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Old 01-26-2010   #1
pbowman's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 245
Need input: Idaho in early July?

I am planning a trip to Idaho this summer with the main focus being boating on the Lochsa and Payette drainages. Our plan is to spend about 3-4 days on the Payette's (Canyon, Swirly Canyon, Staircase, and Main), do a one-night overnight on Cabarton on the way north, and then 3-4 days on the Lochsa. We wanted to do several day trips instead of applying for the permitted runs, and these were our two favorite non-permit rivers with primarily CL III and IV. We will have both rafts and kayaks for the trip.

My main question is about picking our dates for the trip, as we have some flexibility. In most "average" years do both the Lochsa (our main priority) and SF/NF Payette run in early July? It seems the Lochsa typically peaks around Memorial Day or early June, so I am a little concerned that it may be dropping too low by July. We do not want to hit the peak, but last time we were there in 2007 (a low snowpack year) it was very low in late June and we hope to minimize our risk of the same this year. Would a mid-to-late June date be better to have a higer probability of decent "medium" flow on both drainages? Thanks in advance.

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Old 01-27-2010   #2
jmcdannel's Avatar
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 159
The way things are going, the Lochsa will be pretty low by July. I used to go Father's Day every year and the lowest I've run is 1.5ft at the lowell bridge (not the USGS gauge). It was actually pretty fun at that flow and the waves were still decent and fun. It wasn't horribly technical. Horsetail Falls is probably the tightest spot. Anyway, the earlier you come in June, the better off you'll be. I'm not a prediction expert, but snowpack has been weak in most parts of the state, although we've had a lot of precip this week. I don't think we'll see 9' on the lochsa again this year, so it may peak at "medium" flows.

The payettes should be good in June or July. I haven't run the canyon above 2k, so I'm not sure how big it gets above that - and it may be above that in June. Staircase, Main, Swirly, and Cabarton will all be great though.


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Old 01-27-2010   #3
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
I'm banking that we get dumped on in February, let the snow gods bless us!

Like Josh says, earlier the better for the Lochsa. Late June/early July is a crapshoot, depending on snowpack and how fast it runs off. I've run it in mid July, and it was great, but you never know, I think that was relatively rare. I'd recommend you come up to the Lochsa first to make sure it doesn't run away from you while you are on the Payettes. Shoot for mid June at the latest and you should be safe. It can still be high then, two years ago it was still around 6' the last weekend in June. Or wait a month and a half to really start planning, the snowpack should be better known by mid/late March.

You can also decide the order of which river you go to first based on what the rivers are doing right before you go.

If you want a multi day, the Lower Salmon is self-issue permit so you can go whenever you want. That would be a sweet end to the trip! It's recommended to wait until the flow drops as slide rapid gets "unrunnable" at higher flows. Some say 15K is the top, others say 22K, it all depends on you and what you like. Many people use a rule of thumb of after the 4th of July or one or two weeks later. Again, totally dependant on flow. Gotta love these free flowing rivers!

If it is low, as Josh says, watch horsetail. It's not that bad, you just need to know the line. Since you can scout almost everything from the road, that helps.

Time to go skiing and pay homage to the gods of white fluffy stuff!
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 01-29-2010   #4
pbowman's Avatar
Moab, Utah
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 245
potential dates have been narrowed a little. early option is 6/9 to 6/20, and the late option is 6/23 to 7/5 to take advantage of the holiday for driving home.

is there a run description on eddy flower for the self-permitted section of the lower salmon? the cabarton overnight would be really short (allowing for some fishing) and we could do that as a day trip instead, but if we could find a non/self-permit 2-3 day trip in the CL III+ range that would be ideal. on our visit in 2007 we were flying completely blind and had no idea of where to go - we literally stumbled into the few runs we did because they were road side. now that i am planning this summer's trip i realize we will need several summer vacations to scratch my idaho itch. i didn't even plan to bring the full fishing frame this year.

i will plan to watch snow pack, and make the vacation requests in april or may to make the best decision. thanks for the info, any additional advice is appreciated.
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Old 02-01-2010   #5
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
Here's the BLM website for the trip, this link is directly to the on-line guidebook, and you can order a waterproof version.

Boater Guide - Hammer Creek to Heller Bar

It's a good website, pretty cool they have the map on-line for viewing. It's a really fun stretch of river, fun when you're looking for mellower water, but not flat (except the last 20 miles and they aren't bad either). Lots of wave trains and riffles, along with a few kick-in-the-pants fun rapids. Big sandy beaches. We launched on a weekday and took out on a weekday, figured we'd try to miss the crush of people scheduling it on a calendar week of vacation. That worked well, we saw few people and the ones we did see were great. We hooked up with a family to run Snowhole, which was good since the hubby walked the dogs around and that ended up sketchy. Avoid holiday weekends. It has the reputation of being a booze cruise section of river, since it's self-issue permit and more mellow. Hence the advice to launch mid-week.

There's quite a few companies that run shuttle and it's not too expensive ($120 or so a year ago).

Happy to answer questions anytime, and the Idaho Yahoo group has tons of other people that have run it a lot more than I.
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 02-02-2010   #6
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
The upper stretches of the Salmon up by Stanley (Sunbeam dam area) and down below the town of Salmon down to Corn Creek are also fun runs with mostly class II/III. Not really any beaches like the lower Salmon, but next to no traffic on the river, all stretches are road side, and can be done as day or multi-day runs.

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