RUPERT, Idaho – Lake Walcott, part of Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, will be closed as of Sept. 29 to prevent the spread of invasive quagga mussels. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is closing the lake early after the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) recently confirmed the presence of quagga mussel in its larval life stages in nearby Centennial Waterfront Park along the Snake River. The lake usually closes to watercraft on Oct. 31 and reopens April 1.
Quagga mussels are easily spread via watercraft and temporary closures are necessary to minimize further spread. The introduction of invasive quagga mussels poses a major threat to ecosystems and infrastructure, damaging native fish populations and wildlife habitat as well as pipes and water delivery systems. Once established, these mussels are highly competitive and devastate diverse biological landscapes, including invertebrate species listed on the Endangered Species Act. State and federal agencies are implementing a rapid response plan including containment measures, surveys, and a control strategy.
The refuge is still open to visitors, including hunters and fishers who will be able to access their activities from the bank. Ice fishing will be accessible this winter without any changes.
The refuge was established in 1909 to protect native birds. About half of the refuge’s approximately 25,000 acres is open water and wetlands. In this arid landscape, these resources serve as an oasis drawing numerous wildlife species from miles around and are especially known for the waterfowl that migrate through each fall and spring.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation operates the dam and power plant and controls the water levels in the reservoir. The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation manages Lake Walcott State Park, a 30-acre park near the dam that offers campgrounds, picnic areas, a disc golf course, cabins, and a boat ramp. The park is a fee area, but the refuge requires no fees.
The ISDA is asking all recreators to clean, drain and dry all items that go in the water. This includes boats, kayaks, boots, fishing gear, nets, and other items.
There are other closures taking place along the Snake River to prevent the spread of this invasive mussel. For a map, and details about how to decontaminate your boat and other items, you can visit the ISDA quagga mussel response website.