Voluntary closure on section of River of Golden Dreams 

Forest fire risk remains high heading into long weekend

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is closing a section of the River of Golden Dreams due to low water levels.

The section between the Alta Lake fish weir and the CN rail bridge — known as the "Tapley's" section — will be closed until there's a significant rise in water levels.

Boaters are asked to launch their boats from the portage trail below the lower railway bridge — accessed from the end of Lorimer Road — or to portage the 600-metre section from the Alta Lake fish weir to the lower railway bridge.

Signs have been placed in the area informing the public of the closure.

The closure is necessary to protect shallow spawning beds and rearing grounds of rainbow trout and kokanee, the RMOW said in a release.

"The Tapley's section is one of the shallowest and most vulnerable sections of the river, and it is an important spawning and rearing location for kokanee and rainbow trout," the release said.

"Below the railway bridge the river is deeper which means boats drag along the substrate less and boaters don't need to get out of their boats as often. This lowers the impact on kokanee eggs incubating in the gravel and stirs up less sediment into the water column."

Eric Wight — owner of Backroads Whistler, which offers tours on the river — said the voluntary closure is normal, but about two weeks ahead of schedule.

"It's a little early, no question... I mentioned to fisheries probably two weeks ago that we should be looking at a voluntary closure here pretty quick depending on what snowpack and temperatures do," said Wight, who is also a member of the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group.

But despite the voluntary closure, the River of Golden Dreams remains open for business — Backroads has carts lined up to help guests portage.

The ever-changing face of the river is part of what makes it special, Wight said.

"It can be (challenging) on high water, and in low water it's scenic," he said. "It changes all the time, and that's one of the draws, is that it's so unique."

PROGRESS MADE IN BOULDER CREEK WILDFIRE COMPLEX

While firefighters have made progress containing wildfires in the Whistler area, the public is reminded to use "an abundance of caution" when heading outdoors this weekend, said Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for the BC Wildfire Service, in a Friday afternoon conference call.

As of Friday morning, the Boulder Creek wildfire was 45-per-cent contained, with 6,515 hectares still burning about 23 kilometres northwest of Pemberton Meadows.

The Elaho wildfire — burning 12,523 hectares 67-kilometres west of Pemberton — was also 45-per-cent contained.

"We're making good progress on all of our large incidents across the province," Skrepnek said, but he noted that the warm, dry weather and potential for lightning this weekend could lead to increased fire activity.

"We do expect activity and the number of fires across the province to increase," he said.

There are various fire bans in place in the Coastal Fire Centre — head to www.bcwildfire.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/FireCentrePage.asp?FC=2 for up-to-date information.

"If you are going to be heading outdoors this weekend, please do check our website to see where those prohibitions are in place," Skrepnek said.

"Given the level of hot and dry we're expecting, we just want people to be careful with any other potential sources of ignition — discarded cigarettes, even the heat from a vehicle's exhaust pipe could be enough to ignite a fire."

Whistler's fire danger rating is currently at extreme.

"Extreme fire danger rating means that no fires are allowed in the municipality. In parks, only propane barbeques are allowed provided they are on a stand and not on grass or near any trees," an RMOW spokesperson said in an email.

"Smoking is not permitted in parks or on trails in Whistler. In residential subdivisions, only propane and briquette barbeques are allowed provided they are used in a safe manner and have proper clearances from structures."

All wildfires should be reported immediately by calling 1-800-663-5555 - *5555 on cell phones - or by dialing 911.

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