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Idaho, USA

Lochsa River Rafting Guidebook

Perhaps the best day trip in Idaho, the Lochsa provides endless fun. 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.

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. Learn more about Zoo Town Surfers here.

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.


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 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.

Rafting the Lochsa? Our Lochsa guide has you covered: 52 waypoints | Live, offline location | Community comments | 13 photos

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Section Three – Class II, III & IV

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

Mile 0 – Nine Mile Put in

River Right. A small put-in with limited parking and a bathroom.

Mile 1.1 – County Corner Put-in

River Right. Large parking area with a bathroom. This put-in is commonly used by outfitters and can be crowded, so please be courteous. The steep ramp leads to a small rocky put-in. A wet welcome to the Lochsa awaits!

Mile 1.1 – County Corner Rapid

Class III-. Be prepared when you shove off as County Corner Rapid lies directly below the put in. A large hole in the center is usually avoided on the right. Big eddy at the bottom to regroup after a fast launch.

Mile 1.9 – Hard Creek Confluence

River Left. Hard Creek enters on the left-hand side, followed immediately by Hard Creek Rapid

Mile 1.9 – Hard Creek Rapid

Class III- Enter tight on the left and ride the waves.

Mile 2.2 – Dead Mule Campground

River Right. A small campground with no toilets or water. Can be used as a launch area.

Mile 3.1 – Log Jam Rapid

Class IV. A fun wavetrain. Enter tight on the left side and enjoy the ride. Working toward the center will give you a good entrance into the lower wavetrain. There is a large logjam on the river right around the corner that should be avoided at all costs. At high flows the river is swept around an island below the rapid creating a dangerous but easily avoided hazard. Stay left. Road Mile 126.7

Mile 3.5 – The Log Jam

River Left. Large logjam that should be avoided. Stay in the main channel on the left, and you should be fine.

Mile 4.3 – Pass Creek Rapid:

Class III. Pass Creek Rapid is a read-and-run wavetrain.

Mile 4.3 – Pass Creek Confluence

River Left. Pass Creek joins the Lochsa River from the left-hand side.

Mile 4.8 – 125 Rapid

Class II. 125 Rapid is a read and run rapid.

Mile 5.1 – Christmas/Landslide Rapid

Class III+. A large landslide swept across the road and river creating this shallow rocky rapid. Enter right of center, then work right to avoid the large waves that can cause a shallow swim. Read and run the remainder down the right side.

Mile 5.7 – Ten Pin Alley

Class IV. Scout Right. Should be scouted if unsure of the run. This is a large rock garden around a tight right-hand turn. Don’t get swept wide in the opening wavetrain. Enter right of center and work towards the right bank “gutter” between the large rock and shore. As the water drops be aware of the rocks that prevent a smooth sneak down the right bank.

Mile 7.3 – Wilderness Gateway Bridge

The Wilderness Gateway Bridge passes overhead. Downstream lies a Class II boulder garden. Wilderness Gateway is an incredible campground.

Mile 7.3 – Wilderness Gateway Rapid

Class II. Wilderness Gateway is a Class II read-and-run rock garden. The right side is the easiest way to go.

Mile 7.3 – Wilderness Gateway Camp

River Left. Wilderness Gateway is a fantastic campground to set up base camp for your whitewater voyage. Reservations must be made in advance, and it often books out months in advance.

Mile 7.8 – Wilderness Ghetto Camp

River Right. A popular campsite with a vault toilet. This is more of a dispersed campsite and lies just across from Wilderness Gateway. There is no fee to stay here, and you will certainly run into some whitewater enthusiasts here, especially on busy weekends.

Mile 7.9 – Boulder Creek Confluence

River Left. Boulder Creek enters the Lochsa River from the left-hand side.

Mile 7.9 – Boulder Creek Rapid

Class III. Stay right but avoid the rocks as the river smashes into the bank. The river mellows with a few fun wavetrains, enjoy the beauty of the Historic Lochsa area before the confluence with Fish Creek where the river picks back up.

Mile 9.8 – 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.

Mile 9.9 – Fish Creek Confluence

River Right. Fish Creek joins the Lochsa River from the right.

