The Selway River is a Nationally designated Wild and Scenic River flowing through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. As a major tributary of the Clearwater, it was one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers desiganted in 1968. The Selway is one of North America's premiere wilderness whitewater trips where boaters typically spend three to five days on this 47 mile run.
American Whitewater co-founder Oz Hawksley pioneered whitewater boating on this run when he set out with Jack Reynolds, John Reynolds (who was 13 at the time) and Art Midouhas. They took an army surplus raft with home-made oar frame and a decked 15' Grumman canoe along with a 16mm moving camera which was used to document the run and make the case for conservation of this river. Oz had announced the trip in the American Whitewater Journal earlier in the year as "one of the most beautiful wilderness areas, with a navigable river, left in the U.S.," a statement that holds true today thanks to the foresight of Oz and others to include this river as one of our nation's original Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Most dependable flows typically occur during late June. Snow often prevents access through May, peak snow melt in early June may make the river dangerously high, and flows are often too low by mid-July. Those looking to access the river before the control season may be able to do so by hiring transport by snowmobile. Flying in to Shearer airstrip, 15 miles downstream from the put-in, is also a possibility.
Boaters typically begin their trip by making the long drive over Nez Perce Pass in to the small campground at Paradise where the road ends and the adventure begins. Groups typically spend the night at the campground the day before their launch. In the first 27 miles there are a number of great class II and III rapids as the river flows through lush stands of old-growth forest with great campsites along the way. Goat Creek Rapid and Ham Rapid are the most notable drops in this section.
Moose Creek is a major tributary joining the Selway 27 miles into the trip and the flow of this creek, known as the Moose Juice, results in a higher volume river. If you are on a late-season trip and have been bumping down the upper section of the run, things clean up considerably. And if you are on a mid-season high water trip, get ready for the action to pick up considerably. Many groups camp near Moose Creek so they have a full day to tackle the next four miles of whitewater representing the highlight of the trip. The big drops include Double Drop, Wa-Roots (aka Grizzly Saddle), Ladle, and Litte Niagara with several Class III rapids in between. At high water this whole section can become one long section of continuous Class IV/V whitewater.
After you make it past the section with the biggest drops the rapids are once again spaced out a bit more as you continue to enjoy the higher flows of the lower half of the run. Although there are a number of good Class II and III rapids that remain, there are also a couple of bigger drops that deserve respect at Wolf Creek Rapid and Jim's Creek Rapid. Great opportunities for camping continue down to the take-out.
The Race Creek take-out is just upstream of the Meadow Creek confluence where Forest Road 223 comes up river from Highway 12 at Lowell. In another mile the Selway cascades through Selway Falls, a boiling cauldron of holes and sieves that is best enjoyed from the overlook along the road as you start your drive home.
To reach the put-in from Darby, MT on US 93, drive south about 10 miles and turn right up West Fork Road. Follow this over Nez Perce Pass to Magruder Guard Station. At Margruder turn right and follow the Selway downstream to the Campground and put-in at Paradise.
To reach the take-out, turn off Highway 12 at mile 96.9 and cross the bridge to head up Selway River Road. The road ends at mile 19 just above Selway Falls
It's a long drive around to shuttle so a shuttle service is recommended.
An alternative option that is sometimes used for late season trips is to fly in to Shearer Airstrip which is a riverside airstrip 13 miles downstream from Paradise.
Other Information Sources:
Creeks joining just above the put in at Paradise
A boulder garden rapid formed by some large boulders.
The class III Green Eggs marks the approach. Once you enter Ham, big boulders and a constricted channel require some precise maneuvering. Don't dump your boat and loose your dinner ham! Ham Rapid was named on the second descent in 1961. On the first of two trips in 1961, in a moment of indecision, Malcolm Coulter ended up on a midstream boulder dumping the contents of his raft including the dinner ham that promptly sunk to the bottom of the river. The group did without their ham on that trip. The following week the group returned for the second run, this time bringing along a mask and fins. The ham was recovered and the group enjoyed extra portions. Thereafter the rapid was known as Lost Ham, shortened to Ham today.
