Tumbledown starts off easy and gradually picks up in gradient and difficulty. The first four miles is read and run class II and III, building up to Tumbledown Falls (class IV), the standout rapid on the run. Tumbledown starts with a long train of big crashing waves on a sweeping left-hand bend leading into an almost river-wide ledge hole on the right, where the canyon walls up and contricts. The normal line is left of center down the wave train, then hard left to avoid the ledge. Immediately below the ledge is a deep, clear, emerald green pool. Below Tumbledown there is one more standout class III/III+ rapid and lots of easy read and run class II and III.
Scout the entire run very carefully before your trip. Logs and sweepers are very common on this run and seem to shift around unpredictably. Also remember that while there is a road the entire length of the run, it is still very remote country. The nearest medical facilities are at least an hour and half away. Air and water temperatures can be very low even late into the season making hypothermia a very high risk. The difficulty of the run varies considerably with flow. At levels above 5,000 CFS it becomes a very solid big water class IV, and at lower flows, below 1,500 CFS, the run becomes very technical and creeky. Put in:
The put for Tumbledown is at the Conrad Crossing Forest Service Campground. The launch site is literally part of one of the campsites so please be extra considerate of campers and respect their privacy and space. There are a number of good put in locations just upstream that make it easy to extend the run. Putting in Below Conrad Crossing is difficult due to lack of parking and the high steep banks. Take out:
The traditional take out for kayakers is the downstream side of the Bluff Creek bridge, 7+/- miles down from Conrad Crossing. It is possible to take out on either side of the river although the eddies are small and the short climb up the bank is steep and rocky. For easier access for rafts, the run can be extended to the first picnic area downstream from Bluff Creek, but a good bit of flat water is added. Parking is very limited at Bluff Creek so be careful not to block access for other boaters or to interfere with traffic on the main river road or the Bluff Creek road. Logistics:
Easiest access to Tumbledown is via St. Regis, Montana. Exit interstate 90 at St. Regis, drive west through town onto the frontage road for roughly 1-2 miles. Cross the bridge over I-90 and continue south up Little Joe Creek (road 282) over Gold Creek Summit to the St. Joe (about 45 minutes). At the Joe turn right and head downstream until you reach Conrad Crossing. For those coming from the south (i.e. Moscow, Pullman, Southern Idaho) access is faster via St. Maries Idaho. Alternatively, seasonal access is possible via the town of Wallace, Idaho over Moon Pass to the Town of Avery. Avery is located about 25 miles down river from Bluff Creek and has several excellent runs close by see notes below for details.Planning Tools: Gradient Chart - (comparative)Forest Service Camping GuideMap of Idaho PanhandleNOAA - River Flow ForcastNOAA - Snow Pack ReportUSGS Gauge - CalderNotes:
There are several nearby runs in the St. Joe watershed, including the Skookum Canyon (class III/IV), and Heller Creek (class IV) sections of the main St. Joe, plus the North Fork (class III+), Slate Creek (class IV/V), Marble Creek, (class III/IV) and Big Creek (Class III/IV-). Also, access to the Little North Fork Clearwater (class IV(V)) is from Avery via Fishook Creek.
The gauge is located about 40 miles downstream at the town of Calder. Several major tributaries dump into the Joe below Tumbledown and above Calder so flows are quite a bit less than what the gauge indicates. Tumbledown can be run down to a bare minimum of about 900 cfs for a creek run. Peak flows can be as high as 14,000 cfs in years with good snow pack. Excellent
predictive flows are avaialable from the NOAA Northwest Rivers Forecast Center.
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.
Rapid Leading into Tumble Down Falls
The big hole in Tumbledown Falls
St. Joe Basin - Gradient Comparison
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American Whitewater has put together a short flow study on the Wild and Scenic St. Joe River. If you have experience paddling or fishing on the St. Joe, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Also, please share this survey widely among the regional paddling and angling community.
<?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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