Pack, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||V+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||400 fpm|
|Max Gradient||400 fpm|
|PACK RIVER NR COLBURN ID|
|usgs-12392300||650 - 1000 cfs||V+||00h28m||87.2 cfs (too low)|
The Grottos section of the Pack contains serious, high gradient, Class V-V+ steep creeking. If
youÂre up for it, this one of the most exciting and challenging sections of navigable
water in the region. Its three main rapids are long complex combinations of waterfalls, rock
slides and boulder drops. Each series of rapids is demanding and committing, containing multiple
hazards and requiring extensive scouting. The canyon walls are only 10-30 feet high, but there is
no easy way out from the river.
The first grotto begins with a very straightforward 20-foot waterfall. Immediately after the first waterfall is a 10-foot drop requiring a precise boof in order to avoid a huge old growth log lodged at the base. Just beyond this log hazard lies a 3-foot, 10-foot ledge combo. The final drop of the first grotto is a 17-foot right to left slanted chute that looks like it plummets under the river left wall. Although this drop has been run forwards and backwards with out incident, this would be a bad place to swim because the entrance to the gnarly second grotto lies just below.
The second grotto is full of places you donÂt want to be. The entire section is essentially one long, steep undercut filled boulder drop leading into a 30-foot slide. Most people portage this section because of the multiple hazards.
The third and final grotto is called super slide. The super slide is about 45 feet high and about 200 feet long, with a 90-degree turn at the bottom. Starting out wide with lots of lines to choose from, it increases in intensity as one picks up speed and negotiates the sharp corner while attempting to avoid piton rocks. The super slide is the last hairy drop on the grottos section, and the whitewater becomes less hazardous and committing and one approaches the Slides.
The Upper Pack is easy to find. Drive North from Sandpoint towards Canada on Hwy 2 and turn left on the Pack River road just after you see the meandering and well marked Lower Pack pass under the highway (this is where the USGS Gauge is located). 4.7 miles after turning off Hwy 95 you will cross the Pack River for the first time since turning off Hwy 95, 4.2 miles after this first bridge is a convenient take out option for the Gorgette on the right, though there are other options both upstream and downstream while the road is close to the river.
Keep following the Pack River road upstream, when you come to a second vehicle bridge you have
come to the put-in for the Gorgette and the take-out for the Slides . The rock gauge is located
at this bridge. The road gets rowdier past this second bridge and 4WD and relatively high
clearance is recommended, though it is possible for a sedan driving prudently to make it all the
way to the top if there is no snow. If you plan on running the Slides, but not the Grottos continue
for 1.8 miles past the second bridge and start looking for a narrow dirt road that splits off to
the left and down toward the river. High clearance vehicles can drive a short ways down this road
and save an extra couple minutes of hiking, but most people will choose to just park at the split
since the road washes out before it gets to the river. Walk down this road until it reaches the
river at the put in for the Slides.
To get to the Grottos put-in keep driving past the split until you come to a "Y" in the road 3.7 miles past the second bridge and go left down to the river where you will find parking at a small wooden foot bridge that is the trailhead to Chimney Rock. To run the Grottos hike about ¼ mile upstream to the beginning of the rapids that end at the bridge.
Time: 2 - 4 hours
Page created by Todd Hoffman. Description by local expert Natty Role, copied from September / October '05 AW Journal.