After passing under the pack bridge, Moose Creek enters from river right adding considerable flow--the "Moose Juice"--and the pace of the whitewater picks up. Be sure you have time to scout the most challenging rapids on the run over the next four miles. If not, you are wise to make camp in this area.
At lower flows this is a beautiful double drop rapid with good recovery in between but at higher flows the drops form one big rapid.
A S Turn rapid as the river bends to the right and then back to the left with rocks on the outside corners.
Ladle is a complex boulder garden rapid that should be scouted from the trail on the right. At lower flows this one is a real maze through the boulders and at higher flows it becomes one big frothing stretch of whitewater.
This drop is typically run down the right close to the cliff face.
Generally run down the right tongue but watch the laterals that come into play as flows increase. At lower flows, rocks and a ledge hole at the bottom need to be navigated.
The debris fan from Jims Creek pushes the river up against the right bank. Follow the tongue down river right.
This rapid is best enjoyed from the overlook on the Forest Road above the drop. A mile downstream of the take-out the Selway River cascades through this impressive pile of massive boulders with surging boils, massive eddy lines, and bottomless sieves.
The electronic gauge at Paradise launch site can be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/bitterroot/ look for the link on the right side of the page. This is not a USGS gauge so most people look at the Lowell gauge and interpolate. Also, the lower stick gauge at the launch which blew out in high water last spring has now been replaced.
Paddlers typically refer to the staff gauge at Paradise (the put-in). At 1' to 3' the run is III/IV, 3' to 6' the run is IV , and above 6' the run begins to take on a class V character. Call the river office for current information 406-821-3269. The USGS realtime gauge is near Lowell (the take-out)
The forest also provides readings at Paradise at 3 pm. 2014 Selway River Readings
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
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Riffle at Race Creek
Towards the end
Bait Creek Camp
Wolf Creek Rapid
Jims Creek Rapid
Three Links Creek Pack Bridge
Tango Bar Camp
Packrafts on the Selway
Wa Roots Rapid
Double Drop, bottom drop
Double Drop, top drop
Tony Point Pack Bridge
Green Eggs (aka False Ham)
Bear Creek Confluence
Selway Lodge Packbridge
Goat Creek Rapid
Running Creek Pack Bridge
Paradise Put-in boat slide
Selway River moment
Forest fires above the Selway
Tee Kim Falls (aka Jims Creek)
Bottom Hole at Wolf Creek
Tango Creek Rapid
Miranda Jane Rapid
Puzzle Creek Rapid
Moose Creek Pack Bridge
Selway Lodge Pack Bridge
Ping Pong Alley
little niagra, about 7.5'
Somewhere in ladel, about 7.5'
Camping on the Selway
Put-in on the Selway
Selway River in August
Rafting Selway at Low Flow
Shearer Airstrip Selway
ELF Flows on Selway
Unloading gear at Shearer airstrip
Rock Island Rapid
The Low Water Diet
Selway at Base Flow
Double Drop Rapid at Base Flow
Morning on the Selway
Selway above Moose Creek
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
We are saddened to report the passing of Oz Hawksley last month at the age of 97. One of American Whitewater’s original co-founders and co-chair of our organization’s first Conservation Committee, Oz was a lifetime advocate for wild rivers who understood the power of bringing together outdoor enthusiasts for effective advocacy. He developed his passion for rivers through the experiences he enjoyed and was at the forefront of early exploration and conservation of the Clearwater, Flathead, Main Salmon, Middle Fork Salmon, Yampa, and Green along with many rivers in the Ozarks. Oz was a leader in the establishment of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system in 1968.
The US Forest Service is replacing the Indian Creek Bridge, which will result in a closure of the road to the normal Selway River put-in (the Paradise Boat Launch) from August 8-19th. Paddlers wanting to run the Selway during the road closure period may put in upstream of the Indian Creek Bridge, however there are no designated or developed launch sites in this area.
If you want to obtain a permit to float the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon Rivers in 2010, you need to know about changes coming in the Forest Service permit lottery and launch reservation system. The Four Rivers Lottery is going “green”, incorporating an entirely online system as part of our desire to go paperless.
<?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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