Difficulty III-IV
Length 11.56 Miles
Flow Range 1500 - 25000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 41 minutes ago 2220 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 06/01/2019 2:01 am

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Boulder Rapid

Class - III Mile - -122
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River maintains class III character in a wide, open, twisting rapid.

Fish Creek Put In

Class - N/A Mile - -120.3

Nice USFS put-in with raft slide.

Fish Creek Rapid

Class - III Mile - -120.1
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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
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Popular play spot at lower water levels. Around sharp right bend adjacent to sandy beach.

Mile 119 Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - -119.2
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Short rapid with variety of features at varying water levels. Usually has large waves.

Killer Fang Falls

Class - IV Mile - -119.1
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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
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Straight shot with some breaking waves at higher levels.

Otter Slide Rapid

Class - III Mile - -118.1

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

Morning Glory Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -117.7
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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

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

Grim Reaper Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -116

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

Shoestring Falls Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -115.3

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

Jones's Wave Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -115.1
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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

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
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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

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

Pipeline Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - -113.6

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

Old Man Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -113.3
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Straightforward rapid. Some holes and obstacles left and right. Old Man Creek enters river left.

Termination Rapid

Class - IV Mile - -112.8

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

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


default user thumbnail
12 years ago

new online whitewater guide for idaho and montana area paddling - check it out! www.montanaeddyhop.blogspot.com

default user thumbnail
Robin Carleton
13 years ago

More photos of Lochsa river at www.infinitymountain.com Have Fun! Robin

Gage Descriptions

There are two gauges for the Lochsa. The more commonly refered to gauge is the boaters gauge on the bridge near Lowell. If you hear some one give a Lochsa reading in feet, this is the gauge they are refering to. Online readings for the bridge gauge are not available. However, there is an online USGS gauge for the Lochsa that reports both flow in CFS and stage in feet. Do not confuse the readings from the bridge gauge with the stage readings from the online gauge. This link provides a correlation of the bridge gauge in feet to flow in CFS from the USGS gauge. Predictive flows are available from the Northwest Rivers Forecast Center using data taken from the USGS gauge.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2011-06-29 High Fatality High Water Read More
2011-05-28 n/a Fatality High Water Read More
1994-05-22 n/a Fatality One Boat Trip Read More
1992-07-03 Low Fatality One Boat Trip Read More



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Illegal Megaloads Push Ahead, Drawing Protests and Lawsuit (ID)

Kevin Colburn

Earlier this week a massive piece of industrial equipment was shipped through the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River Corridor, against the wishes of the US Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe, and river advocates.  As the shipment moved towards the Wild and Scenic River corridor though, the US Forest Service failed to take any actions to stop its progress.  The result was high profile protests, and now a lawsuit against the Forest Service for failing to act.  

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Big Rigs Threaten Idaho's Lochsa River

Kevin Colburn

Idaho Rivers United is seeking affirmation from river enthusiasts that they represent your interest in protecting the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers from a massive effort to move "mega-loads" of oil infrastructure along the rivers. IRU has a short online form with which you can endorse their efforts.  

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Oil Project Creates Trail of Opposition in ID and MT

Kevin Colburn

A proposal to ship massive pieces of oil extraction equipment from Korea across back roads in Idaho and Montana to Alberta is raising concerns from paddlers, conservation groups, businesses, public safety officials, and everyday citizens.   Comments on a portion of this project are due May 14, 2010.

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Idaho Proposes Registration Fee for Non-Motorized Boats

John Gangemi

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho is proposing a $13 registration fee for non-motorized boats greater than 7 feet in length. Under this registration fee proposal all kayaks and rafts on Idaho waters would be required to have a registration sticker fixed to the bow of each boat greater than 7 feet in length. Stickers would not be transferable between boats. Out of state boaters would be required to comply as well.

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Can You Taste Victory?

American Whitewater

FERC revokes Preliminary Permit for
hydropower project on Boundary Creek in
Northern Idaho.

Thomas O'Keefe


Kevin Colburn


Bill Durr


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1201897 03/11/13 Thomas O'Keefe map edits
1190364 12/28/08 Kevin Colburn n/a
1198949 12/04/10 Thomas O'Keefe abstract edit
1201895 03/11/13 Thomas O'Keefe logistics added
1201918 03/17/13 Thomas O'Keefe copy edits
1212491 05/28/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1212599 06/01/19 Bill Durr updated stats
1212492 05/28/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position