Wolverine Canyon has serious class 4 and 5 whitewater in a steep canyon. There are several sections of continuous class 4 to 4+ rapids with a few big class 5 rapids mixed in. There is one mandatory portage.
The run starts off very slowly from Trail Creek Road Bridge. The first 4 miles have mostly the same character as the easy sections upstream. At mile 3, a series of large ledge drops give paddlers a small taste of what is to come in the heart of the canyon. At mile 4 the serious whitewater starts with a bang and mostly does not let up till mile 8. The steepest mile drops 120 feet, but one 1/2 mile section drops 75 feet and the steepest 1/2 mile near the end, drops 104 feet.
The river mostly flows through BLM property for the first few miles. When the BLM property ends, the river right bank is private property, while river left is Fort Hall Indian reservation property.
Put in: Trail Creek Road Bridge. There appears to be some parking and easy access to the river at the bridge or close by. BLM has a primitive campground just downstream on river right. There also appears to be access at 1 mile downstream and at 1.7 miles downstream.
Take out: It looks like there is a steep hike out at Cedar Creek, otherwise boaters must continue on down through slow water to road access at mile 12 or mile 13.
Davis Gove warned on 2007-07-02, following a fatal accident:This run is a full IV+ with multiple V's including a mandatory portage. Without a local boater familiar with the run this stretch could be an epic due to lots of scouting. Many of the lines are not obvious and would require TONS of scouting. This section contains multiple demanding rapids and at least one portage. A few of the main class V's have wood and pin hazards so scout thoroughly.
John "Gordo" Henderson added on 2007-07-04:
I've got a big problem with the AW page for the section of the Blackfoot River where the fatality occurred, not just because I lost a best friend there but, more to the point, it's not the first time. (Ed. note: the rating for this section has been changed, because of Gordo's warning.) On July 7, 2006 two friends of mine who work together on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation Fire District attempted to run the same reach of river. At the time they were essentially advanced beginners and had no business being on that section of the Blackfoot River. (Incidentally, the reach is known locally as "Wolverine Canyon") They had both run other reaches of Idaho whitewater rated similarly to what the AW page rates the Blackfoot in "Wolverine Canyon" such as the South Fork of the Payette "Staircase" and "Canyon" sections, so they were unintimidated after having looked up the section on the AW page.
The rapid in question is known as "Teller Tube" (think of what happens to the tube in a pneumatic system at the bank) and the locals refer to it as the FIRST of the CLASS FIVE RAPIDS in Wolverine Canyon. I've not run the section myself but according to the boaters who were with Paul when he was killed, the nature of the canyon is like the North Fork of the Payette, Class-V rapids with continuous Class-IV water in between. Back to my story. My two friends got out to scout "Teller Tube," Jeff shouldered his boat, Zane elected to run it. Needless to say he had essentially the same experience as Paul did with the exception that he was still in his boat when he pinned on the logjam and at the last moment, washed free. My friend was injured by the current, which had blown the orbits of his eyes open and threatened to literally suck the globes out of their sockets. He had river water running behind his eyeballs. It took him over a month to regain his vision fully and longer to lose the raccoon-eye bruises around his eyes. The river stripped him of his neoprene booties which forced him to walk out of the canyon barefoot through steep rattlesnake infested talus slopes.The nature of "Teller Tube" is Class-V moves with Class-VI consequences. The line is narrow to the point of being microscopic. You must make a tight left-to-right move across the face of a green drop, then work center punching holes, avoiding the massive pillow on the left, then you MUST catch an eddy on the right which is the pivot point of the rapid. There you have three options, a hairy ferry across the powerful current to river left and then down the left side of the rapid, a bump and slide down the far right of the rapid, or, better yet, get the Hell out of the river and portage. The consequence of not making the eddy or a smaller last chance eddy below it, is to be swept into a boulder field blocked by a jumbled logjam. Worse is to be upside down like Zane was, or swimming like Paul was--the chances for either situation are near zero. The current flows to and piles up on the logjam and anything not actively trying to avoid it will inevitably wind up in the logjam to be strained.
..... the Class-V character of the river with a note that the wood in "Teller Tube" leaves zero margin for error with a near certain fatal potential for anyone not on his game, on line and under control of his boat.
Other Information Sources: BLM Blackfoot River Campgrounds
Flow information phone number -208-238-0586
The easiest parking and put ins, appear to be off a spur just upstream of this bridge or at the campground entrance just downstream. All river miles for listed rapids are from this bridge as measured with Google Earth.
A side road drops down to the river from Blackfoot River Road.
