Maybe it’s Utopia

| August 12, 2020 6:41 AM

A recent story we did on people camping at Blankenship certainly sparked a lot of interest. One person said it should have been labeled an opinion piece.

Let me give you some insight as to how the story came about. First, an alert reader sent a letter complaining about the de facto campground below the high water mark. Second, another reader sent me some cell phone photos of the crowds.

So, like any good journalist, I went and took a look-see for myself.

I remember in the “old days” there might have been two-three campers out there along the southwest side of the river.

But there are no secrets anymore in the age of the Internet. Now there are sites dedicated to free camping nationwide. Blankenship at least for the time being, is one of those sites.

This is not opinion, it is fact.

The county has a small park on the northwest side of the road. It only allows day use and was quiet when I visited.

This is not opinion, it is fact.

The Forest Service owns the bulk of the property on the southwest side along the river.

This is not opinion, it is fact.

At least 35 campers were on the sandbar in question.

This is not opinion, it is fact, I counted them.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act affords protections for rivers that are part of the system, and the river is part of that system, until it reaches the Bad Rock Canyon. The law reads:

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Once again, fact.

So let’s get into opinion.

I have never met a pickup truck, van, or other motorized vehicle that didn’t eventually leak. So one has to assume that vehicles are leaking fluids into the riverbed, but who knows? Maybe it’s a motorized Utopia down there and nothing ever leaks.

I also have never seen a pickup truck, car or other motorized rig that didn’t crush bird nests, fledglings and other small furry creatures that call river banks home. That’s generally why we conservation-minded folks frown upon driving directly on river beds, but who knows, maybe it’s a motorized Utopia down there and nothing ever gets squished.

And last, but not least, there’s human and pet waste. That side of the river doesn’t even have a toilet.

You can bury it all you want. But eventually that river is going to rise. And we all know where it goes.

Here’s my opinion: This is a poor spot for campground, developed or otherwise. We should keep cars and the dogs and the people out from below the high water mark, unless we’re just launching a boat. And even boat launches should be designed to have minimal impact.

We need to take care of these rivers. They’re a finite resource. That, my friends, is a fact.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.