Clearwater, Little North Fork - Headwaters to Reservoir

Clearwater, Little North Fork, Idaho, US


Headwaters to Reservoir (LNFC)

Usual Difficulty II-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 30 Miles
Avg. Gradient 80 fpm
Max Gradient 120 fpm

Air Scouting

Air Scouting
Photo of Scouting the North Fork by Plane by Todd Hoffman

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Little North Fork Clearwater - Virtual Gauge 1
virtual-11472 160 - 2500 cfs II-IV(V) 01h12m 218 cfs (running)

River Description

The following is taken from Gary Barker's article published in Idaho Rivers United.

This remote run begins with primarily class II and III "creekish" character. For flows above 600 cfs, you can start your trip at one of two bridges. The upper bridge is at the LNFC Campground near Flat Iron Knobs, on road 301. The lower bridge is near Jungle Cr, about three miles downstream, and has an unmaintained campsite. About a mile below the lower bridge, you will encounter a spruce swamp. If you stay right at the top of this, only a minor amount of time is spent in portage. If you go left, you will spend about a half hour dragging your boat through downfall. Watch out for the angry moose.

If flows are below 600 cfs, you will want to avoid all this by dragging your boat down to Montana Cr. (see put in directions). There are about five to ten log portages in the reach above Montana Cr, and only one or two below there for the entire run.

Beyond Montana Cr, the river is deeper and better channelized. General character is class II and III until Crescendo Cr, about five miles from the take-out. This is where things start to pick up. Fun class IV rapids follow for several miles to "Slide Lake". The "lake" is formed by a huge shale rockslide that occurred in 1933 at this point. Where the river catches grade again at the end of the lake is "Bodybag Rapid". Pull out and scout or portage on river left, at the end of the lake.

About a mile below Bodybag is "Eenie Meenie", a class IV+ boulder garden, where the river takes a turn to the left. In about another mile you will get a replay of Eenie Meenie with Minie Mo. Keep your eyes open through all this stuff, as logs tend to move around a lot in this section.

When you pass a washed-out log bridge, you are at Cedar Cr. Below this is one more class IV rapid in the class III section down to the takeout bridge.

Go to the small logging town of Avery, Idaho, via The St Joe River RD from St Maries, Idaho, or the more scenic gravel road from Wallace, Idaho. The gravel road over Moon Pass follows the North Fork St Joe on an old railway grade through tunnels and over bridges. A third way to get to Avery is via St Regis, Montana, over Little Joe Road. This follows the St Joe River for 28 miles, and is worth the drive.

Once in Avery, kiss civilization goodbye. (Actually, you kissed civilization goodbye several hours ago.) Go downstream of Avery about a mile on gravel road on the river left, to Fishhook Cr. Go up Fishhook Cr to the Clearwater Divide and down Adair Cr on road #1268 to the Bridge at LNF.

Alternatively, you can run three more miles of the LNF by taking road # 301 to the bridge over the LNF at the Forest Service campground. These roads tend to be snowed in until sometime in June. Call the Forest Service at St Maries, ID, to determine if the road is open.

Finally, if the flow is below 600 cfs, I suggest the Montana Cr putin. Go upstream from Avery, 20 miles to Bluff Cr (or access Bluff Cr from Liitle Joe Road out of St Regis, Montana). Go up Bluff Cr to Mammoth Springs Campground, about 13 miles. Go just south of the campground to the saddle, and turn hard right on Hoodoo Ridge Rd # 1259. Go four miles down the switchbacks to cross Montana Cr. Stay on the lowest road for four more miles to the ridge at the section line between sections 21 and 22 (look at the map). Drag your boat down the old logging road through the clearcut to the southernmost point on the ridge, and then follow the "trail" down the ridgeline through the clearcut, crossing other old roads. When you leave the clearcut, be sure you are on the ridge that is the farthest east, and you will be on a good trail to the confluence of Monana Cr and LNF. This road has always been open when we did low flow trips.

Fortunately, there is only one takeout. Go to Clarkia, ID. As you turn off the Highway onto Poplar St., set your odometer at 0. At 0.5, take the left past the little red schoolhouse (don't blame me if they paint it someday). At 1.4, go right on St. Maries River Rd. At 5.7, cross the bridge, staying right on # 382. At about 9 miles, turn left up Telephone Booth Hill Rd. on # 764. At 10.8, (Stony Cr Divide), stay on the main road going easterly down Stony Cr, on # 1475. At 27, cross Floodwood Cr. At 27.5, stay left on the high road. At 29.8, (Boehl Divide), stay right on the low road. At 39.8 is the takeout at the cement bridge over the LNF. There is a nice, small campgound about a mile below the bridge on river left. This is the beginning of the reservoir. If these directions all seem to be a bit much now, they will not be when you are there. There are a zillion roads in this area, and getting lost is easy. Be prepared for primitive road conditions (chains, shovels, map, extra fuel, etc.)

The LNF has many campsites, established by hunters and packers. These are some of my favorites.

1. Montana Cr on river left before the creek.

2. Spotted Louis Cr on river left, after the creek. For the ambitious, a trail leads seven miles up to Snow Peak.

3. Canyon Cr on river left after the creek.

4. Larkins Cr on river left, before the creek. (A four mile hike to Larkins Lake is awesome.)

5. Fhoel Cr on river right, before the creek. (Trail leads up to Buzzard Saddle)

6. Bear Cr on river left before the creek. A well established horse camp with log tables, firepit, etc.

7. Crescendo Cr on left before the creek.

8. Slide Lake Island. A small camp at the far end of the island. Good fishing access.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2008-12-28 16:59:45


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Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 25 2007 (4189 days ago)
x (1)
Ran the LNF 6/22 over two nights with 3100 falling to 2600 on the guage. There were several
porrtages in the section above Canyon creek, most above Montana Creek. The level was fine once in
the canyon below Canyon Creek, and the rapids were all clear. All portages were wood, Body Bag is
wood free and was run by one member of the group. Body Bag down is a fun collection of III-IV
drops, very fun section of water. great run! Brian Vogt
July 18 2002 (5992 days ago)
Gary BarkerDetails
If you do a late season float on the LNF, check out road 301 from near Clarkia back to the
headwaters of the LNF. This is a high elevation, primitive raod, and the views are stunning. It
straddles the ridge between Floodwood Cr and Marble Cr.

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