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Lochsa River2022-07-02T09:49:17-07:00

Lochsa River Rafting Guidebook

If you were to argue which river was the best day trip in Idaho, the Lochsa would probably be at the top. Pool drop Class III and IV whitewater that seemingly goes on for miles. Don’t forget the incredible roadside access that makes logistics easy. And finally, it’s also beautiful, wild, and remote. Hard to beat that anywhere else.

About this guide

This guide outlines “Section Three” from Fish Creek to Split Creek. Importantly, we are using our own mileage and not the roadside mileage that tends to be seen elsewhere. However, the roadside mileage has been noted, but is not the primary marker.

River Info

The river begins at the confluence of Colt Kill creek and Crooked Fork. Colt Kill creek gathers its name from the Lewis and Clark expedition, where they killed a horse to eat it during their expedition. The Lochsa ends its journey at its confluence with the Selway, where they become the Clearwater. The Lochsa was one of the original eight rivers to be protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

Safety

It’s easy to get into trouble quickly on the Lochsa, especially so at high water. Pay attention, wear adequate gear (the water is cold) and stay within your skill level.

Permits

Permits are not required.

Lochsa River Madness

Lochsa River Madness is an informal but very real event that occurs annually over Memorial Weekend. It’s a celebration of boaters kicking off the rafting season. The gathering spot is highway mile marker 114, Lochsa Falls. This YouTube search will show you what you’re in for.

While there is an online gauge linked here, the gauge that everyone goes by is the one painted underneath the Lowell bridge. Between 2 – 5 feet and you’re good to go. Less than two is pretty low and above five is starting to get high. So how do you get the flow? You ask around or call the Lohsa Ranger District. Even the USGS recommends you call with this notice posted on their website:

** NOTE TO WHITEWATER RAFTERS: This stage reading is from the USGS gaging station 0.7 miles upstream from Lowell bridge. USGS stage reads between 2-3 feet higher than the stage reading on the staff gage at Lowell bridge, depending on the river stage.

THIS IS NOT THE STAGE READING FOR FLOATING THE LOCHSA RIVER.

For the most current stage reading from Lowell bridge, please call the Lochsa Ranger District at 208-926-4274. **

Since 2004, Zoo Town Surfers has been running high quality Lochsa river rafting trips. In addition to the Lochsa, they offer Alberton Gorge, Black Foot, and Clark Fork rafting trips.

Send a message to Zoo Town Surfers.

Lochsa River Rafting Comprehensive Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment, experience, or skill level. 

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include eddys and streams.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves and swim areas.

Campgrounds

Nearby camping areas.

Section Three – Class II, III & IV

This guide outlines Section Three, which is from Fish Creek Put In to Knife Edge Take Out.

Length

Fish Creek to Split Creek is 9.02 miles.

Difficulty

Moderate to Expert.

Feet per Mile

Split Creek to Fish Creek is 29.6 FPM

Shuttle Time

Fish Creek to Split Creek is 24 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Fish Creek Put in: River Right. Large parking area with bathrooms. Large ramp down to small beach. This is a popular put in and can become crowded during peak months. Road mile 120.

Mile 0.31 – Fish Creek Rapid: Class III. Read and run rapid. Road mile 120.

Mile 0.51 – Sandy Beach Rapid: Class III. Read and run rapid, the wave train can get larger at higher flows. Road mile 119.8.

Mile 1.09 – Tooth Rapid: Class II. Read and run, with the general run being right of center.

Mile 1.20 – Killer Fang Falls: Class IV. This is a Class III rapid with Class IV consequences. Never go left. The right is always open, but watch out for the river right sleeper hole at middle flows. Road mile 119.1

Mile 1.47 – Eel Creek Rapid: Class III. Read and run, right down the middle. Road mile 118.8

Mile 2.24 – Otter Slide: Class III. Enter Otter Slide either center or right. You’ll want to avoid the large rock in the center right. Road mile 118.1

Mile 2.65 – Morning Glory: Class IV. The river makes a hard turn left pushing the water to the outside of the turn. Enter tight on the left, and stay left. After the entrance, work back center or punch the large hole on the bottom left. Road mile 117.7

Mile 2.77 – Big Stew Creek: River Left. Big Stew creek comes in right below Morning Glory.

Mile 3.41 – House Wave: Class III. Also known as House Rock. This is a fun wave train with large waves at high water. Road mile 117.

