this area for their entire lives respond to a question about “Where can we hike to see this beautiful area?,” the response if all too often, “Why should I know anything about that?” And yet, if there was more attention to finding the beauty of the Pocatello area, it might lead to more exercise and more happiness away from our presently hectic federal situation.
As a final comment about the Portneuf River: It starts close to Chesterfield reservoir, then goes down and turns to Lava Hot Springs, then turns again and travels up through Pocatello until it joins the Snake River. Why does it take that route? Well, the lava flow we see along our valley, started in the Chesterfield area, curved through Lava and then proceeded up to the upper end of the Zoe. This was a truly amazing U-turn that brought our river to us.
Kay Merriam of Pocatello has a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. She was the president of the state League of Women Voters for two years and president of the Pocatello chapter for two years as well. She was the president of the Bannock County Planning and Zoning Committee for 11 years and on the Pocatello-Chubbuck District 25 School Board for six years.