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The next morning we met at the boat launch at Niagara Springs State Park. There was quite a crowd at the boat launch and it took awhile for us to figure out who was going in which boat. I teamed up with Dennis, one of the group leaders and an owner of a local paddling shop (www.h2o-toys.com). My four-year-old son was with us in Dennis' Clipper canoe, we were also hauling a 70-pound ice chest full of drinks for the group. Good thing Dennis and I were both strong paddlers. The trip itself was very nice. We saw quite a variety of birds and it was fun to paddle with a big group. As we paddled upstream we moved from boat to boat trying to give away drinks from the cooler to lighten our load. We went about a mile upstream before we got to a narrow channel with swift water. Dennis and I took the side channel without too much difficulty. We were one of the first people through the swift water so we decided to pull up on the island and help some of the other less experienced paddlers, if we could. After all, this was an event to introduce people to the sport of paddling and we didn't want anyone to struggle or get frustrated. Eventually everyone made it past the island and we continued a short way up river before heading back down to the boat launch. The swift water was much more fun on the return trip.
Niagara Springs Park is along the Thousand Springs trail and you can see where the name comes from as glacier blue water flows out of the face of the canyon and cascades toward the river. Clear Lake is small but amazing. You can see fish swimming 40 feet down on the bottom of the lake. The park is between two fish hatcheries along the river. The steelhead hatchery at the bottom of the hill, just before the park gate, is run by Idaho Fish & Game and is open to the public. Check out their website for tour info.
A bit further up the road you'll find a rainbow trout farm that is privately owned by Clear Springs Foods. It isn't open to the public but you can learn more about the company and their operation of the fish farm by visiting their website. Griffin (my son) and I were able to see the raceways full of fish through the fence. Pretty cool.
This was a fun easy trip and we met some great people. We had a chance to share our love of paddling and hopefully have brought some new paddlers to the sport.