Difficulty IV-V+
Length 6 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 07/13/2020 9:39 pm

River Description

Smith Creek is the Idaho Panhandle must-do for dedicated and adventurous Class V paddlers.  It flows from high in the Selkirk Mountains - a wild range home to Mountain Caribou, Canadian Lynx, and grizzly bears - and is among the best creeks, if not the best creek in Idaho.  It is a hard creek to time, due to a hydro project at the put-in, which unpredictably takes between 0-380 cfs.  Smith Creek hydro can and does alter the flow drastically in a short period of time due to the price of hydro-power relative to the price and availability of wind power in Oregon and Washington. In additions, the bedrock nature of the drainage leads to large fluctuations on a diurnal cycle, and drastic spiking after rain events. 

Flows can be ascertained by calling the Smith Creek diversion at (208) 267-2744, they can let you know what the projections are as well as the current flow.  200-300 cfs below the diversion is medium, 100 is minimal but can be done.  A couple hundred feet below the diversion on river left is a staff gage.  6.4' is too low for lower Smith, 8.1' was too high.  6.4' correlated to 75-80 cfs being let into the creek below the diversion.  

Because of the classic photo of Doug Ammons on an aesthetic 10-foot slide in the Idaho guidebook, most people think the creek consists of big slides. Smith Creek changes character a few times in its 5 mile, 1700 foot plunge to the Kootenai River.  The only thing that is consistent is that it is steep, and remarkably pool-drop in nature.  There is no flat water, and very little whitewater easier than Class IV.  If you put on Smith Creek, be prepared for a long day with lots of scouting, long rapids, reading-and-running Class IV/V-, and some portaging.  Every rapid has been run, but some of the big drops are more palatable at lower flows, when some of the boulder gardens might feel like a bar-fight. 

The whitewater starts directly below the put-in at Smith Creek Hydro.  The first couple miles are constricted, long rapids with all types of moves.  There are some boulder gardens, some sliding, some constrictions, and some small gorges.  This section has one rapid described as an “unrunnable 20-foot falls”, also known as “the portage”.  The guide-book says to look for an avalanche path coming in from river right.  This is a bit out-dated, as it is now grown in and has mature trees in the path.  This huge, long series of drops gets noticeably steeper than what you have been running, drops into a gorge, and goes around a fairly sharp right bend.  There are two old, rusty, dented culverts on the river left bank, about where you want to get out to look, or start walking.  There is sort of a moose path on the left, but be ready for some “boat-schwacking.”  All sections of the portage has been run at low flows.      

After the portage, there is a gorge, which has long steep rapids and blind corners.  Scouting isn’t too easy, although it isn’t too hard either, and there are eddies at reasonable water levels.  The river starts to open up a bit more, and the character shifts to be more open boulder garden style rapids.  Each time you think it should let up, it gets steeper.  This section seems to be more likely to have wood, but it also seems to clean itself out well.  The fun, (possible to read and run) boulder garden seems to go on forever, and then lets up slightly- maybe some Class III-IV before changing character drastically. 

The last half-mile is a series of falls, starting with Upper Falls.  Upper Falls is a complex drop into a tight canyon.  Portaging on the left might force you to seal launch into the canyon, whereas the right looks better.  After Upper Falls are a series of other falls and drops, culminating with Smith Falls, which is just barely visible from the take-out bridge.  Smith Falls is an impressive 40-footer into a caldron, with another 10-footer below it.  It has been run at lower flows.  The entire falls section is walkable on the right, which is preferable to walking on the left.


Aborted trip report from a low water run.

Rapid Descriptions


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11 years ago

There's a pretty good video online at http://revver.com/video/616220/extreme-nationcom-episode-3-whitewater-kayaking-lower-smith-creek-idaho/ now go get some...

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

Flow Range:

150-500 cfs

Keep in mind that Smith Creek Hydro takes water out of the creek at the put-in and puts it back into the creek above the take-out bridge.  So, it is good to check with Smith Creek Hydro (8-5 pm weekdays at the take-out, or up at the put-in) to see how much water they are drawing out, and how much remains in the creek.  The Boundary Creek gage will give a good estimate of flows in Smith Creek, however a correlation is thusfar unavailable.

Directions Description

Put-In/Take Out:

From Bonner’s Ferry, Head North on Rt. 95. Turn Left on Rt. 1. Turn Left on Copeland Hill Rd.  You will cross the Kootenai River. Turn right on West Side Road, head north.  You will get to Smith Creek bridge.  This is the take-out.


From the take-out, head north on West Side Road.  In about a mile, West Side Road swithches back to the left- at a fork with Boundary Creek Road to the right.  Once you switch back to the left, you are on Smith Creek Road.  Head up Smith Creek road until you get to the Smith Creek Hydro and Dam on your left.  This is the put-in.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

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.

article main photo

Can You Taste Victory?

American Whitewater

FERC revokes Preliminary Permit for
hydropower project on Boundary Creek in
Northern Idaho.

Jacob Cruser


Matt Muir


Thomas O'Keefe


Kevin Colburn


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1207719 06/12/17 Jacob Cruser
1190421 04/13/01 n/a n/a
1201477 07/12/12 Thomas O'Keefe photo added
1201606 10/03/12 Kevin Colburn New Reach Description - Frank Preston
1206491 05/24/16 Jacob Cruser mapped access points
1214503 03/12/20 Jacob Cruser updated image position
1215537 07/13/20 Jacob Cruser updated description
1215536 07/13/20 Jacob Cruser updated image position
1215538 07/13/20 Jacob Cruser updated description
1201607 10/03/12 Kevin Colburn directions
1201505 07/25/12 Kevin Colburn draft reach description as a place holder
1201506 07/25/12 Kevin Colburn