Henrys Fork - Hatchery Ford to above Upper Mesa Falls

Henrys Fork, Idaho, US


Hatchery Ford to above Upper Mesa Falls (Sheep Falls Run)

Usual Difficulty III+(V) (for normal flows)
Length 6.88 Miles
Avg. Gradient 44 fpm

Second Drop

Second Drop
Photo of SK by BradyJ @ 1900

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-13046000 1000 - 3000 cfs III+(V) 01h07m 1070 cfs (running)

River Description

This run is a beautiful canyon consisting of mellow class II-III whitewater and three class V drops. The old Idaho guide book describes this as a scenic run with three portages. Other people think of it as a fun run with three good rapids and some flat water. Either way it i’s beautiful and worth the effort. Also, generally runs all season.

From hatchery ford to sheep falls there is a class III rapid called chips flip.  It is one mile from hatchery ford.  It always has wood on the left so run it right
At sheep falls the best portage is on the right
We call the second drop son of a sheep falls.  The put in for the portage is right after this.  Follow the trail down a small cliff to  a big ledge to another small cliff.  The climb down is is worth it and lets you hit almost everything after son of a sheep falls.  The place you stand is always in water from 6 inches to a foot and a half but its always there. Its safe and almost always is in an eddy.  
At mile 3.0 is toilet bowl rapid.  It short but its really swirly at high water and less so at lower water.  If you catch it right its really fun and if not it flips you.  
At mile 4.0 is cottams curve.  At lower water levels the line is left with a hard curve to run to miss wrap it rock.   This is really only hard for rafts.  At levels above 1600 you can run the rapid anywhere.
The third drop is called gun site falls since you line up the boof rock and go for it.  The bypass is always on the right and there is a clear trail there and the best  place to scout the rapid.  
From 5.2 to 6.1 is a long series of wave trains called screaming eagle because there always seems to be bald eagles there
An alternate put in for the run is to put in right at sheep falls.  Sheep falls road is signed of highway 20 approximately 15 miles from ashton near mile marker 370.  Follow the road down till you come to forest road 760 and turn left there.  The road dead ends to a trail that is a short 10 minute walk downhill to sheep falls.  You bypass all the slow stuff  and chips flip and get straight to the action. 

See G. Amaral, Idaho: the Whitewater State (Watershed, 1992).

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-07-16 08:31:34

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Getting ThereTakeout Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.0Put-InN/APutin Photo
2.7Drop No. 1: Sheep Falls5.0Waterfall Photo
2.8Drop No. 2:5.0Photo
5.0Drop No. 3:5.1Hazard Photo
6.3The Ledge HoleIV
6.9Take-OutN/ATakeout Hazard Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Getting There

Upper Mesa Falls

Upper Mesa Falls
Photo @ 1900

Take Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (Idaho 47) from Ashton, ID. Continue past the Lower Mesa Overlook and turn into the Upper Mesa parking area. This is the takeout, note it is a fee area. Unless someone in your group has run this stretch you should take the time to stroll down the boardwalk and scout the takeout. Potentially the most dangerous part of the run, this is not a takeout you want to miss. You will want to float onto the shelf of Upper Mesa, eddy out river left, and step out of your boat onto the boardwalk.

Put-In (Class N/A)



To get to the put-in continue towards Island Park. Turn left when you see a sign for Hatchery Ford. Follow this dirt road down to the river. You wi’ll know you a’re in the right place by a sign warning of dangerous falls downstream and that boating is not recommended.

Drop No. 1: Sheep Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 2.7)

Sheep Falls

Sheep Falls
Photo of Ryan by BradyJ taken 07/15/05 @ 1900cfs

Sheep Falls is located on a sweeping left turn. Noticeable by a significant horizon line and a hint of spray. Eddie out river right to scout and/or portage. Both the two-tiered part of the drop on the left or the slide on center right are runnable.

Drop No. 2: (Class 5.0, Mile 2.8)

Second Drop

Second Drop
Photo of SK by BradyJ @ 1900

This rapid is immediately after Sheep Falls. Easiest to scout both while you are out of your boat, or if you are portaging, just keep walking. This drop is as intimidating as it is safe. Take note of the two small entrance holes.  They are bigger than they look from the bank. Otherwise, straight down the tongue, baby! Huge, flat pool at the bottom, minimal consequences. Under 1600cfs this drop gets very sticky and is not usually run. Over 2500cfs it only gets better! When portaging there are two possibilities for re-entering the river. The best is to slide off a rock at water level into the current right below the meat of the drop. People have seal-launched the high rock, but you run the risk of breaking your boat on the underwater rocks. If you do not like the look of this: hope you are wearing long pants. You will be hiking for a while, navigating a steep embankment, and wading through waist-high stinging nettle.

Drop No. 3: (Class 5.1, Mile 5.0)

Third Drop

Third Drop
Photo of SK by BradyJ @ 1900

Look for another horizon line on a left curve. Scout on river left; portage from either side, but easier on the right. There is a guide rock on the lip of the center-left of the drop. Boof just to the left of the rock and head right to avoid a hole. Note: If the guide rock is underwater, BEWARE. The left wall is undercut and at this level water is pushing into it. Unlike Drop No. 2, this rapid is not overly intimidating, but has potentially high consequences in high water.

The Ledge Hole (Class IV, Mile 6.3)

This drop is a river-wide, sticky, ledge hole. It can be run anywhere if you have a good relationship with your boof stroke. Otherwise, run left.  You can see the drop from the river left eddy. This hole has been known to re-circulate swimmers and empty boats.

Take-Out (Class N/A, Mile 6.9)

Class I if you make it, class VI if you miss. Do not float over Upper Mesa Falls! Exit river left onto the boardwalk and smile at the tourists.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 10 2005 (4752 days ago)
Sarah KemperDetails
The Ashton gage is the ACCEPTED gage for this run. There is not a "correct" gage. The
Island Park gage does not include the flow from the Buffalo Fork (which is often larger than the
Henrys Fork itself at Island Park). Theoretically, the flow from the Island Park gage could be
added to the flow from the Buffalo Fork. The problem is that the gage on the Buffalo Fork is above
the confluence with Lava Creek. Lava Creek does not have a gage, but guessing by the picture above,
it might be significant. The problem with the Ashton gage is that it also includes the flow from
the Warm River.
October 6 2005 (4787 days ago)
andy waltersDetails
The wrong gauge is listed for this run. The correct gauge in the one located near Island Park .

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