Mile 10.1 – Fish Creek Rapid:

Class III. Fish Creek Rapid is a read-and-run rapid.

Mile 10.3 – Sandy Beach Rapid:

Class III. Read and run rapid, wave train gets larger at higher flows. A small creek enters on river right at the foot of this rapid.

Mile 10.9 – Tooth Rapid:

Class III. Read and run, most boaters run right of center

Mile 11 – Killer Fang Falls:

Class III. Killer Fang Falls is a Class II rapid with Class IV consequences. Never go left. Right is always open, but watch out for the river right sleeper hole at medium flows.

Mile 11.3 – Eel Creek Rapid:

Class II. Eel Creek Rapid is read and run, most often run down the middle.

Mile 12 – Otter Slide:

Class III. Otter Slide Rapid is typically entered center or right. There is a large rock to avoid center right.

Mile 12.5 – Morning Glory:

Class III. Enter Morning Glory Rapid tight on the left. Be aware of a large hole at the bottom left. Work back center or punch this hole, which is known by some as the “Glory Hole”.

Mile 12.6 – Big Stew Creek:

River Left. Big Stew Creek enters the Lochsa on the left-hand side

Mile 13.2 – House Wave:

Class III+. Fun wavetrain with large waves at high water. .Be advised of a large hole on the right-hand side below the entrance.

Mile 13.5 – Bloody Mary:

Class IV. Large waves and features at all flows. Right of center moving left is always open, but many prefer to punch the left of center entrance wave. Beware the large, funky wave/hole at the bottom right of this rapid.

Mile 14.1 – Grim Reaper:

Class IV. Becomes more technical at lower water, with powerful waves at all flows. Enter right of center, but be mindful of laterals. Watch for the nasty hole at the bottom left of this rapid.

Mile 14.5 – Cliffside:

Class II. Cliffside Rapid is a narrow constriction, offering easy passage on the left.

Mile 14.8 – Shoestring Falls

Class III. Large holes at low water and waves at high water punctuate this rapid. Left of center is the usual line, with right of center being viable as well. Watch out for a pourover/hole below this rapid on the left.

Mile 15 – Cedar Hole:

Cedar Hole becomes a fun surf wave at medium flows. At low flows, it can get sticky, and should be passed on the left.

Mile 15.1 – Jones’ Wave/Rapid

Class IV. Large wave train that gets larger as 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 Falls Rapid just downstream.

Mile 15.5 – Horsetail Falls:

Class III-IV. At low water, enter in the left channel. Be ready to work right just below the entrance. Pass just left of a big boulder pile in the center of the river. Just downstream lie several boulders, making for some fun, technical boating. Keep At high water, enter right of center. The pin rock in the center at low flows becomes a monster hole at high water.

Mile 15.9 – Prelude:

Class III. Prepare for Lochsa Falls in this short, read and run rapid.

Mile 16.2 – Pickin’ 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.

Mile 16.5 – Clean Up Beach:

River Left. There is a beach on the left-hand side well below Lochsa Falls which is used for cleanup, if you need it. Which you probably do.

Mile 16.6 – Pipeline:

Class III. 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.

Mile 16.8 – Old Man:

Class III+. Straightforward rapid marked by a large rock with a gap at the top left of center. Avoid the massive, river right Hospital Hole by running this rapid down the middle, just to the right of the large rock.

Mile 16.8 – 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.

Mile 17.3 – Termination:

Class IV. Termination 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.

Mile 18.5 – 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.

Mile 18.8 – Split Creek Pack 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

Mile 18.8 – 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

Mile 19.2 – Rock Lobster:

Class III. Right of center is always open. However, starting left and moving center past the huge wrap rock is also viable for a sportier line.

Mile 19.5 – Fire Creek

River Left. Fire Creek enters from the left-hand side. There is a fun, read-and-run wavetrain just below Fire Creek Confluence.

Mile 20.4 – Coolwater Creek:

Class II. Coolwater Creek is a read-and-run Class II rapid.

Mile 21.6 – Knife Edge Campground:

River Right.

Mile 21.6 – Knife Edge Take-Out:

River Right. Knife Edge is the last chance to take out until Lowell. This is a natural ramp with close trailer access, bathrooms and changing area.