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Cayuse Creek: Cayuse Landing Field to FR255


Cayuse Creek Gorge.

Run Description

At Cayuse Landing Field the creek is flat and wide open, but a short distance downstream it drops into a deep, confined gorge with bedrock inner walls. The gorge contains several class III rapids and sections of boils and swirling eddies that give the creek a pushy feel for its size. About a mile above the confluence with Kelly Creek, the gorge starts to slowly open up and the gradient backs off. The paddle out on Kelly Creek is mostly class II swiftwater, through a wide canyon bottom.

There is a trail on the river left side of Cayuse Creek, and on the river right side of Kelly Creek. Its not possible to hike all the way down Cayuse and out Kelly with out swimming. While the whitewater on Cayuse Creek is not terribly difficult, a couple of the rapids are long and busy. Given the extremely remote setting and the continuous nature of the run, it is not suitable for beginners or shaky intermedieates. The easiest put in is on the river left bank just above the bridge. It requires a short bushwack through a swampy meadow. The easiest take out is on river right at the bottom of the small island at the confluence of Moose Creek and Kelly Creek. It is easy to float past it if you aren't careful.


The take out is located where Forest Service road 255 crosses Kelly Creek. To get to the put in, continue straight across the Kelly Creek bridge and up road 581 for 8 miles to Cayuse Landing Field. There are some spectacular views of the Kelly Creek Gorge as you head up 581. Road 581 usually opens towards the end of June or beginning of July.

From the North, best access is over Hoodoo Pass from Superior, Montana on road 250, which comes out on the North Fork of the Clearwater. Once you hit the Clearwater, continue down 250 to road 255. Take 255 over Deception Saddle and down to Kelly Creek. From the South Best access is from Pierce, Idaho. Hoodoo Pass (250) and Deception Saddle (255) usually open around the first week of July depending on snowpack. In 2014 there were still people riding snowmobiles around Hoodoo pass the last week of June.

There is undeveloped camping on both side of the river at the take out, though it can be hot, dusty and crowded at certain times of the year as Kelly creek is a very popular fishing destination. There is limited camping next to the river at Cayuse Landing Field. Don't drive around on the landing field, use the primitive road that parallels it next to the creek. There is private land on the upstream end of the landing field, please respect private property and privacy of the owners. As with any camping in North Idaho, it is considered poor etiquette to camp too closely to another group. Leave plenty of elbow room between you and your neighbors.

Flow Information:

In 2014 I ran Cayuse Creek on July 5, with around 5,500 CFS on the North Fork Clearwater at Canyon Ranger Station gage. Both Cayuse Creek and Kelly Creek had plenty of water. I estimate by eyeball that Cayuse was running 500 to 600 CFS. Later in the summer Cayuse Creek flows reduce to a mere trickle. The season is probably over by the 3rd week of July, varying with snow pack.

Stream Stats:

Ave Gradient: 50 fpm
Distance: 8+
Difficulty: III+
Consequences: IV
Min Level: 4,000
Season: Jun - Jul

Planning Tools:

NOAA Snowtel Gauge - Hoodoo Basin USGS Gauge - North Fork Clearwater at Canyon Ranger Station Black Canyon: North Idaho Rivers and Creeks Kelly Creek: North Idaho Rivers and Creeks

Key Places:


Cayuse Creek

in a larger map.

Copyright Todd Hoffman 2009 - All Rights Reserved