Whitewater Raft the Selway River

Rate this Adventure 47 miles -1128 ft gain  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by John Sunich

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:


Read More


Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Stay Nearby

Darby, Montana

Fales Flat Campground

Overview Fales Flat Campground is a group facility on Nez Perce Fork of the Bitterroot River. It is also well equipped for equestrian campers. The campground provides access to a variety of hiking ...

Darby, Montana


Overview Rombo Campground is located in a scenic area along the West Fork Bitterroot River in the mountains of southwestern Montana. The area is home to a variety of big game and wildlife, and prov...

Darby, Montana

Alta Campground

Overview Alta Campground is located in a scenic forest in the heart of Montana's Bitterroot National Forest. The West Fork of the Bitterroot River flows nearby, giving visitors access to some of th...

Darby, Montana

Woods Cabin

Overview Woods Cabin offers a unique chance to camp in the forest, in a rustic, old-time setting, while enjoying all the summer and winter activities that are available from the shore of scenic Lak...

Nearby Adventures

  • Backpack and Summit Trapper Peak

    From Darby, MT, follow MT 473 south for 4 miles to West Fork Bitterroot River Rd. A mile past the Job Corps, at milepost 7, turn right on FS 5634 (Baker Point Rd.). Follow this road 10 miles to the trailhead at about 7000 ft. The trail begins on a...

    8.75 miles 3327 ft gain

  • Backpack to Little Rock Creek

    Little Rock Creek is one of the Bitterroots' best kept secrets. In late spring, the glacier lilies are in full bloom, and sprinkle the valley floor. At that time of year, there may also be quite a bit of snow on the ground, which will require some...

    9 miles 1780 ft gain

  • Whitewater Raft the Main Salmon River

    The section of the Salmon River between Corn Creek and Carey Creek, known as the "Main" among boaters, flows through the second deepest canyon on the continent (only Hells Canyon is deeper).  The Main is one of the best all around river trips in t...

    80 miles -1000 ft gain

  • Hike Blodgett Canyon Overlook

    The drive up forest service road 735 can be a little sketchy. Caution is advised during winter months or if the road is wet or muddy. The road dead ends at the Canyon Creek/Blodgett Overlook trailhead. There is ample parking space and an outhou...

    3 miles 400 ft gain

  • Visit Idaho

    Idaho is a picturesque state filled with beautiful scenery and warm, wonderful people. It's an ideal destination for family travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, or those just looking for a relaxing getaway.

    Learn More