Over the St. Patrick's Day weekend, the largest hot spring pool at the Jerry Johnson Recreation site in the Clearwater National Forest was filled with silt and debris from heavy spring runoff.

Public Information Officer Jennifer Becar said the pools are no longer available for public use.

"That doesn't mean the area has been damaged," Becar said. "This is a naturally occurring, but infrequent event, and so at this point it's just that these pools that people have been recreating in in the past have been filled in through this weather event."

Becar said forest officials will continue to assess the hot springs, but won't be able to know anything definite until after the height of the spring runoff, which usually peaks around Memorial Day.

"This wasn't a site that the Forest Service created, so we're still assessing what the best management plan might be, and how the natural processes at the pools have been affected," she said. "We know that this is one of the most visited parts of our forest and a lot of people are anxious to get back and enjoy the hot spring pool, but we're asking everyone to be patient and not attempt to dig out these pools by themselves. We don't have plans to restrict access at this point, but if visitors do cause resource damage, we may be forced to consider that option in the future."

Damaging natural features can result in a fine of $250.

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