Low Water On The Lochsa: What Does This Mean For Boaters?

Low Water On The Lochsa: What Does This Mean For Boaters?

What Will Conditions Be Like On The Lochsa This Season?

Around this time every year, I get asked the same question; what will flows be like? I usually base my answers off of what snow pack looks like, and when the weather starts to warm up historically. When we have a lighter winter and a lower snowpack, the questions shift to; will we still be able to run the Lochsa?  The answer is, absolutely.

While snowpacks are low when compared to the historical average, that does not mean that we have no snow. While snowpacks are low when compared to the historical average, that does not mean that we have no snow. In fact, though we have a low snowpack, there is still plenty of it up at high elevations in the Bitterroots, which drains into the Lochsa. There could, and probably still will be, some high water days.  As you can imagine, when the weather gets hot and it rains at the same time, snow melts incredibly quickly. This means we will probably not see every trip launch at the high water mark, but there will likely be trips that see the features the Lochsa is famous for during its short season.

The Best Part Of Low Water Lochsa Boating

The best thing about low water though, is that the Lochsa is still amazing, and delivers a fantastic experience for guests.  Lochsa Falls is not quite as ‘big and crunchy’, and there will likely be less carnage during Lochsa Madness, which if you’re hoping to stay in your raft is a great thing! Did you know that every rapid has different features that form only when water levels are lower?  Brain Wave in Grim Reaper Rapid is a fantastic example! It disappears as the flows rise to about 9-10,000 cfs. But from 7000 to 9000 cfs or so, it is a spectacular feature, and is one of my favorite hits on the river at all flows.

Did You Know!? Rapids tend to get a bit more technical at lower flows, which means more teamwork and maneuvering may be required. Even at low flows the Lochsa still has a big water feel, and is still an action packed ride in every way. 

What You Can Expect On A Lochsa Trip This Season

In reality, what you can expect from the Lochsa on a low water year is pure fun.  We may see warmer weather than usual.  Safety talks will probably feel a bit less scary. Trips may take a bit longer, and you may see launch locations change a bit from what you remember.  That is purely an effort on your outfitters part to keep the trip from running too long. Other than that, whether you book a trip through an outfitter or you have the skillset to privately run the Lochsa, the thing to expect is that you will still be running the Mighty Lochsa. It still requires skill and respect to navigate safely, and you can definitely still expect to crush big waves throughout your trip. 

The takeaway here is that The Lochsa River is an absolute blast at lower flows, and we could not be more excited for this season. Some things might feel just a bit different, but in general, it is still the Lochsa, and it is still an absolute kick in the pants. So, this 2024 season, do not let nay sayers and media sources keep you from getting fired up when they talk about low snowpack and low river flows.  We will be out there every weekend, and are so excited to see old friends and make new ones on one of the best roadside whitewater trips in America.

Zoo Town Surfers runs commercially-guided trips on the Lochsa River, Clark Fork River and Blackfoot River. We are locally owned and operated and hope you’ll join us for an adventure! Book your trip here or reach out for a personalized trip planning experience.