Lochsa, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III+ (for normal flows)|
|LOCHSA RIVER NR LOWELL ID|
|usgs-13337000||400 - 25000 cfs||II-III+||00h52m||381 cfs (too low)|
While the runs upstream of this section are known around the world as some of Idaho's best and most accessible whitewater, this lower section allows one to enjoy the beauty of the Lochsa at a significantly less intense pace. The entire run is roadside and most of it is visible on the shuttle drive making it easy to get an assessment of the character of the run, although the crux move in Hellgate is not immediately obvious when driving by.
From the put-in at Split Creek Pack Bridge, which serves as the take-out for the class IV "Lower Lochsa", the river settles down considerably although three rapids of note--Surprise, Fire Creek, and Coolwater--are spaced out over the first three miles.
Knife Edge River access makes a popular alternative put-in that avoids the first few intermediate rapids and is an option for those who want to enjoy a short (4 mile) class II float. Just pack a lunch and take your time to enjoy a mellow day on the river.
A couple miles downstream of Knife Edge the river heads through a fun class II rapid that is not named. Another mile downstream and you will reach Apgar Rapid which is also class II. Just after running Apgar Rapid you will reach Apgar Campground. While you will not find a good developed river access at this site, which is managed primarily as a campground, those who do not wish to run Hellgate can use this as a take-out.
Hellgate Rapid is about a mile downstream of Apgar Campground and is known as the most challenging rapid on the run. Most notice the large pourover rock to the left, but miss the hidden hole down the right tongue that can flip or hold boats. You can scout or portage on river right.
In another mile you will come to Handy Creek, a straightforward rapid that appears at lower flows. The take-out at the Lowell River access is at the confluence with the Selway River.
Logistics: A few different options are available for this section as follows:
Split Creek Access is at Highway 12 mile 111.4 and gives you the option of the full run and the more challenging rapids.
An informal access that avoids the first two rapids is at Highway 12 mile 110.1.
Knife Edge River access is at Highway 12 mile 108.3 cuts off the first three named rapids and begins the easiest section of this run.
Those looking for a take-out upstream of Hellgate Rapid will want to use Apgar Campground at Highway 12 mile 104.3.
The highway pull-out just below Handy Creek Rapid at Highway 12 mile 102.1 is a good take-out for those who want to end their run after the last main rapid on the run.
Selway Road at the confluence of the Selway River is at Highway 12 mile 96.9.
Better river access for a take-out can be found by continuing on past the Selway confluence and on down the Clearwater to Wild Goose Campground at Highway 12 mile 95.3.
While there are several camping options along the entire Lochsa River, Wilderness Gateway 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)|
|-108.3||Knife Edge River Access||N/A|
Good river access point at Highway 108.3.
Not the best river access as the site is really managed as a small campground but if you don't want to run Hellgate you will need to take out here.
The most challenging rapid on this section with a hole towards the right that can flip or hold boats. The ledge on river left is easy to spot from upstream but you need to stay alert for the hole down the river right tongue which can sneak up on you. It's not hard to avoid as long as you are paying attention.
In 2018 we celebrate this Wild and Scenic River and work to protect more rivers as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Wild and Scenic Rivers. Learn More.
River guidebook to the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River.
Big Rigs Threaten Idaho's Lochsa River
November 26, 2010