Improved Clark Fork River access sites are ready for hunters and anglers

by Andy Dux
| June 2, 2020 1:00 AM

Johnson Creek boat launch reopened, Driftyard boat launch now open year-round

The Clark Fork River and the adjacent portion of Lake Pend Oreille have become increasingly popular with anglers and hunters in recent years. A tremendous fishery exists for a diversity of species in both the river and the lake. In addition, the area offers excellent waterfowl hunting opportunity and wildlife viewing. In response to the increased user demand in the area, Fish and Game staff have completed several projects aimed at improving access.

Johnson Creek Access Site

Now reopened, this site is one of the more popular access sites managed by Fish and Game in the Panhandle. It is located on the south bank of the Clark Fork River, about 3 miles south of the town of Clark Fork. The site offers convenient access for hunters and anglers to the Clark Fork River, Clark Fork Delta and Lake Pend Oreille.

The Johnson Creek access site was temporarily closed in fall 2019 in order to stage materials and equipment for the Clark Fork Delta restoration project. The restoration project aims to reduce land erosion and restore wildlife habitat in the Delta. During the closure, a number of upgrades were made at the site that will benefit sportsmen.

Excavation work and rock placement were done to modify the banks adjacent to the boat ramp. In the past, rocks and other debris would erode onto the boat ramp and make it difficult to use, especially at low water levels. Similar stabilization was done along the edge of the parking lot to protect the area from erosion during high flows. The access road and parking area were improved to better manage vehicle use.

Clark Fork River at Derr Island Access Site

Some anglers access the Clark Fork River by launching their boat at an undeveloped site off of the Johnson Creek Road near Derr Island. County property allows public access to a side channel of the river and parking occurs along the Johnson Creek Road.

Over the winter, Fish and Game constructed a new access road and gravel boat launch. In addition, a channel was dredged to improve low water access to the mainstem Clark Fork River from the boat launch. Fish and Game and Bonner County are working together to explore the potential for improving parking and upgrading this site to a developed access site.

Clark Fork Driftyard Access Site

Another popular fishing and boating access site in the Panhandle is the Clark Fork Driftyard. Located about 3.5 miles west of the town of Clark Fork off of Highway 200, this site provides access to the Clark Fork River, Clark Fork Delta and Lake Pend Oreille.

This site has historically been managed with a seasonal closure from Feb. 1 through April 30 to reduce road damage during wet conditions and avoid disturbance to nesting birds. The area has been increasingly popular with anglers in recent years but opportunity was limited by the seasonal closure. Now, a portion of the access site will remain open all year, including the boat launch.

Gates will restrict access to a portion of the parking area during spring but reopen April 30. The road to the peninsula leading out to the boom is closed to motorized traffic year-round. Non-motorized use is welcome.

Planning your trip

A guide to Fish and Game’s fishing and boating access sites is available online at idfg.idaho.gov/access. As of April 24, there are no closures of Fish and Game boat launches and Wildlife Management Areas in the Panhandle due to COVID-19. Hunting and fishing licenses, tags and controlled hunt applications can be purchased online at idfg.huntfishidaho.net.

Keeping access sites open during the coronavirus pandemic depends on responsible use. The Recreate Responsibly Idaho website details Governor Brad Little’s guidelines for outdoor recreation and provides information on what’s open across the state.

Andy Dux is fisheries regional manager for Idaho Department of Fish & Game.

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M. Koenig is pictured with a rainbow trout caught on the Clark Fork River.

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(Photo courtesy ROB JAKOBOWSKI/Avista) The Johnson Creek boat launch is pictured in April 2020 after recent improvements.

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(Photo courtesy ERIC OLDENBRUG/AVISTA) The improved Clark Fork River put-in April 2020 owned by Bonner County off of Johnson Creek Road near Derr Island.