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Mountain News: Boaters want a wave in Columbia River

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — A group of whitewater enthusiasts hopes to build a wave park in the Columbia River as it passes through Revelstoke.
WAVE of SUPPORT Whitewater enthusiasts in Revelstoke, pictured, are lobbying for a wave park to be established on a section of the Columbia River, which runs through the mountain town. Image courtesy of

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — A group of whitewater enthusiasts hopes to build a wave park in the Columbia River as it passes through Revelstoke.

"Whether they're stand-up surfers, stand-up paddleboarders, or whitewater kayakers, they all want the same thing," said Brendan Ginter, president of the Revelstoke Community Wave Park Society. "They all want a big wave they can surf on that's predictable, and they don't have to go in the ocean to do so."

The Revelstoke Times Review explains that the enthusiasts hope to modify the river bottom with rocks, concrete, or other hard surfaces in a way to create a standing wave.

"There are hundreds of these things throughout the world, now," said Ginter. "People started making modifications to rivers, or doing man-made rivers for kayaking purposes, in the '60s, mostly for slalom kayaking."

He sees the need for three permits and $500,000 to get the job done. He hopes to secure both within a year.

River festival stays afloat for 66 years

SALIDA, Colo. — FIBArk, which calls itself America's oldest and boldest whitewater festival, was held last weekend at the river town of Salida. The festival name consists of the acronym, first in boating, as well as the shorthand name for the river: the Arkansas.

It was launched in 1949 in a contest to see who among the 23 entrants could boat the runoff-swollen Arkansas from Salida through the frothy, sharp-edged Royal Gorge. Just two of them, both from Switzerland, completed the 80-kilometre journey.

Since then, much has changed. FIBArk has grown to include 10 different river events, including one to test the retrieving abilities of dogs in water. There are also land events, including a parade.

The river has changed, too. It has more water, courtesy of diversions from the Aspen area delivered via tunnels from under the Continental Divide.

The bed of the river has also been altered. In 1966, a bulldozer pushed boulders around to create a more difficult slalom course. In 1988, more tinkering yielded a kayak playhole near downtown Salida. There is also a standing wave that, on Saturday afternoon, was used to much merriment by stand-up surfers and stand-up paddleboarders.

A railroad town, streets were predicated not on an east-west grid, but instead a perpendicular layout from the depot. The depot is gone now, and trains stopped running over the transcontinental route in 1997. Instead, like so many of the old mining towns of the Rockies, Salida is a place for Tevas, GoPro and Patagonia. You might be able to buy steel-toed work boots at the Wal-Mart, but don't count on it. This is no longer a blue-collar town.

Mountain tornadoes rare, but not unique

LAKE GEORGE, Colo. — In early June, a small but unusual tornado spun across Colorado's South Park, damaging several homes, uprooting trees, and knocking out power lines near the community of Lake George.

A tornado of that magnitude would barely make the news in Oklahoma or Alabama, in what is called North America's tornado alley.

Tornadoes in mountains are rare but not unknown. The highest ever recorded in the United States was at 3,660 metres in Sequoia National Forest in California. That was in 2004. The second highest was at an elevation of 3,621metres on Mount Evans, southwest of Denver in 2012.

The most destructive tornado at a higher elevation shredded a 39-kilometre path through Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Wilderness Area in 1987. In some places, the swath was a mile and a half.

This was in mid-summer, and you'd think somebody would have been camped out there. But no injuries were reported. Most of the damaged forest burned the next year in the Yellowstone fires.

That Yellowstone tornado was assigned a rating of F4 on the Fujita scale, just one step below the very worst, such as the one that killed 24 people near Oklahoma City last year.

Why aren't tornadoes more common in the mountains? Writing on a website called US Tornadoes, meteorologist Kathryn Prociv explains that higher elevations typically have cooler, more stable air. Energy of warm and humid "unstable" air is required to create the explosive thunderstorms in which tornadoes originate.

