Selway, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||28 fpm|
|SELWAY RIVER NR LOWELL ID|
|usgs-13336500||700 - 35000 cfs||IV||00h32m||579 cfs (too low)|
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.
Other Information Sources:
All boaters must have a permit. There is one launch per day during the controlled season - May 15 through July 31 - and these are assigned through the Four Rivers Lottery and Permit System. Application due January 31.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Put In at Paradise||N/A|
|11.5||Goat Creek Rapid||IV|
|28.1||Wa-Roots (aka Grizzly Saddle) Rapid||IV|
|38.0||Wolf Creek Rapid||IV|
|40.7||Jims Creek Rapid (aka Tee Kem Falls)||IV|
Creeks joining just above the put in at Paradise
A boulder garden rapid formed by some large boulders.
Big boulders and a constricted channel require some precise manuvering. Don't dump your boat and loose your dinner dam! 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.
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.