KAMIAH, IDAHO — The popular Jerry Johnson hot springs recreation site, located a short hike from Highway 12 near Lolo Pass, is showing signs of returning to normal after spring floodwaters wiped out two popular soaking pools.
In late March, high water filled two of the three pools with silt and debris.
Several Forest Service officials recently visited the site, located in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, and found some improvement to the condition of one of the lower pools.
It is beginning to increase in size, and the amount of debris in the water is decreasing. The condition of the other, smaller lower pool remains unchanged since the flood, however. The larger upper pool remains unaffected by flooding.
Kearstin Edwards of the Lochsa/Powell Ranger District said that once spring flows level off, they’ll be better able to assess how the high water may have affected hydrology at the site. Peak flows usually occur around Memorial Day.
“We are still on hold for any other action,” she said. “We still have some snow flushes coming, which is pretty normal. We are still on standby and are letting Mother Nature do her thing.”
Edwards said that visitors removed the silt from the main soaking pool, where the only digging has occurred. She said that while the site remains open for public use, the Forest Service doesn’t want people attempting to dig out new pools or otherwise alter natural features to the area. Edwards said there is no guarantee that people will find a “hot spot” where one previously existed.
Damaging natural resources could result in a $250 fine, according to Idaho law.
Warm Springs Creek flows near the main pool, and runs into the Lochsa River a little over a mile away. The springs are often visited by hundreds of people each week.
According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Services, the Lolo Pass area received 3.5 inches of rainfall between March 13 and March 20. By comparison, the Missoula Valley averages about 14 inches of rainfall in a typical year.
According to the U.S. Geological Service, the Lochsa River experienced a rapid influx of water from March 13 until March 16. Data shows that the Lochsa was running at about 4,500 cubic feet per second on March 13, then hit nearly 20,000 cubic feet per second on March 17.