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Lochsa: Fish Creek to Split Creek


Lochsa Falls - Photo Mike Wooten / Paddler Todd Hoffman.

Flow Information:

There is a gage painted on the downstream, river-right piling of the bridge at Lowell. When you hear people refer to feet readings for the Lochsa this is gage they are refering to. DO NOT confuse this with feet or stage reading from the USGS online gage. The two do not correlate. The Lochsa starts getting big at about 6' on the bridge at Lowell. As flows increase it just keeps getting bigger. Peak flows are around May 31. In big snow years there is high water till the end of June (in 2008 I ran it at 8' the third week of June), but most years levels will have dropped out by the second week of June. Medium level flows, below five feet at Lowell, are still very fun, but its not the classic Lochsa Big Water experience. Extremely low flows runs are possible, although with a completely different character. See the below link to convert cfs readings from the USGS gages to stage readings on the bridge at Lowell.

Run Description:

The Lochsa is an Idaho classic big water run. From Fish Creek to Split Creek is the most commonly run section. The upper section is a notch higher in difficulty, especially at high flows. Most of the rapids are straight forward, but its a good idea to scout before hand to familiarize yourself with the lines.

Mile 120.0: Fish Creek Put in
Mile 119.1: Killer Fang Falls
Mile 118.1: Otter Slide
Mile 117.7: Morning Glory
Mile 117.7: House Wave
Mile 116.6: Bloody Mary
Mile 116.0: Grim Reaper
Mile 115.4: Shoestring
Mile 115.1: Jones Wave
Mile 114.8: Horsetail
Mile 114.3: Prelude
Mile 114.1: Lochsa Falls
Mile 113.6: Pipeline
Mile 113.2: Old Man
Mile 112.8: Termination
Mile 111.4: Split Creek


There is undeveloped camping along the upper Lochsa, but things get busy on peak weekends, especially over Memorial Day, which corresponds to peak flows. For developed camping, Wilderness Gateway, located just upstream from the Fish Creek put in, is the most popular spot with boaters. Advanced reservations are advised for peak weekends. Just across the bridge from Wilderness Gateway, is the "Wildernes Ghetto", which serves as a sort of overflow spot. It is particularly popular with boaters who find the rules at Wilderness Gateway too confining. Below the Split Creek take out is Apgar Campground, which is very nice, but less convenient for river runners.

Rustic cabins are available for rent 15 miles below the Split Creek take out at the "town" of Lowell at the Three Rivers Resort. At Lowell there is a small store (convenience items only), gas (bring your wallet), a couple of restaurants and a bar. The Wilderness Cafe serves a good hot breakfast, which hits the spot on cold Lochsa mornings. Commercial rafting trips operate out of Three Rivers so thingscan fill up quickly there during peak season and advanced reservations are highly recommended.

For luxury accomodations, head seven miles further down river to the River Dance Lodge. River Dance has beautiful hand crafted log cabins with private hot tubs. There is also an excellent upscale restaurant here, the Syringa Cafe. ROW adventures operates rafting trips from River Dance, so things can also fill up at peak times. Advanced reservations are highly recommended.

Lochsa Madness:

Stream Stats:

Ave Gradient: 50 fpm
Max Gradient: 70 fpm
Distance: variable
Difficulty: IV
Consequences: IV
Season: Mar - Jul

Planning Tools:

NOAA Snowtel Data - Lolo Pass NOAA River Flow Forcast - Lochsa Near Lowell USGS Gage - Lochsa Near Lowell USGS CFS to Stage Conversion on Lowell Bridge White Sand Creek (Colt Killed Creek) Wilderness Gateway campground - US Forest Service

Key Places:



in a larger map.

Essential Reading:

Ambrose, Stephen.

Undaunted Courage:

Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Devoto, Bernard.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

Mariner Books, 1997.

Egan, Timothy.

The Big Burn:

Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America. Haughton Milflin Harcourt, 2009.

Hamilton, Ladd.

Snow Bound.

Washington State University Press, 1997

Josephy, Alvin M.

The Nez Perce Indians

and the Opening of the Northwest. Mariner Books, 1997.

Moore, Bud.

The Lochsa Story:

Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains. Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1996.

Copyright Todd Hoffman 2009 - All Rights Reserved