The Yaak is one of the coolest runs in Montana. Access is easy, but the canyon has a remote feel. Green, mossy canyon walls and huge trees provide a beautiful setting.
Paddlers interested in Yaak Falls can run the falls much lower than the rest of the run. 700 cfs was still plenty of water for those two drops.
Below the Falls, and after several miles, watch for a log pile on river left, just above a left turn, where the river drops out of sight. This rapid is called "Stonechest", and is the crux rapid on the run. Scout on river left. The water really hauls ass through this part. Most of the rapid can be seen from the top. Most of what appear to be holes from above, are actually holes. If you decide to portage, do so on river right. This rapid has been the scene of much carnage in the past, but most class IV boaters will love it. After Stonechest is about another mile of closed in canyon, then lets up to class II for three miles or so. When you see two large trees with broken out tops, side by side on the left bank, you are coming into the last drop, appropriately called "Good To The Last Drop". GTTLD at most levels is a fun eddy hopping class IV boulder garden. If in doubt where to be, stay right. The gauge and US 2 Hwy bridge are just below. A USFS campground is south of Hwy 2 below the bridge. There is also a small campground at the putin.
To get to the putin, go West on Hwy 2 from the takeout for several miles to Yaak River Road. Go right up the road for about eight miles to Yaak Falls (yes it has been run). Put in at the campground just below the falls. The Yaak is fun at most levels above 800 cfs, and is optimal at 2500 for most paddlers. Flood stage is 7100 cfs, and is runnable, but epic. NOTE: At levels about 6500 CFS and above, the portage at Stonechest becomes impossible on river right, and next to impossible on river left.
On Friday May 23rd, 2014 we rafted this section at 7.1 feet, ~4900cfs.
2 paddlers and 1 oarsman.
Since we were solo we stuck to the inside of all corners to stay out of the big hydraulics on the outside of turns.
We caught the last river right eddy at the top of Stone Chess, then scraped down the right side after determining the terminal holes down the left were not worth navigating without safety. New wood was prevalent down the right side.
The run out below Stone Chess was IV+ with a 15 foot curling wave just around the corner which was missed by going left.
All boulders at Good to the Last Drop were submerged creating a series of huge waves and breaking laterals.
We ran this starting left missing the top waves then charging center right.
Powerful water buried the boat on at least 2 occasions. A missed line or angle when taking on the holes would have been devastating as no recovery zones exist until the Yaak confluence with the Kootenai.
At this level a river wide ledge exists just below GTTLD which requires gutting.
We were able to skirt the meat of the next ledge by going far left.
For pictures and video please go to oregonraftingteam.com
yaak river ; having lived on the yaak for 12 years. the area of rapids below the falls is known to old timers as China Downs or drowns, due to friction between the mining intrests along the yaak a story or two has it that a times the 'unwanted' chinese workers were found dead after 'falling' into the river along this stretch.
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The gauge is about 100 yards upstream form the takeout bridge on Hwy 2, on river right. It can be read with binoculars from the parking area on river left. Approx gauge correlations to flow: ft cfs
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Lower Yaak falls
Good to the Last Drop (top part)
One of many class III drops
Bad line through the "weir"
Low water Yaak
First half of Stone Chest
Second half of "Stone Chest"
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