Idaho has more than 3,500 miles of runnable whitewater, more than any other state in the lower forty-eight. No wonder some think Idaho should be called the Whitewater State.
Without a doubt, the Salmon is Idaho's most famous river. The so-called River of No Return dashed Lewis and Clark's hopes of finding an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean. In 1805, William Clark wrote "the river...is almost one continuous rapid...the passage with canoes is impossible." Today, the Salmon is popular with rafters, kayakers and jet boats. The Main Salmon is the longest undammed river in the lower forty-eight states and supports healthy populations of bighorn sheep, moose and black bear.
One of the major tributaries of the Salmon, the Middle Fork, was one of the nation's original Wild and Scenic Rivers. The Middle Fork flows entirely through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, the largest designated wilderness in the lower forty-eight. During a week-long trip on the Middle Fork, floaters negotiate more than 80 rapids like Velvet Falls, Powerhouse, Pistol Creek and Tappan Falls.
The Selway River is one of the most pristine rivers in America. The Selway cuts through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, one of the nation's first designated wilderness areas. Each year, fewer than 1,300 people are allowed to float the Selway, one of the nation's original Wild and Scenic Rivers. Not only is the trip rare, it is demanding and includes Class IV rapids like Ladle, Wolf Creek, Little Niagra and Double Drop. The Nez Perce Indians were right when they called this the "Loc-sah", meaning "rough water." The Lochsa is one of Idaho's most challenging rivers. It is also one of the most accessible rivers since U.S. Highway 12 runs along the riverbank. Boaters don't have time to be distracted by cars, however, they're too busy concentrating on surviving rapids like Bloody Mary, Grim Reaper and Lochsa Falls. The Payette is one of Idaho's most popular rivers. Just a few miles from Boise, Idaho, the Payette and its tributaries offer a variety of river experiences -- from simple Class I and II water to demanding Class V+ whitewater. The Snake River is Idaho's largest river. The most popular run goes through Hells Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in the world. At the put-in, below Hells Canyon Dam, the Snake contains more water than the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. Although some of the Snake's biggest rapids were flooded by a series of dams, two big rapids remain. At high water, Wild Sheep and Granite compare to some of the rapids found on the Colorado. Upstream, the Snake's Milner Run is for experts only. The Class V water is a pounding, frothing nightmare that few dare to run.
Idaho Current Streamflow Conditions
River Flow Information
Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association
Independent Outfitters of Idaho
Idaho Public Television's "Idaho: The Whitewater State"