Rapid, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
Looking for a bushwhacking, log choked Charlie Fox Trot? Look no further, you came to the right creek. Don’t be fooled by the name. There are not that many rapids nor is it little more than a handful of small tributaries that come together to make Rapid River(RR). No matter how one accesses RR, it is going to be a mission, but a scenic one at that. This creek is prime for accessing the Middle Fork via packraft or small craft for the fit and adventurous seeking novelty. The “runnable” portion of the creek is about 13-15 miles long, all of which have been subject to large burns in the past two decades. With few large runoff events since then, the drainage has held on to a significant amount of timber. This has created a plethora of natural dams and charcoal-strainers. Yippee!
The majority of the elevation is lost in the last 4 miles, which does a couple of things. For the most part, this made for reasonable boat scouting the entire way down. It also means that all the fun stuff happens in the last few miles above the confluence with the Middle Fork. This is not to say that there aren’t a handful of sneaky little short (class III+) rapids in the upper 10 miles. Be on your toes for wood below the swift corners. There is a noticeable flat section after about 9 miles, where the creek braids out into a large prairie-like landscape. This is a sign that the last 3 miles are within your grasp. Similar to all of the Middle Fork drainages, the bedrock starts to give way to some erosion and the pace picks up. In this section, Rapid River is constricted and winding, but moving quite fast. The moves are class IV-, but the boat scouting is class V-ninja level. With few straight lines of site and very few micro eddies, this section will keep your PTSD peaked for days afterwards. Multiple blind corners left three kayakers clinging for reeds and willows in fast current while a fourth probed around the bend. With this being said, we didn’t run into wood (2016) and this section was so FUN!
Access to the drainage can go one of two ways: By taking the road from highway 21 between Crouch and Stanley, one can access the turnoff to Marsh Creek. Instead of simply putting in at the iconic bridge over Marsh that leads you into the Frank Church, keep trucking up and over the pass towards seafoam ranger station (bring a chainsaw if you have one). Due to late snow on the ridge, we found ourselves hiking up and over the pass about 8miles until finding a suitable put-in. Once past the ranger station, a few small tributaries come together to provide enough flow to navigate. Either bushwack your way down to the creek if on foot, or drive a little further down where a small bridge crosses the creek and Rapid River Road ends. The confluence can be reached in a day after getting an early start.
The other option (which would be my recommendation if you’re looking for whitewater) is to get an early season permit on the Middle Fork, camp/lunch at the mouth of Rapid River and hike empty kayaks up the trail until the whitewater ends. Scout everything on the way up, have a worry-free hootenanny on the way down! This is totally worth the long lunch.
In summation, Rapid River is 10 miles of beautiful wood choked slow water, with 3-4 miles of the most fun creeking that the backcountry of Idaho has to offer in the spring. This is a great “training trip” if you’re looking to sharpen your endurance for portaging and teamwork as well as tic one off the checklist that very few have.
-- Description Courtesy of Kyle Smith --
Lat / Longitude data are very approximate.