Over the past few weeks there have been a few, very few, suggestions that the "Save The Thorofare" project would be best ignored and let nature take its course. Even a suggestion was made that the Thorofare be turned into a "Paddle Board Only" adventure. Another suggested that if someone wanted to enjoy the Upper Lake they should hike to it on the Navigation Trail, or use Kayak/Canoe transportation. All of these suggestions have at one time or another been presented for literally years. There too, has been a suggestion that power boat waves should not be allowed to erode the shoreline of the Thorofare.
It might be worthwhile to re-examine some history on the Thorofare and Upper Lake and what it might mean should such "What if...? or Why not...?" suggestions were to become a reality.
To start with, a bit of history. A little after the turn of the century, logging companies harvesting product at the Upper Lake needed to build the breakwater to deepen and increase the flow of the thorofare approach to better enable the logs to reach the lower lake and be towed to the mouth of Priest River’s outlet at the south end of the lake. That is the piece of history that brought about the existence of access to the upper lake. Over the years the approach channel to the Thorofare has been dredged on several occasions.
Fifty years ago the Upper Lake’s west shores contained large tracts of private property. Lower Priest Lake had already become a tourist attraction. There were resorts, fishing camps and families out of Spokane would bring tents to Forest Service properties, and deposit members of their families on the shores of Luby Bay and Dad would come up on weekends. The private property owners at the Upper Lake, of course, wanted in on the tourist trade and were preparing to develop that scenic treasure into beachfront lots.
Idaho Senator Frank Church mounted a crusade in Congress to save the Upper Lake from development. After a long and passionate battle he succeeded in getting the Federal Government to purchase the properties. One of highlights of Church's plea to get the Senate to pass the bill was that the Upper Lake would then be "available for ALL citizens to enjoy!" There were NO amendments in the bill stating - “Only those of age and fitness will be able to access the Upper Lake by foot trail, bicycle or shallow draft watercraft.” The Upper Lake and Thorofare became part of the Kaniksu National Forest.
Consider these ramifications were some of the aforementioned suggestions were to come to pass:
The first event would probably be some sort of lawsuit based upon The American's with Disabilities Act. A "Hike, Bike,or Paddle"requirement for our numerous tourists and residents would surely find a lot of offense and find a way to get a remedy by suing based on the ADA.
A second event could be based in the safety factor. A hiker, biker, or canoeist who becomes injured, has a heart attack or serious animal encounter would have to await medical rescue other than speedy assistance through the Thorofare access.
Consider this. The Forest Service has several campsite toilet facilities at the upper lake and they are serviced with powered craft. I am sure that the campsite sanitary facilities are appreciated by the shallow craft users and the hikers but the crafts that service those facilities are powered for traveling, pumping and transporting waste. You would probably see a closure of those conveniences.
The complaint regarding erosion of the Thorofare shoreline from powered boats is totally not real. If you have ever been at the mouth of the Thorofare in the Spring when the water is rushing down from Canada you would see that that crashing water two feet higher is far above anything a wake speed powered craft would create. The shoreline of the Thorofare has not changed in decades. The only thing that changes is the location of some of the deadhead logs being pushed around by the high spring waters and the disappearing channel access to the Upper Lake.
To close, here is an excerpt from Sen. Frank Church's appeal to Congress to pass his rescue of the Upper Lake:
"It Is for this reason, Mr. President, that I am today introducing a bill to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to acquire these private inholdlngs at their fair market value. They can then be incorporated into the Kaniksu National Forest and managed so as to protect and conserve the scenic values of Upper Priest Lake for the use of all the public. I use the phrase “all the public” advisedly, since such a description is appropriate for this jewel of a lake."
The Breakwater Committee
There was a question about the spelling of “THOROFARE” as compared to “Thoroughfare”. We wish we had an answer. Somewhere in the past someone did something that made thorofare become “of record”, and it now appears on just about all maps of the area. If you were to Google ‘Priest Lake Thorofare’ check it out. And, who are we to argue with Google?