Difficulty IV
Length 47 Miles
Flow Range 700 - 35000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 48 minutes ago 627 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 08/12/2020 11:52 pm

River Description

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:

Rapid Descriptions

Put In at Paradise

Class - N/A Mile - 0

Creeks joining just above the put in at Paradise

Goat Creek Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 11.5

A boulder garden rapid formed by some large boulders.


Class - IV Mile - 23.6

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.

Moose Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 26.6

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.

Double Drop

Class - IV Mile - 27.9

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.

Wa-Roots (aka Grizzly Saddle) Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 28.1

A S Turn rapid as the river bends to the right and then back to the left with rocks on the outside corners.


Class - IV+ Mile - 28.3

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.

Little Niagara

Class - IV Mile - 28.6

This drop is typically run down the right close to the cliff face.

Wolf Creek Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 38

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.

Jims Creek Rapid (aka Tee Kem Falls)

Class - IV Mile - 40.7

The debris fan from Jims Creek pushes the river up against the right bank. Follow the tongue down river right.

Selway Falls

Class - VI Mile - 48.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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.


default user thumbnail
Earl Wutt
5 years ago

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. Paradise Earl

Gage Descriptions

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 Link opens in a Pdf Document

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  
2004-06-05 High Fatality High Water Read More
1996-06-30 High Near Miss/Rescue High Water Read More
1988-05-28 High Fatality Inadequate Equipment Read More



article main photo

Remembering Oz Hawksley, Co-Founder of American Whitewater

Thomas O'Keefe

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.

article main photo

Selway Bridge Replacement a Post-Permit Season Hurdle (ID)

Kevin Colburn

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.

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New Online Reservations Coming for Four Idaho Rivers

Kevin Colburn

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.

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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


Craig Irwin


Matt Muir


Paul Martzen


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1202978 01/03/14 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1204356 03/19/15 Craig Irwin 2015
1206709 07/09/16 Thomas O'Keefe edits
1207038 12/05/16 Thomas O'Keefe permit updated
1209062 03/15/18 Craig Irwin 20180315
1210527 11/15/18 Thomas O'Keefe river permit link updated
1215722 08/12/20 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1215728 08/12/20 Thomas O'Keefe updated description
1198893 12/01/10 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1190417 05/18/08 n/a n/a
1198894 12/01/10 Thomas O'Keefe Added CFS gage
1204608 05/02/15 Craig Irwin rapids mapped
1203750 10/20/14 Paul Martzen added link to Paradise gauge