Idaho Rivers Getting Ready to Rage; Bruneau/Owyhee (285%!) Leading the Charge

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A massive snowpack season has created a banner season in store for paddling Idaho rivers this summer.

Snowpack levels range from about 110 percent of the 30-year average in the Clearwater River Basin to 120 percent in the Salmon River Basin, 135 percent in the Payette River Basin, to an impressive 285 percent of normal in the Owyhee River Basin, 265 percent in the Bruneau River Basin and more than 120 percent in the Snake River Basin, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service Snow Survey measurements. 

The high numbers in the Owyhee and Bruneau basins should guarantee a much longer season than normal on the two canyons hidden in the desert south of Boise. “We’re going to have a really nice spring on the Owyhee,” says Erik Weiseth of outfitter Orange Torpedo Trips . 

Generally, the Owyhee will be floatable through the month of May to early June, and the Bruneau will floatable from May into mid-June, according to streamflow forecasts. That means there’s a two-month window of time for people to book trips, compared to dry years when those rivers can rise and fall in a matter of days or weeks. “We’re thrilled to be on both rivers this year,” said Steve Lentz of Far & Away Adventures. “There are some special places in those canyons that people will never forget.” 

Idaho rafting
(Photos courtesy Raft Idaho)

Middle Fork Salmon and Main Salmon River outfitters are also stoked about a long season with solid river flows as well. Both rivers are nationally known as classic whitewater wilderness runs. Deep mountain snow also may delay the start of forest fire season. 

“We’re looking really good for this year,” says Dustin Aherin, president of the Middle Fork Outfitters Association and owner of Idaho River Adventures. “I’m getting quite a few calls from people who are worried about high water, but really, this is really a situation where we’re seeing “back to normal”-type conditions.” 

Above-average snowpack will provide exciting whitewater levels in May and June for people who want the white-knuckle experience, but then the rivers will settle down to perfect water levels in July and August during the heat of the summer, officials said. 

Middle Fork outfitters are also hoping for a big flush in the top of the 100-mile canyon to blow out a big logjam below the Boundary Creek launch point. “We’re definitely hoping those logs get blown out of there with high flows,” said Jonah Grubb, vice president of ROW Adventures.

Idaho rafting
You’re living in your own private Idaho…

Day trip outfitters on the Lochsa River and Payette River are expecting a strong season, too. Wayne Fairchild with Lewis & Clark Adventures said the cold wet spring last year led to canceled trips on the Lochsa with super high water. This year, the snowpack is right at average, so if it melts slowly and evenly, it should make for a fun season, Fairchild said. 

On the Payette, with 135 percent of snowpack, Long with Cascade Raft and Kayak is gearing up for a busy summer. Cascade offers day trips on the Cabarton section of the North Fork Payette River, South Fork canyon trips, Lower South Fork trips and Main Payette trips, plus kayak lessons and a ropes course. “It’s going to be a really amazing season,” Long said. “With the deep snowpack, the reservoirs will fill, and we’ll have a nice long season.” 

For more information, go to Raft Idaho.

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