June 16, 2008

Selway River; Idaho (IV)

Double Drop Wa -Poots Ladle

Wolf Creek

Nasty hole in Wolf Creek

Sweet surf waves above Jim Creek Rapid

The hole of death at the bottom of Selway Falls

Selway Falls


Sparky said...

The Selway River wilderness run is one of the premier class IV multi-day stretches in the country. This river is unrivaled for completely secluded wilderness, challenging big-water rapids, and epic playboating features the entire length of the run. This river is a true feather in the cap for all who are lucky enough to experience the journey.

The Selway is strictly permit regulated and is an extremely difficult permit to acquire - second only to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Unlike other popular wilderness runs in Idaho like the Main Salmon and Middle Fork Salmon, only one launch is allowed on the Selway per day. This pretty much guarantees that parties will have most of the run to themselves and experience the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness in fitting style.

The camping on the Selway is unbelievable - beautiful, sandy beaches are found the whole way down, many of which are in close proximity to awesome playboating spots. I've run most of the popular playboating stretches in Idaho and nothing comes close to the Selway in terms of the quality of surfing. Not even the Lochsa matches up to the sheer number of play spots and enormous green, glassy surf waves on the Selway. At flows between 4 and 5 feet on the Paradise gauge (between 13,000 and 16,000 cfs at Lowell), it is hard to imagine a better stretch of water for playboating. If you've done the Lochsa, picture Pipeline-like waves stacked up one after another, after another...

We did the trip self-support out of creekboats and still got in some great surfing, but I can't wait to go back and do this river in a playboat.

The difficulty of the rapids on the Selway at higher water is not to be taken lightly. This is a very serious run with wilderness consequences should anything go wrong. After Moose Creek joins the Selway about halfway through the run, the next four or five miles, known as the "Moose Juice" section, stomp down consistent class IV rapids with holes you simply cannot go into. A swim in this stretch would be horrible at best, and you wouldn't get your boat out for a looooong way - even with your burly buddies pulling for all their worth. I can't even fathom dumping a raft in this stretch of water, and this is obviously why the vast majority of rafters steer clear of the Selway at higher flows.

But enough spooky warnings - if you're comfortable paddling or rowing class IV big water rapids, do yourself a favor and go do the Selway above 4 feet at Paradise - it's simply one of the best around. I've also read about low water trips after the spring runoff that are good fun as well - just be prepared to paddle through lots of boulder gardens.

Selway Logistics: Class IV (V at flows above 7 ft. at Paradise). The put in is located at Paradise launch over Nez Perce Pass south of Darby, Montana. Take the West Fork Road off of highway 93 south of Darby towards Conner, Montana and follow this until Nez Perce Road turns off to the right. Follow this road about fifty miles up over the pass and down into the Selway drainage until you finally reach Paradise (this is a long dirt road that takes awhile). The takeout is located on the Selway River Road east of Lowell, Idaho at Race Creek. Turn off of highway 12 onto Selway River Road at Lowell and follow the road for about 19 miles past Selway Falls to Race Creek.

Be sure to take out above Selway Falls! Although I know a couple folks who have run Selway Falls (yes, they are still alive), I don't recommend it to anyone. This rapid epitomizes class VI whitewater and the hole at the bottom is simply terrifying.

Jon said...

Have you guys been down in Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone? I would love to see pictures and commentary from ya'll.

Sparky said...

Hey Jon,

We haven't been down the Clark's Fork Yellowstone yet, but it's definitely on the list. However, there is a great write-up with pictures on Jason Rackley's site (www.oregonkayaking.net) that Ben Litz put together - look for the Box Canyon story. It's pretty darn sweet. Thanks for your comment and see you on the water!


John T said...

Too bad all your rafting friends are wussies! Glad you guys had a great trip, and hopefully we'll all get out there one of these days...

dogscratcher said...

We're not all wussies: I would have even carried a fire-pan for you ;-)