5 Reasons to Float the Lochsa River
The Lochsa is one of the best rivers in the Lower 48. I have paddled hundreds of different rivers and there is no river I’m more drawn to than the Lochsa. For Missoulians, it’s a short drive over Lolo Pass. Folks coming from Spokane and Coeur D’Alene can take one of two routes, both about 3.5 hours long: west through Missoula or south through Lewiston, Idaho. During Memorial Day weekend people come from all over the west to enjoy the pristine, cold, clear water of the Lochsa River. Typically, the Lochsa enjoys good flows from April to late June.
Here are a few reasons why you should check out the Lochsa this year:
1. Wild and Scenic River! Located in north central Idaho, the Lochsa River was protected in 1968 under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Lochsa flows freely, running parallel to Highway 12 through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
2. 30+ miles of Class IV rapids! The Lochsa is usually divided into three sections: the upper, middle, and lower. Each section is about ten miles long and features rapids with names like Three Hole, Fake Onnos, Grim Reaper, Horsetail Falls, and Lochsa Falls. The lower ten miles, from Fish Creek to Split Rock, is the most popular section. Heads up, river users: Class IV is serious whitewater, so know before you go or hire a local river outfitter.
3. Epic car camping! You’ll find stellar car camping all along the Lochsa corridor. The most popular campground, Wilderness Gateway, offers 90 designated spots in several loops. “C loop” has the most sought-after spots, so reserve them early! If you want free camping, head over to the affectionately-dubbed Ghetto Gateway, directly across from Wilderness Gateway.
4. Hot springs! There are three popular hot springs along the Lochsa River. Jerry Johnson, located between mile markers 152 and 153, is a short one-mile hike in. Weir hot springs is a little gem 1.5 miles up from a trailhead near mile marker 141. Stanley hot springs is a series of primitive pools located six miles walking from the Wilderness Gateway campground.
5. Lowell, Idaho! This sleepy little town has a population of 24. It rests at the confluence of the Lochsa and Selway Rivers, where they come together to from the Middle Fork of the Clearwater. The Wilderness Inn is a great spot to get a burger and a beer, and there is an abundance of campgrounds up the Selway River, Johnson Bar being the river folks’ favorite. Selway Falls is 20 miles up the Selway River and is definitely worth the drive if you haven’t seen this maelstrom of water. There are also two outfitters in Lowell who can help get you out on the river!