Lochsa River Overview

Rafting: Lochsa River, Idaho
Outside magazine's take on the Lochsa? 'Unlike other big western whitewater, which runs pool-and-drop, most of the Lochsa simply drops, with little respite between rapids.' (courtesy, ROW Adventures)
Lochsa River at a Glance
Price: $
River Rapid Class: III-IV+
Trip in Miles: 14 to 60
Trip Duration: 1 to 3 Days
Season: May-August
Raft Types: Paddle Raft, Oar Raft
River Sections: Lolo Pass to Lowell
Nearby Towns: Grangeville, ID
Gateway City: Grangeville, ID
Driving Times: Missoula, MT: 2.5 hours; Spokane, WA: 4 hours

"The Lochsa is the wild man of the Middle Fork Clearwater Wild and Scenic River system. The Forest Service lists 63 rapids in the run from Crooked Fork Creek to Lowell and more than half are pushing Class IV or V! This stretch covers 57 miles so don't expect much respite between the whitewater. Four sections each make great day trips, or string them together for an extended outing.

The floating season normally extends from May to August. Permits are not required for non-commercial floating. Throughout the floating season, the Lochsa is fed by melting snow in the surrounding mountains. Water temperatures are in the 30s and 40s. Danger of hypothermia is always high. Wet suits are a must for early season floating. Weather in the Lochsa area is often cool, cloudy, and rainy during the whitewater season. Flow gauges have been established on bridges at Lowell (milepost 97) and Eagle Mount Pack Bridge (milepost 135-1/2) to aid you in determining flow rates. Gauges are correlated.

Professional boatmen consider the Lochsa a hazardous river requiring heavy equipment and much technical maneuvering. They cancel trips or alter runs to avoid certain parts of the river when the water level is above six feet on the bridge gauges. Below three feet on the bridge gauges, many rocks begin to appear, and some sections are difficult to float without dragging. If you have light equipment, little experience, or are unsure of your ability to handle your equipment under extremely difficult water conditions, you should not consider floating the Lochsa without competent accompaniment. Commercial outfitter guides are available to conduct float trips on the Lochsa. Food, phone, gas, lodging, and camping are available at lodges near Powell Ranger Station, at Syringa, and at Lowell. National Forest campgrounds are located at a number of places along the river.

The Middle Fork Clearwater River, of which the Lochsa is tributary, is a larger, calmer river. It is better suited for lighter equipment and later season floating than the Lochsa. Several rapids on the Middle Fork can be difficult at certain flows, however, and need to be scouted—especially for open canoes and lighter rafts. Both the Lochsa and Middle Fork Clearwater Rivers parallel U.S. Highway 12, making it possible to scout much of the river from the road."

Published: 27 Apr 2011 | Last Updated: 25 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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