A side road leads to the top of the bluff. Trails may lead to the river.
Two river wide ledge drops give paddlers a taste of the bigger stuff to come.
The river starts dropping and within a few hundred yards the difficulty is class 4 or harder. Elevation is about 5351
This rapid within a continuous section appears to be a little bigger than the rest.
This rapid comes near the end of a long continuous section. The river bends left as it enters the rapid. Elevation 5290 feet.
After a short section of swiftwater, the channel narrows, rapids start and then split around a large island. Either channel looks fine. Below the island is a very short area of calm water heading west into one of the biggest rapids.
The river narrows and drops into one of the biggest rapids on the run. The channel widens in the lower part of the rapid but it is cluttered with large boulders and logs which have jammed on those boulders. Elevation at start, 5230 feet.
This cluttered rapid is the last hurrah for the continuous rapids above. The river eases off for a ways below this rapid.
Two big cluttered rapids are separated by a short pool.
This long congested rapid is on a gradual left turn.
Calm water flows around an island, then into the congested entrance to one of the biggest and longest rapids on the run. The river drops 104 feet in the next 1/2 mile which is the steepest section of the run. A tenth of a mile after that, the serious whitewater is over. Elevation at entrance is 5000 feet.
The river bends northeast to go around a promontory across from Cedar Creek. The first rapid is a narrow, straight chute leading into flat water of a horseshoe bend. This rapid is about 80 yards long.
Cedar Creek comes in from river right at a horseshoe bend. A fairly easy rapid, starts at the mouth of Cedar Creek and leads out of the horseshoe bend.
If you take out here, beach on the upstream side of Cedar Creek, above the rapid. Carry up the creek a very short distance, cross the creek, then follow use trails up a steep hill to Blackfoot River Road.
Elevation at the river is 4796 feet, while the road side parking elevation is about 4970 feet.
A steep road or trail drops down the cliff to near the river.
The river is flat and meandering in this section, but it appears to be swift with plenty of waves.
A well used spur road drops down to the river.
I have paddled this stretch several times in the last couple of years and would agree with what Davis wrote, class 4-5. If you don't know what that means than simply stay home. Greg's group did this run in 6 hours with no previous experience, that's not at all bad for a solid run like this.
I consider it one of the best runs in the area and contradicting what others have written I think this run is relatively clean. Yes there is some wood, but not very much considering what most class 5 gathers. Teller Tube is a very straight forward but committing rapid with some wood at the end where you wouldn't want to go even if it was wood free. There are dozens of good drops and only one mandatory walk, that's a rarity on this type of run. Also, it flows late season which is a huge bonus around here!
Important side note, I believe that this gauge was discontinued from USGS. This reading on the AW site is old and not accurate. You can call irrigation at 208-238-0586 for current flows. If somebody knows of a working internet gauge please post it.
I just paddled the Wolverine Canyon section of the Blackfoot for the first time yesterday. I read AW's write-up after the fact and would like to offer an additional warning. We padded the river at 550 cfs without incident, but it is a very dangerous and remote river. Neither of us had done it before, and it took nearly six hours to scout, run and portage when necessary. We portaged three times, and the rapid called Teller Tube was not one of them. There are numerous places to pin, broach and otherwise get in a lot of trouble. The Class V rapids are interspersed with very consistent and bony Class IV rapids that are not like what Idaho boaters are used to. They are creeky and rocky rapids. Even with thorough scouting I broached three times and pinned momentarily at least twice.
The combination of remoteness, poison ivy, rattle snakes and very demanding scouts and portages makes this river very dangerous. The rapids are steeper than anything on the North Fork Payette, although they may be a smidgen easier. But the consequences for ever coming out of your boat are severe.
Had we gone with a guide, I imagine it would have been a smoother day. But even with a guide there are many places where scouting is crucial. This is a unique run in Idaho. It's worth doing, but be prepared, and, as Gordo pointed out, don't go in there unless you've got your A game. It's not only difficult whitewater, but it's a physically-demanding day.
Flows are controlled by Blackfoot Reservoir. Typical summer releases range from 200 cfs to 800 cfs in order to supply irrigation water to farmers in the Snake river valley around the town of Blackfoot. There is no online gauge for this section, but you can get flow information by calling Blackfoot Reservoir - (208) 238-0586. Dave Garrity reports paddling as low as 150 cfs, but feels that 250 is probably a more accurate minimum.
Here is a gauge:
Permits are not required for this reach.
The roads in this area appear to be gravel or dirt.
First Big Rapid
Gnarly Sieve of Death
First big drop - top part
Fourth major rapid
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