Big Sand Creek - Swamp Creek Trail to White Sand Creek

Big Sand Creek, Idaho, US


Swamp Creek Trail to White Sand Creek

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 4 Miles

First big rapid

First big rapid
Photo of Ira by Jesse Kodadek @ slightly uphill

River Description

Big Sands Creek is a full day mission for most mortals that dishes out long, high quality Class IV and V rapids in a beautiful canyon.

The trip begins with a fairly long (45 minutes+) drive from highway 12 on dirt roads to the take out to drop a car. Then you drive back up the mountain to the Swamp Creek trailhead high on a ridge over the creek. Once all this is accomplished all that stands between you and Big Sands is a 2-3 mile hike on the Swamp Creek Trail, mostly downhill, and depending on conditions over lots of blown down trees.

Big Sands is a big creek - don't expect a low volume scraper unless you go at low flows. The creek is placid at the trail's terminus, but quickly drops into a class IV rapid with an undercut wall and a 90 degree left turn at the bottom. At this point the gradient begins really dropping out. A notable 8-10 foot waterfall can be run early in the trip. Other than this drop, which begins and ends in a pool, Big Sands offers only long rapids with multiple drops and holes. At higher water the rapids are very stompy and offer little or no chance to stop once committed to a rapid - and did I mention the rapids are long, often disappearing around blind corners? In the middle of the steep stuff is a mandatory portage called pancake which is a 10+foot drop that lands on rock, and is followed by a stout class V multi-drop rapid. There are alot of rapids on Big Sands. They are high quality and often stout. Wood is always a concern, and there are several seives that paddlers should be aware of.

After negotiating all the rapids on Big Sands, paddlers still have about a mile of great Class IV whitewater on White Sands, followed by a mile or two of class II run-out.

The scenery in the Big Sands Canyon is truly stunning. Talus fields generally border the entire river and vertical granite walls tower over its entire length. Thankfully, portaging and scouting is relatively easy throughout the run if you are comfortable carrying a boat across talus fields. The river is in the Bitterroot Selway Wilderness and is certainly worthy of the designation. Hiking out would range from epic to impossible depending on your location.

Idaho, the Whitewater State, G. Amaral (Watershed Books; 1990)
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2007-06-21 11:58:31


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.

No Comments

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating