Lochsa - 3 - Wilderness Gateway bridge to Split Creek Pack Bridge

Lochsa, Idaho, US


3 - Wilderness Gateway bridge to Split Creek Pack Bridge (Fish Creek to Split Creek)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 9 Miles

Backsurfing Pipeline

Backsurfing Pipeline
Photo by Kevin Pickens @ 7,500 cfs USGS Gauge

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-13337000 1500 - 25000 cfs III-IV 22d17h54m 828 cfs (too low)

River Description

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 playboating.

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-03-17 07:27:53


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-122.0Boulder RapidIII
-120.3Fish Creek Put InN/APutin Access Photo
-120.1Fish Creek RapidIII
-119.8Sandy Beach RapidIIIPlayspot
-119.2Mile 119 RapidIII+
-119.1Killer Fang FallsIV
-118.8Eel Creek RapidIII
-118.1Otter Slide RapidIIIPhoto
-117.7Morning Glory RapidIV
-117.0House Wave RapidIVPhoto
-116.6Bloody Mary RapidIV
-116.0Grim Reaper RapidIVPhoto
-115.6Cliffside RapidIII
-115.3Shoestring Falls RapidIVPhoto
-115.1Jones's Wave RapidIV
-114.6Horsetail FallsIVPhoto
-114.4Prelude RapidIV
-114.2Lochsa FallsIV+Photo
-113.9Picking up the PiecesIII+
-113.6Pipeline RapidIII+Playspot Photo
-113.3Old Man RapidIV
-112.8Termination RapidIVPhoto
-111.7Split Creek RapidIVPhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Boulder Rapid (Class III, Mile -122.0)

River maintains class III character in a wide, open, twisting rapid.

Fish Creek Put In (Class N/A, Mile -120.3)

Fish Creek put-in

Fish Creek put-in
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/29/12 @ 5300 cfs

Nice USFS put-in with raft slide.

Fish Creek Rapid (Class III, Mile -120.1)

Long wide open twisting rapid with three parts and a major wave segment at the bottom around a left turn.

Sandy Beach Rapid (Class III, Mile -119.8)

Popular play spot at lower water levels. Around sharp right bend adjacent to sandy beach.

Mile 119 Rapid (Class III+, Mile -119.2)

Short rapid with variety of features at varying water levels. Usually has large waves.

Killer Fang Falls (Class IV, Mile -119.1)

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.

Eel Creek Rapid (Class III, Mile -118.8)

Straight shot with some breaking waves at higher levels.

Otter Slide Rapid (Class III, Mile -118.1)

Otter Slide

Otter Slide
Photo taken 05/30/10 @ a good level

Straight forward rapid whose low water holes become high water waves.

Morning Glory Rapid (Class IV, Mile -117.7)

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.

House Wave Rapid (Class IV, Mile -117.0)

House Wave

House Wave
Photo taken 05/30/10 @ a good level

Forms one of the biggest waves on the river at high water. Backed by a series of waves.

Bloody Mary Rapid (Class IV, Mile -116.6)

Big waves and an occasional hole. Watch for pourover on right shore.

Grim Reaper Rapid (Class IV, Mile -116.0)

IK'ing Grim Reaper

IK'ing Grim Reaper
Photo by Nick Borelli taken 07/15/99 @ 7000

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.

Cliffside Rapid (Class III, Mile -115.6)

Under mossy granite cliffs. Washes out at higher levels. Surfing waves at lower levels.

Shoestring Falls Rapid (Class IV, Mile -115.3)


Photo taken 05/15/05 @ 7000 cfs

Big waves at high water give way to smaller more technical drop at lower levels.

Jones's Wave Rapid (Class IV, Mile -115.1)

Chains of waves that increase in size with rising water levels. Can cause problems at higher levels due to side action.

Horsetail Falls (Class IV, Mile -114.6)

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls
Photo taken 05/30/10 @ a good level

Rocks begin to emerge making this a technical drop at lower water and a mixmaster of side currents at higher levels.

Prelude Rapid (Class IV, Mile -114.4)

At higher levels curling and breaking waves continue to the next rapid. The rapid begins to disappear at lower levels.

Lochsa Falls (Class IV+, Mile -114.2)

Lochsa Falls Dishing It Out

Lochsa Falls Dishing It Out
Photo of Dan Berger by Mamie Smith taken Cinco de Mayo

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.

Picking up the Pieces (Class III+, Mile -113.9)

Continuous series of waves with few obstructions. Grows as water level increases.

Pipeline Rapid (Class III+, Mile -113.6)

Anett at Pipeline

Anett at Pipeline
Photo of Anett Trebitz by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/29/12 @ 5300 cfs

Classic park and play spot with large waves for surfing and playing.

Old Man Rapid (Class IV, Mile -113.3)

Straightforward rapid. Some holes and obstacles left and right. Old Man Creek enters river left.

Termination Rapid (Class IV, Mile -112.8)


Photo taken 05/30/10 @ a good level

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.

Split Creek Rapid (Class IV, Mile -111.7)

Split Creek Rapid

Split Creek Rapid
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe © taken 06/29/12 @ 5300 cfs

Large waves and holes left and right with a route down the middle at most flows. Holes can be quite deceiving hiding behind waves.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
September 7 2007 (4155 days ago)
x (1)
new online whitewater guide for idaho and montana area paddling - check it out!
April 29 2007 (4286 days ago)
Robin CarletonDetails
More photos of Lochsa river at www.infinitymountain.com Have Fun! Robin

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