Mile 3.73 – Bloody Mary: Class IV. Their are large waves and features at all flows. The right of center moving left line is always open, but many prefer to punch the left of center entrance wave. Beware the large, funky ledge at the bottom right of this rapid. Road mile 116.6

Mile 4.30 – Grim Reaper: Class IV. Grim Reaper becomes more technical at lower water, with powerful waves at all flows. The right of center line is always open, but be mindful of laterals. Keep yur eyes peeled for the nasty hole at the bottom left of this rapid. Road mile 116.

Mile 4.73 – Cliffside: Class III. River left is always open in this short rapid. Road mile 115.7

Mile 5.00 – Shoestring: Class IV. There are large holes at low water and waves at high water that punctuate this rapid. The left of center is the usual line, with right of center being viable as well. Road mile 115.4

Mile 5.16 – Cedar Hole: At medium flows there’s a fun surf hole here.

Mile 5.25 – Jones’ Wave: Class III. Large wave train that gets larger as the river volume increases. Running outside or inside the wave train is an easy sneak at low flows, and becomes much trickier at high flows. Be ready for flips with safety in place to prepare for Horsetail rapid just downstream. Road mile 115.1

Mile 5.65 – Horsetail Falls: Class III. At low flows, the line is river left moving right. As the water comes up it changes to a right of center run. The pin rock in the center at low flows becomes a monster hole at high water. Road mile 114.8

Mile 6.05 – Prelude: Class III. Prepare for Lochsa Falls in this short, read and run rapid. Road mile 114.3

Mile 6.21 – Lochsa Falls: Class IV. A large hole on the left turns into a crashing wave as the water rises. The wave that comes off of this is the meat of Lochsa Falls. Be prepared for a flip, as you have a 50/50 chance of making it through this river wide feature. Square up to this v-wave and paddle hard. Road mile 114.1 Learn more about Lochsa Falls.

Mile 6.42 – Picking Up the Pieces: Class III. The current pushes you to the right around some small holes, waves and rocks depending on the flows. Get your swimmers from the falls together quickly to avoid missing the beach on river left after this rapid, marked by a huge cedar on the downstream end of the beach. Road mile 113.9

Mile 6.66 – Clean Up Beach: River Left. As mentioned above, this is the beach on river left to re-group and re-organize if you had swimmers in Lochsa Falls.

Mile 6.76 – Pipeline: A fantastic surf hole at low water, and a fantastic surf wave at high water. Be respectful of the park and players that will always be here. Read and run, but for some extra fun, play in the surf feature at any flow. Road mile 113.6

Mile 7.00 – Old Man: Class III. Straightforward rapid marked by a large rock with a gap at the top of it left of center. Avoid the massive, river right hole by running this rapid down the middle, just to the right of the large rock. Road mile 113.4.

Mile 7.00 – Old Man Creek: River Left. Beautiful creek flowing out of the Selway Wilderness area. You can see a giant logjam just up from the confluence. Road mile 113.4.

Mile 7.53 – Termination: Class IV. This rapid comes to an abrupt end against the cliff wall at the bottom. A large lateral on river right becomes more of a v-wave at high water. Road mile 112.8

Mile 8.72 – Split Creek: Class III. Right of center moving left is the line at all flows, with variations depending on ability. Be prepared to pick up swimmers, as one of the takeouts is right downstream. Once you enter right, drive hard towards the left under the center holes to avoid car crash hole on the bottom river right of the rapid. Road mile 111.7

Mile 8.95 – Bridge: You want to be on the right of center moving under this bridge, being ready to catch the take-out eddy if you plan on taking out at Split Creek Take-Out. Road mile 111.4

Mile 8.97 – Split Creek Take-Out: River Right. Small take-out with a small parking lot across the highway. Great for kayaks but tough for raft groups with no direct trailer access. Rafts opt to go further downstream to Knife Edge. Road mile 111.4

Mile 9.37 – Rock Lobster: Class III. The right of center is always open, starting left and moving center past the huge wrap rock is also viable for a sportier line.

Mile 10.63 – Coolwater Creek: Class II. A minor rapid with fun waves at high water.

Mile 11.75 – Knife Edge Campground: River Right.

Mile 11.75 – Knife Edge Take-Out: River Right. The last chance to take out until Lowell. This is a natural ramp with close trailer access, bathrooms, and changing area.

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