Lochsa, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|LOCHSA RIVER NR LOWELL ID|
|usgs-13337000||1500 - 25000 cfs||III-IV||01h01m||1100 cfs (too low)|
The Lochsa is truly an Idaho Classic, offering paddlers miles and miles of big beautiful
whitewater. The most commonly run section is from Fish Creek (2.5 miles downstream of Wilderness
Gateway) to Split Creek, and features over a dozen big named rapids and some great
At low water the Lochsa is an enjoyable paddling trip with some technical moves, some nice small play features, and pools between each of the rapids. At medium water the rapids link up with swift water and become big fun rollercoasters with few technical moves but there are a few holes to avoid. Lochsa Falls is one of the classic drops on this run and around Memorial Day weekend it's quite a scene with spectators lining up to watch the show from the pullout adjacent to the rapid at Highway 12 mile 114.1.
You will find a number of good play waves with Pipeline as the centerpiece, a beautiful surf wave
that can be enjoyed as a park-and-play feature from the pull-out at Highway 12 mile 113.5. Most
rapids are run right of center as a general rule of thumb and can be scouted from highwater 12
(beware, though, of the Idaho Sandbag: many Idaho rivers look easy from the road and are actually
confusing and stompy on the water). At high water the Lochsa is a wild ride of towering waves and
thundering holes that is ridicuously fun (if you stay in your boat).
The camping and hiking around the Lochsa are great. Superb water quality and scenery, along with booming and relatively straightforward whitewater, make the Lochsa a true Idaho treasure.
Logistics: Wilderness Gateway at Highway 12 mile 122.7 is typically identified as the start of the run known as the "Lower Lochsa" but boaters often use the nice Fish Creek River Access site 2.5 miles downstream at Highway 12 mile 120.2. The take-out is at Split Creek River Access, where the pack bridge crosses the river at Highway 12 mile 111.4. Of course park-and-play at Pipeline at Highway 12 mile 113.5 is also a popular option.
While there are several camping options along the entire Lochsa River, including some nice undeveloped sites, Wilderness Gateway Campground at Highway 12 mile 122.7 (cross the bridge to the campground on river left) offers the most sites and is a popular gathering place for whitewater paddlers in the spring.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-120.3||Fish Creek Put In||N/A|
|-120.1||Fish Creek Rapid||III|
|-119.8||Sandy Beach Rapid||III|
|-119.2||Mile 119 Rapid||III+|
|-119.1||Killer Fang Falls||IV|
|-118.8||Eel Creek Rapid||III|
|-118.1||Otter Slide Rapid||III|
|-117.7||Morning Glory Rapid||IV|
|-117.0||House Wave Rapid||IV|
|-116.6||Bloody Mary Rapid||IV|
|-116.0||Grim Reaper Rapid||IV|
|-115.3||Shoestring Falls Rapid||IV|
|-115.1||Jones's Wave Rapid||IV|
|-113.9||Picking up the Pieces||III+|
|-113.3||Old Man Rapid||IV|
|-111.7||Split Creek Rapid||IV|
River maintains class III character in a wide, open, twisting rapid.
Nice USFS put-in with raft slide.
Long wide open twisting rapid with three parts and a major wave segment at the bottom around a left turn.
Popular play spot at lower water levels. Around sharp right bend adjacent to sandy beach.
Short rapid with variety of features at varying water levels. Usually has large waves.
Two large rocks on river left become holes, hydraulics, then huge crashing waves as water level rises. Shear rock on left with sneak on right at most levels.
Straight shot with some breaking waves at higher levels.
Straight forward rapid whose low water holes become high water waves.
Hard left corner pushes water to outside of turn at high water. Low water chute down left is a fast ride with a big hole at the bottom.
Forms one of the biggest waves on the river at high water. Backed by a series of waves.
Big waves and an occasional hole. Watch for pourover on right shore.
Changeable rapid with varying features. Pushy water with lots of side action and a big pour-over on the bottom left. More technical at lower flows.
Under mossy granite cliffs. Washes out at higher levels. Surfing waves at lower levels.
Big waves at high water give way to smaller more technical drop at lower levels.
Chains of waves that increase in size with rising water levels. Can cause problems at higher levels due to side action.
Rocks begin to emerge making this a technical drop at lower water and a mixmaster of side currents at higher levels.
At higher levels curling and breaking waves continue to the next rapid. The rapid begins to disappear at lower levels.
A very short rapid with a falls-like vertical drop. Left side ledge becomes a large pour over then a crashing wave at higher levels. Right side tongue is navigable at most levels. A popular viewing spot and landmark at the mile 114.2 pullout.
Continuous series of waves with few obstructions. Grows as water level increases.
Classic park and play spot with large waves for surfing and playing.
Straightforward rapid. Some holes and obstacles left and right. Old Man Creek enters river left.
Rapid terminates against a cliff wall at the bottom. Usually no trouble avoiding it although the large V wave is quite pushy at high water.
Large waves and holes left and right with a route down the middle at most flows. Holes can be quite deceiving hiding behind waves.