For a map of Colorado tornadoes, see:

Dead tree kills hiker in Yellowstone

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. — A 36-year-old man from Taiwan was in the wrong place at the wrong time in Yellowstone National Park.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide explains that he left a trail and was ascending a slope in an effort to get a better view of Grand Prismatic Spring, a colourful hot spring north of Old Faithful, when a lodgepole pine fell and hit him in the head. He was killed.

The pine itself had died in the great fire of 1988. Park Service officials said it was windy when the tree fell.

Early birds don't always get worms

JACKSON, Wyo. — Our culture is rich with aphorisms about the virtues of early rising. But a three-year study of 9,000 students, including those in Jackson Hole High School, found several benefits for starting classes later.

A University of Minnesota researcher found students who were required to start classes later got more sleep, had fewer auto crashes, and attained higher grades.

The study conducted by Kyla Wahlstrom showed that the number of car crashes involving drivers between ages of 16 and 18 dropped by more than 70 per cent over the course of two years. The study also showed that GPAs increased for all grade levels.

Jackson Hole High School had started classes at 7:35 a.m., but school trustees shifted the starting time to 8:55 a.m.

Students reported getting an average 8.2 hours of sleep on school nights with a later start as opposed to 7.5 hours before the change, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

They slept less on weekends, however.

The research also included two schools in Boulder, Colo., and several more in Minnesota.

Keeping grizzlies off the railroad tracks

BANFF, Alberta — Researchers with Parks Canada, the federal agency that administers Banff and other national parks, continue to tinker with how to keep grizzly bears and other wildlife away from the railroad tracks.

From 2004 through 2013, at least 12 grizzly bears have been killed by passing trains along with 30 black bears, eight wolves and more than 300 elk and other ungulates.

Canadian Pacific Railway has provided $1 million to address the issue of wildlife mortality.

The railway crosses Banff and Yoho national parks, often spilling grain as it does. But bears and other wildlife also find the railway corridor along the valley bottom an easier way to cover distances rapidly as compared to moving through the forested mountainsides. Too, there is forage available.

"Every time these animals interact with the railway, they are essentially exposing themselves to danger," explained Adam Sherriff, one of the agency's resource conservation officers.

Fencing seems to work well in some situations. Only one grizzly bear climbed a fence to get onto the roadway. After being deterred by an electric mat, it didn't return, at least so far.

Sheriff and other researchers have been further evaluating the effectiveness of electrified mats, which give bears a jolt if they cross them.

Pipelines or trucks for moving Utah's crude oil

PARK CITY, Utah — A company called Tesoro wants to lay a 30-centimetre pipeline across Utah's Summit County to transport oil from the Uintah Basin of northeast Utah to refineries near Salt Lake City.

The company estimates it will remove 250 trucks daily that currently haul the crude. But some owners of land in which the pipeline would be buried are unconvinced that this is the best way to move the oil. "Why would anybody in their right mind run a pipeline right next to a river," said Al Davis, one of those landowners.

Jasper church doing same-sex marriages

JASPER, Alberta — The Jasper United Church is now welcoming same-sex weddings under its roof.

The Jasper Fitzhugh reports that the congregation has voted to support a new mission statement that authorizes the pastor, the Rev. Dawn Hermann, to officiate at same-sex weddings.

Hermann tells the Fitzhugh that she got an inquiry from a couple in 2002 that wanted her to officiate at their marriage. She had to turn them down, but that triggered her effort to seek change.

"If Jesus ate with outcasts and sinners, why would Christians be the ones to lean so hard against the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community)," she asked. Christianity, she added, is based on love and tolerance.

Dire consequences of eviction in Park City

PARK CITY, Utah — Attorneys for Park City Mountain Resort have outlined what would happen if the ski area gets evicted from land owned by Talisker and leased by Vail Resorts.

The court filing describes substantially reduced operations of a terrain park, a ski school, and "limited skiing" on the lower portion of the trails, which are owned by Park City, not Talisker/Vail. Several ski lifts could continue to be used, but three more would be modified for use.