The exhilarating Wild and Scenic Selway River cuts through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 states and offers great whitewater, fly-fishing, camping, and hiking. 

The Selway is one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers designated in 1968.  This section of water is run by both private boaters as well as commercial outfitters, and is regulated by a strict permit system that only allows one group to launch per day.  This leads to a feeling of solitude for your entire trip through some of the most beautiful pristine remote wilderness in the western states.  If embarking on this adventure for the first time as a private boater it is highly recommended to do extensive research to get an idea of the current conditions and potential hazards prior to your trip.  If you aren't comfortable with the sounds of a remote wilderness Class IV river trip it may be a good idea to go with an outfitter to learn the ropes.

The put-in located at Paradise Campground has a great boat slide and stairs to help get your gear from your vehicle to the river.  The campground itself  is a wonderful spot to arrive a day early to allow adequate time to rig your boat, explore, and relax before embarking on the trip.  Once under way the action starts quickly with some exciting class III rapids to get you warmed up for whats to come later in the trip.  A couple notable rapids in the first 27 miles are Goat Creek (IV), Ham (IV), and at lower flows Ping Pong alley which can require some quick maneuvering to avoid getting hung up in the maze of boulders. 

Once past Moose Creek you will begin the most intense adrenaline filled whitewater action of the trip.  The 5 mile piece of water aptly nicknamed "Moose Juice" begins a section of class IV whitewater that has been known to humble even the most experienced of boater.  Moose creek nearly doubles the volume of water in the Selway creating some big hydraulics at certain flows. During spring high water this section becomes one continuous class IV/V rapid after another making a long swim very possible.  It is recommended to scout these rapids prior to running as the conditions can change quickly.  Luckily all of the rapids can be scouted easily from the Selway River Trail which parallels the river during your entire trip.

Moose Juice kicks off with Double Drop Rapid(IV), then Wa-Poots(IV) before the infamous Ladle (IV+) and shorly after that Little Niagra (IV).  There are also many unnamed class III rapids between each of the named rapids that can vary in difficulty depending on the water level.  After Little Niagra there is a little reprieve from the intense action before reaching Wolf Creek Rapid(IV) and Jim's Creek Rapid (IV).  After Jim's Creek there is a short section of relaxing flat water before reaching the take out at Race Creek.  

The Selway offers several nice camp sites to choose from when planning your trip itinerary depending on the water level, length of trip, group size, and what other activities you plan to do on the trip whether it be hiking, fishing, or just relaxing with a beer in your hand.  Some of my favorites were Goat Creek Camp, Tony Point, and Tango Bar.  

If you are a hiker most of the camp sites are right along the Selway Trail so you can explore up and downstream from your camp site on a network of trails accessing some beautiful back country points of interest.  Most notably Tony Point Camp is a great option as you can head up to the Moose Creek air strip and Ranger Station or for the more adventurous a trip up to Shissler Peak Lookout. Keep your eyes appealed for rattlesnakes, deer, elk, bear and other wildlife on the trail(as well as around camp).   

For the fly fisherman the Selway River is paradise.  There is abundant west slope cutthroat that are eager to rise non-stop to dry flies.  The fishing pressure is almost zero due to the remoteness of this section of water and these fish are great fun on a light weight set up.  Many of the tributaries are also great to explore, hike, and fish if the main river is running a little high with spring runoff.  

If relaxing with a beer in your hand sounds like your idea of fun, almost any camp will do but some stand out from others.  Tango Bar has to be near the top of the list with its white sandy beaches, large cedar trees for shade, ample tent sites, and a nice eddy to allow for easy load/unload of all the camping gear from the boat.  There are also some great sandy beached camps located in the last 5-7 miles before the take out that would be great for relaxing and taking a dip to cool off on a hot afternoon.

Don't forget to check out the regulations while planning your trip and remember to practice Leave No Trace Principles.  Idaho also requires all water craft to have an Invasive Species Sticker

Helpful Links:

   

Pack List

  • Raft or Kayak
  • Life Jacket
  • Throw bag
  • Wetsuit/Dry Suit
  • Dry bags/Dryboxes
  • Camera
  • GoPro
  • Hiking Boots
  • Day Pack
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Tent
  • Stove 
  • Kitchenware
  • Cooler
  • Water Filter
  • Water Bottle/Water Jug
  • Camp chair
  • Sunglasses
  • Fly Rod
  • Sunscreen
  • Portable toilet system
  • Shovel, Firepan, Strainer, and other required items per regulations
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RT Distance 47 Miles
Elevation Gain -1128 Feet
Activities Canoeing, Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Rafting, Kayaking, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Beach
Forest
Groups
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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