Behind the Stories

Health of Our Lakes

By Joan Cartan-Hansen
May 19, 2016

Sunrise over lake


Chuck Cathcart safely on land.

Usually working on Outdoor Idaho is a change of pace for me. My major assignment at Idaho Public Television is producing Science Trek, our effort to teach science topics to elementary-age students. Producing an Outdoor Idaho is a chance to work on something totally different, but not this time. “Health of our Lakes” is science reporting, just with an outdoor flair.

Deborah Blum, the author of the book “The Poisoner’s Handbook” (which I loved) is also a national prize-winning science writer. When she starts a science story, she writes the first paragraph and then covers up all but the first sentence. She then asks herself, “Would I want to read the second sentence?” That is the challenge to science journalism. Can you capture your audience and keep them long enough to explain the science and help them understand why they should care?

Testing the Water.
The other side of science journalism is working with scientists. Some give you the cold stare and ask how you dare reduce their body of work to a shallow sound bite. I take that challenge personally. My parents were both chemists and I know how hard scientists work, how detailed they must be to do good research. And let’s face it; television is not the medium for fine detail. But television can reach a broad number of people and can inform people about issues important to their lives. This story was a chance to show off the work the MILES scientists and others are doing in Idaho’s lakes. It was also a chance to inform all our viewers about the importance of water quality. What is more basic and more important to all of us than clean water?

Fortunately, all of the scientists with whom we worked on this show were smart, gracious people open to sharing their work and kind enough to trust me to do my best to tell their stories. And even better, the work they do takes place in a beautiful spot. It was not too hard duty to be out on a boat in the middle of the lake on a sunny summer day.

Pat Metzler diving in for the shot.
This show required some of the Outdoor Idaho crew’s more unusual skills. Pat Metzler is a scuba diver, and he took his scuba gear and camera under the waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene to follow the scientists collecting underwater plants. It was a chance to capture a world most of us never get a chance to see... that is, when the swirling dirt didn’t obscure his view.

Jay Krajic had to tromp through mud, twist and turn on moving boats on various shoots, as did Chuck Cathcart. These amazing videographers are the ones who make Outdoor Idaho such an incredible show to look at and enjoy. I’m grateful to all of them.

We experienced one event in filming “Health of Our Lakes” that didn’t make it into the show. When we attended the Coeur d’Alene tribes ‘Water Potato Days,’ we were there to witness the tribe’s blessing of a number of hand-made canoes. Out of respect for their religion, we did not film or take pictures of the blessing ceremony, but we did capture a picture just before it started.

Finding Potatoes in the mud.
It was a fascinating and moving ceremony and I feel lucky to have been there. ‘Water Potato Days’ is so much more than just a chance to dig for a crop used by tribe members for generations. It was a chance for children throughout the area to experience the tribe’s traditional skills and understand the past.

And, there is nothing like the chance to film kids playing in the mud. I couldn’t resist not putting that in the show.

I hope that viewers will come away from this show understanding that we all play a part in keeping our water supply safe, the stuff for drinking and the stuff for recreation. I also hope viewers appreciate the work these scientists are doing on our behalf. They cannot do it alone. They need everyone’s involvement. There are links on this program’s website to find ways to be a part of the solution in the area, or contact your local Department of Environmental Quality office. The problem of toxic blue-green algae affects everyone in our world and we all need to be aware. If viewers get those messages, then our team created a good science story, with an Outdoor Idaho style.


Bear Lake, Caribbean of the Rockies

By Kris Millgate
April 28, 2016

Sunrise in Winter. Photo by Kris Millgate


Kid wading in Bear Lake. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Produce a show about Bear Lake. Pretty straight forward request from Outdoor Idaho executive producer Bruce Reichert. So straight forward that it should be simple, yet I squirm.

I squirm not because Bear Lake is an unknown for me, but rather, a well known.

As you’ll see in our new Outdoor Idaho show Caribbean of the Rockies, Bear Lake is about family and that includes mine. Multiple generations of mine. We go to Bear Lake every summer. I always have and my own kids always will. Our clan meets for a week to camp on the Idaho side of Bear Lake. Right where we beached our boat in a storm one year and right where my favorite dog Caddis is buried. My family and I know Bear Lake all too well.

“Bear Lake is that rock for so many families,” says Claudia Cottle, Bear Lake Watch executive director. “It’s a place that people just come to for that peace.”

I spend so much time at Bear Lake that I wonder if I even really see the lake anymore. That is why I squirm. I worry I can’t wade through what I already know about big blue to find new glory in a place I take for granted.

Then I meet Cottle. I only visit Bear Lake, but Cottle lives at the lake. I’m walking the beach with her one morning and I notice she stops a lot as we’re strolling. I realize she’s staring at the water like she’s seeing it for the first time.

Raspberries. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
“I remember as a child coming into this valley and thinking the lake was painted in like color by the number,” she says. “I’ve been fascinated with the color ever since.”

Roger Earley shows me the lake in a new way too and I’m delighted. He’s one of the few raspberry growers left in the valley. We’re driving along his rows of raspberries and I see pride in his smile as we survey is sweet crop. The famous Bear Lake raspberry shakes are one of our family’s funnest camping traditions, but I’ve never seen where the berry patches are or how the berries are delicately picked by hand when they’re sold whole.

“They’re a sweet, nice berry,” says Roger Earley, Earley Raspberry Farms. “They come on just the right time when Oregon and Washington berries slow up and they fill in the gap.”

Kid wading in Bear Lake. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Another great grower at the lake: fish. Beefy Bonneville cutthroat trout use tiny tributaries around the lake to spawn. Wait until you see that underwater sight in this new show. It’s eye popping. And cisco fishing in the winter is intriguing. Did you know Bear Lake is the only place in the world where you can fish for Bonneville cisco? I didn’t, but I do now.

I also know now that winter sunrises at Bear Lake beat its remarkable summer sunsets hands down. So much so that I shoot sunrise lighting up the snow covered landscape and send the photo to everyone in my family with a caption stating: ‘What our summer vacation looks like in the winter.’

While shooting the lake from above, around and in, I investigate tales of the Bear Lake monster. I discover some of the monster’s sightings are actually documented, but Uncle John’s annual campfire fright about the scary white dog is not.

Another new discovery, I can work out of a wagon. Outdoor Idaho videographer Jay Krajic and I did that for a few days while researching Bear River’s relationship with Bear Lake. Similar names, but no connection. At least not naturally. The connect is manmade on purpose for irrigation water storage. The scientific details are in the show. So is the real reason why Bear Lake is gem blue, thus the nickname, Caribbean of the Rockies.

Covered Wagon. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Turns out, I had no reason to squirm after all. There actually is flare in familiarity. You just have to challenge yourself to find it. I found it through the dedication of those who live at the lake I visit every summer. Bear Lake is still the same old place to me, but now I have a new way of looking at it.


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