The Selway is one of the premier wilderness multi-day trips in the West. Boaters typically spend three days floating the 47 miles through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. The Selway has the best of everything: fun, technically challenging class IV whitewater, spectacular Idaho wilderness scenery, beautiful campsites, and best of all, almost no people.

Floating through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness makes for spectacular scenery.

Floating through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness makes for spectacular scenery. Photo by Lucas Rietmann

Selway permits are hard to come by, being rarest permit on the 4 Rivers Lottery. Only one trip with a maximum of sixteen people is allowed to launch per day. The Selway provides a phenomenal feeling of isolation and solitude in the Idaho wilderness.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Paradise Boating Area put-in.

Mile 4.2-5.6: A fun collection of mostly class III rapids starts your trip off with a bang, including Slalom Slide (III), Galloping Gertie (III+), Washer Woman (III+), Cougar Bluff (III) and Holy Smokes (II+/III-).

Mile 7.0: Running Creek comes in from river left.

Mile 11.6: Goat Creek Rapid (III/IV) is a jumble of large boulders requiring some tight maneuvering in large rafts.

Mile 16.1: Bear Creek enters from river right. Just below the mouth of the creek is a sandy beach that makes for nice camping at low water.

Mile 18.0: Black Sands camp on river left is a large sandy beach campsite. The landing in the small eddy partway through the riffle can be tricky, so be sure you know where you're going.

Mile 23.8: Ham Rapid (IV-) can be scouted from the right or left. The rapid consists of two major drops between boulders. Don't be lulled by False Ham (III-) just before.

Mile 26.8: Moose Creek joins the river from the right, often doubling the flow in the Selway. Several campsites in the area offer trails to the Moose Creek Ranger Station, the Shissler Peak Fire Lookout, and up Moose Creek. It's worth spending some time in this area exploring!

At camp along the Selway.

At camp along the Selway. Photo by Lucas Riedmann.

Mile 27.5: Double Drop Rapid (III+/IV) is the first of a long series of continuous class III and IV rapids.

Mile 28.5: Ladle Rapid (IV+) is the most difficult on the section. This rapid has many lines that depend heavily on the size of boat you're in and what the flow of the river is. Scout from river right along the Idaho Centennial Trail to get a good look before running.

Ladle rapid at low water presents a challenge for full-sized gear boats.

Ladle rapid at low water presents a challenge for full-sized gear boats. Photo by Orea Roussis.

Mile 28.8-31.5: Another series of fairly continuous Class II,III,and IV rapids, including Little Niagra (IV-), Puzzle Creek (III), No Slouch (III), Miranda Jane (III), and Osprey (III). Be on your toes and ready to paddle or row hard! The river calms down after Osprey.

Mile 33.2: A large beach on river left just below Tango Creek offers a lovely campsite.

Mile 35.1: A bridge crosses the river just upstream of Mink Creek and Three Links Creek, which enter the river at the same point from the left and right.

Mile 38.0: Lower Pinochet, a large beach on river right offers a large sandy campsite.

Mile 38.3: Wolf Creek Rapid (IV) is a tricky spot where the river narrows and is filled with boulders. Scout from along the trail on river right. At high water a left line exists, but generally you're forced to brave the tricky line down the left side.

An IK runs Wolf Creek.

An IK runs Wolf Creek. Photo by Orea Roussis.

Mile 40.9: Just below Jim's Creek Falls (III+) is a large sandy beach on river left. Make sure you know where you're going, as this awesome camp is easily missed.

Mile 41-47: Several large beach campsite exist on river right and left, setting you up for an early take-out the next day.

Mile 47.9: The takeout above Selway Falls on the right. It's hard to accept that the trip is over, but don't proceed downstream. Selway Falls (V+) is not to be trifled with.

Written by
Nick Wright

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