Boulder Creek is a too-often overlooked steep creek that enters the Kootenai River at the Montana/Idaho Border. The creek boasts one of the best 20-30 foot waterfalls in the region, Magnolia Falls.
Warm up rapids lead to a double ledge drop called Red Lobster as boaters enter into a gorge, more rapids lead to a tricky waterfall called Grunge Poser, and still more rapids lead to a walled-in gorge that culminates in an unrunnable waterfall.
THIS GORGE IS CLASS VI/UNRUNNABLE AND THERE IS ONLY ONE PORTAGE OPTION, THE FOLLOWING IS A DESCRIPTION OF HOW TO DO THE PORTAGE: After running Grunge Poser, the river begins a gradual right hand bend and starts to consolidate again. On the outside/river-left side at the apex of this bend is a gravel bar. Get out on this gravel bar, which is less than 200 yards below Grunge Poser. Downstream you will see the creek enter a vertical walled gorge. Head into the woods near the downstream end of the gravel bar, looking for the low point in the saddle. Go through the saddle and follow the path of least resistance into an ephemeral creek, and follow that creek downstream to where it confluences with Boulder Creek again. This portage around the gorge is easier than it has any right to be considering what is being walked around, but DO NOT PASS THAT GRAVEL BAR. Look in the gallery for a photo of the gravel bar.
A seal launch or rappel will drop you back into the creek just upstream of the classic Magnolia Falls. At low and moderate flows the falls offers an autoboof flake, but at high water you have to be a bit more creative to avoid a trip behind the curtain. If you walk magnolia be prepared for a short rappel on river left. Immediately below Magnolia Falls is a drop often portaged and then wind-down rapids before you reach the Kootenai River, at healthy flows they are pretty fun, at low water the neat rock walls are more memorable.
Access is via road from either Troy, MT or Bonners Ferry, ID, but the shuttle is extremely long around to the far side of the Kootenai River. There appears to be no public access to the Kootenai River in the vicinity of the confluence with Boulder Creek. Paddlers have hiked back upstream high on Boulder's river right along twenty mile/Leonia Rd to an access road that parallels the gorge, this road is drivable by ATVs but most stock vehicles, even those with clearance and 4WD should not attempt the Leonia Rd. Another option is to set a shuttle far downstream on the Kootenai. Possibly the best option is to paddle just a couple hundred yards down the Kootenai and then hike up to the left to connect with a trail/road that leads up to the shuttle road at its closest point to the River in that area.
**Treat each trip like an exploratory run, wood comes and goes, and there are some committing places. It's advisable to get local information before attempting this run.**
Boulder can be done in concert with the nearby Yaak River, Kootenai Falls, the Pack, or you can head north to Boundary and Smith creeks. Prospect Creek is a nice halfway home run for Missoula paddlers.
Look for roughly 1000 to 1500 cfs on the Yaak Gage for medium flows. The definitive gage is at the put in bridge on river left, 3.6' is low on the in between, but the bedrock drops were paddling nicely.
Boulder Creek was threatened by a hydropower proposal in 2010 that would have dewatered it. American Whitewater fought the proposal, and the proposal failed.
We paddled the run June 30, 2020 at 3.6' on the put in gage (Yaak was at about 730 cfs). The in between drops were low, and if that was all there was we would have called the run too low. However, wherever the creek channelized it was clean and the bedrock/named rapids were at a quality flow. There was wood in the pool above Magnolia, two from the group were able to climb onto the logs after being lowered into the pool in their boats and launch off them and ran the drop. The other two did throw and goes after portaging billy-goat style high on the left down to an obvious ledge 20-30' above the creek.
We boated this when the Yaak was at about 2,600. In between drops were fun, but the highlight bigger drops looked very intimidating. Also the ferry below Magnolia gets hairy. We opted for a longer portage instead of the ferry. IMO, this is a run best done with someone who's done it before and knows the logistics...don't miss the portage eddy. It's comes on a right turn only a couple minutes after leaving Grunge Poser.
The best gage to determine if Boulder Creek is flowing is the Yaak River gage near Troy. A rough estimate would be 1250 to 1900 on the Yaak.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Boulder Creek @Gorge
Portage below Magnolia @ high
Magnolia @ high (too!)
The portaged drops
Red (Rock?) Lobster
Magnolia Falls on Boulder Creek
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
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Last week the Federal government cancelled a permit granting North Hydro, LLC exclusive rights to persue a hydropower development on Idaho's Boulder Creek. The hydro project would have largely dewatered 2 miles of Boulder Creek, an otherwise highly scenic and ecologically valuable whitewater stream. American Whitewater is pleased to have played a role in successfully defending Boulder Creek from this threat.
American Whitewater recently prepared a report on the streams of the Idaho Panhandle that are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation based at least in part on their regionally or nationally significant recreational values. We have asked the Forest Service to find each of these streams eligible for Wild and Scenic designation and thus grant them interim protection.
Last month American Whitewater filed a motion to intervene and comments on a new proposal to dam northern Idaho’s Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek is listed as critical habitat for the federally threatened bull trout, and offers paddlers a high quality steep creek experience.
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho is proposing a $13 registration fee for non-motorized boats greater than 7 feet in length. Under this registration fee proposal all kayaks and rafts on Idaho waters would be required to have a registration sticker fixed to the bow of each boat greater than 7 feet in length. Stickers would not be transferable between boats. Out of state boaters would be required to comply as well.
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