The Yaak can be run from early April into early July, with peak flows around May 31. Optimum flows are between 4 and 6 feet. Absolute minimum runnable flow (ELF) is around 3 feet. At flows above 6 feet the river increases to class V in difficulty, and portaging Stone Chest rapid can become difficult.
Below Yaak Falls the river drops into a vertically walled gorge that consists of a series of
sharp, 90 degree turns, where the river piles straight on into headwalls. There are at least
half a dozen or so head alls, each progressively building in difficulty. Most of the turns can be
snuck on the inside, but all of them are difficult to boat scout and effectively impossible
to scout from the bank. Where the canyon straightens out and opens up, and a powerline is visible
high on the river right canyon wall is Weir rapid. Weir is a river wide shoal / ledge (see photo).
At high flows it can be snuck on the river left. At low flows the river right line is a fairly easy move.
Immediately below Weir is Stone Chest, a long class V/VI. It can be run at low flows, but most people choose to portage or partially portage the top drop. Scout and portage on river right, over a long section of sharp, slipery bedrock. Immediately below Stone Chest is a long series of class III+ ledges that run together quickly. From here there are a few more rapids, then the canyon opens up into a long flat section. There is primitive road access in this flat, just past the island on river left.
At the end of the flat, the gorge constricts again and the rapids pick back up. Just above the take out is one of the best rapids on the run, a long series called "Good to the Last Drop". It consists of three distinct drops, with a false drop at the begining. There are a few horizon lines, and if you're not familiar with the run its best to get out and take a look. This is not a nice place to swim as there are a few undercuts and sieves. Practice good group safety. Below Good to the Last Drop is short flatwater paddle to the take out.
The take out is where Hiway 2 crosses the Yaak River, East of the town of Moyie Springs, Idaho
just across the Idaho / Montana border. There is a large parking area on river right on the North
side of the bridge. Note the USGS gage and cable car here. There is an excellent developed US Forest Service campground on the
South side of Hiway 2 at the confluence of the Yaak and the Kootenai.
To get to the put in, go West on Hiway 2 several miles to Yaak River Road (County Hiway 508 / NF 508). Proceed North to Yaak Falls. There is a Forest Service campground and parking below the Falls. From the parking area, there is a short trail down to the put in at a nice beach.
Just across the Idaho border is the Moyie River (Class III+ / -IV). Other high quality, nearby runs include Callahan Creek (Class V) near Troy, MT and Kootenai Falls (Class V) near Libby, MT. Kootenai Creek (Class V) is also in the area - see Montana Surf for more details.
Copyright Todd Hoffman 2009 - All Rights Reserved