Sunday, October 30, 2016

Boundary County, Smith Lake project

Great news for the Inland Northwest nature enthusiasts! Wheelchair access to both a fishing and boating dock have just been restored at the beautiful Smith Lake launch site! Smith Lake resides in Boundary County, just north of the city of Bonners Ferry Idaho. There are so many things to love at this launch and campground, and with the restoration projects just completed, it’s even nicer than before! And it’s free! I know, right???

So, when was it done, by who, and what exactly was done? Read on and I’ll fill you in…

The work was done on July 31, 2016 by Access To Outdoors (ATO), The Forest Service, and a Hayden Idaho volunteer work party led by Michael Bingham. Several things were improved that day…

1. The path leading from the parking lot to the fishing dock had plants (including sticker bushes) growing over a portion of the path, all of which were removed with a protective barrier and rocks placed down to help prevent weeds from growing back up again in it’s place. The gravel on the trail was also worn thin. Both of these issues were completely resolved leaving the path both accessible and beautiful! Also a conduit was put under the path to prevent erosion from washing part of the path away.

2. At the boat launch dock, a sturdy and beautiful, accessible ramp was created, making boat access completely accessible.

3. Holes in the parking lot and road leading to the docks and launch were also filled with gravel.

There are still a couple inaccessible points to consider when planning a trip...  The restrooms are not yet accessible. That’s the big one…

Though not as crucial as access to restrooms, there are a few other areas that could be improved as well… Direct water access for those who use wheeled mobility would be nice (since many individuals express a desire to enter the water from their wheelchair to cool off or go for a swim.); wheelchair access to one of the campsites would be nice; and access to a campsite restroom near an accessible campsite would also be nice. ATO hopes to be a part of adding these features in the future. For now, at least anyone can get on a dock and fish via wheelchair, or enter a boat via the boat dock. See access rating and scale below.

SPECIAL THANKS: ATO wants to thank Patricia Hart, Leandra Sherrer, and others at the Forest Service for being so willing to improve access at this and other sites throughout North Idaho. And a very special thanks goes out to Kevin Bingham and his work party of volunteers who came to help make this possible. Thank you all so much for helping ATO to make this dream a reality! Good people like you make our area a very special and wonderful place to alive!

If you would like to donate your time, energy, or other resources to improving wheelchair access in the Inland Northwest, please contact ATO to be placed on a list of persons to be contacted when future work parties are needed. And a hearty thank you for doing so! God bless!

Miles and Corine Moore with ATO


1. PARKING... Gravel; No designated accessible parking spaces; however, parking area is hard packed gravel and level.

2.  RESTROOM… Not accessible at either launch site or campground; Closest accessible restroom is at the gas station at the HWY95/HWY 2 Junction about 7 miles away.

3. PATHS/TRAILS.... The gravel trail from the parking lot to the launch and dock area was improved to allow persons in wheelchairs to us it. A conduit was added to keep rain water from eroding the trail.

4. SENSORY... The are no brail and tactile ground features at this facility for those who are visually or otherwise impaired.

5. DOCK(s)/LAUNCHES/PLATFORMS… Launch and fishing docks are accessible; Boat launch pad is at about 4% grade, is 10' wide, transitions from a one piece cement pad to individual strips of cement 2'x10' as the launch progresses into the water; At low water times of the year (late summer) be aware of spaces between these strips, which may cause a wheeled mobility device to get stuck.


  8.. CAMPING... Two camping sites are on fairly level hard packed dirt ground (can become soft and muddy during wet times of the year) – no concrete pads and paths; Picnic tables and fire pits are located at each camping site. No RV hookups.

9. O.T.H.E.R… Oddities/Barriers: N/A.; Terrain: Parking lot and launch area, and camping areas ground is level to no more than about 5% grade. The ground is either gravel, small rocks, or hard packed dirt. Can get a little muddy around the camping area; H2O/Water: Bring drinking water… No running/drinking water available. Lake water is safe to swim in unless otherwise posted/noted at US Forest Service website. Late summer the water becomes stagnant with algae build up. Shoreline is filled with aquatic plants, lily pads, etc. No open beach areas; Environmental Conditions: Beware of Low Head Dam at south end of lake during spring run-off. Also because this site is a wilderness/primitive area with gravel and hard packed dirt this site can potentially get muddy in areas resulting in wheeled mobility device potentially getting stuck. Resources: Food, restrooms, and gas at HWY 95/HWY 2 junction.

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