Brushy Fork (Lochsa trib), Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||51 fpm|
|Max Gradient||200 fpm|
In Idaho, the Whitewater State, Grant Amaral (1990) rates wilderness creek CL IV-VI and states "run should only be attempted by experienced groups of CL V boaters". He lists the run as 9 miles with ave gradient of 95 fpm.
In the book Idaho Whitewater, G.Moore & Don McClaran rate it on flow levels, with a CL V above estimated flow of 600cfs and CL IV for medium flows of 400-600 cfs. They give the ave gradient as 51 fpm, nearly half of that listed in Mr. Amaral's book and with a run length of 13 miles.
Our guess was that it was more likely to be about 9-10 miles long with the gradient more like 50-60 fpm as there is quite a lot of slow moving flatwater on the top half.
Secondly, this run is hard to find anyone that has run it to get new beta on it. I have tried for years to meet anyone that has personally run. When I finally did, I was told it was "clean" except for one drop, and that was one day before we ran it! Maybe he was thinking of some other run???
Lastly, the season for this creek is extremely short.
Prior to our running this creek, we spent an enjoyable half a day hiking the lower 3 miles to see what we were getting into. There is a marginally decent trail that allows some fairly good views of the creek. You'll need to ford Pack Cr.
At times you may lose the trail, but a few good views of the river will help you in your decision on whether to run this or not. The trail takes off from the road along river right.
When this was taken, the level was optimal for running. Much more than this and there will be precious little time or space to stop to scout or portage. If there is no water going over this rock, then it is likely too low and would be more of a hike fest than it already is.
Corresponding Lochsa flow to this tributary is subject to much variation as this, Crooked Fork and Colt Killed (White Sands) are so much higher upstream than what is typically run on the Lochsa. For purposes of this write up, the USGS Lochsa gauge showed that the Lochsa was running at 8000cfs which correlates to 4.25 ft on the Lowell bridge gauge.
Description The name Brushy Fk fits this to a tee! Not only is it brushy in many places, it is log choked requiring numerous portages. Some of these are so large that they have diverted and redirected the creek. Most are easy and short, others require a bit of bushwhacking. It starts off with a whimper, slowly winding its' way downstream from the put in. Within 1/4-1/2 mile you hit your first log portage. Then another and another. The first true rapid that is open is a nice little 250 yard CL III+ twisting boulder garden slalom that can be boat scouted, but may require a portage due to new logs.
More log portages and CL II-III follows for a number of miles. There are two or three distinct walled in rapids that do require scouts. Not only are there logs to consider, but some sizable drops that demand serious boat control. This is a wilderness run and a swim or injury could seriously ruin your day. Sadly a few of the best drops had logs in them. The lower half of the run is less logjammed in nature and the majority of the really good drops are in the last few miles.
After six hours of portaging, scouting and briefly running some decent rapids, you come to the take-out. There is a small parklike setting on river right just below the bridge that allows easy exit and a decent place to change and warm up after this run.
Don't be too suprised to see an elk or two, beavers, deer. The scenery and remoteness are special. The logjams and portages are not, except to share a few laughs and chat it up with your paddling pals.
Rationale for doing this run? How about as part of your quest to bag the trilogy of runs that make up the Lochsa: Crooked Fk, Brushy Fk and Colt Killed Cr (White Sands)? You gotta really want to do this as it has a really short season, the logs and portaging is very time consuming, the rapids are rarely clean enough to run. Not many folks do this for those reasons.
Shuttle length:Total distance is 17-18 miles, fair dirt road through logging country for the majority of it.
Directions to take-out:Off of HWY 12 at the bridge over Brushy Fk/Crooked Fk junction there is a road that goes up Brushy Fk for 1/4 mile. There is a bridge over the Brushy fk where you can view the rock gauge described.
Directions to put-in:Get back on HWY 12 and head up hill towards Lolo Pass. At the top of Lolo Pass there is a visitor's center on the right. Take that road which becomes Elk Meadows road and drive down to where it crosses over Brushy Fk. There is a decent level spot to put in and park.
Contact Info:If you have any new updated information or wish to add something to this report, please leave a comment or email Michael "Mick" French.