Idaho River Camping Tour
by Christina King
Our trip started in Twin Falls overlooking the Snake River. We couldn't believe all the BASE jumpers jumping off the Twin Falls bridge over the Snake river's steep vertical canyon walls. Be sure to click on the pictures below to see them full size.
The group of BASE jumpers in the picture above were from Australia and came to Twin Falls specifically to jump off this bridge. Two BASE jumpers landed in the river and swam to shore with their parachutes dragging behind them (first picture below). A bit tougher than swimming a rapid with a lifejacket on! Then they have to climb up the canyon wall to do it again (look carefully for the climber with the black parachute backpack on the canyon wall in the middle picture below). One base jumper said he could do as many as ten jumps in one day. Twin Falls is the only place in the US that BASE jumpers can jump legally.
This third picture above shows Evil Knevil's jump ramp launching him over the Snake River. Okay ... maybe not an actual picture of Evil but if you squint you can see the rock/dirt ramp (third picture above) on the canyon rim.
Above includes a panorama picture of the Twin Falls Snake River canyon with the golf course at the bottom. Note the extensive lava rock canyon walls. Plus a picture of Shoshone Falls on the Snake. The Snake river is down to a trickle compared to spring time flows.
We left Twin Falls for McCall Idaho and followed the sinuous river road up the North Fork of the Payette River. We saw plenty of day-boaters running the Payette and it was fun to car-scout the rapids. Some sections of this river are quite intense and easy to understand that cat-boating is the boat of choice up here. We met the Cooke's on their way back from Alaska at McCall and caught up with their adventures that night. Irene plans to post her Alaska (including Tatshenshini trip) on the web once they get caught up with their chores. They were on the road for two months camping all the way. We tried to camp at Ponderosa State Park in McCall but it was full for the Labor Day weekend. I recommend this as a great campground for boaters getting off the Main Salmon. It has showers, great campsites with lots of trees and juts into Payette Lake in a beautiful setting.
The next day we traveled along the Clearwater River to Three Rivers Resort that is located at the fork of the Lochsa and Selway Rivers that form the Clearwater River. What a scenic drive. We reminisced about boaters we haven't seen in ages and unbelievably met a boating acquaintance from 20 years ago at our campsite along the Selway. Selway Falls was still an intimidating rapid (not runnable) and the high driftwood is evidence of previous high water events.
Pete had to stop and make sure his Creek and Road namesakes were still up to par. Sure enough they passed inspection. On our way up the Lochsa we enjoyed a relaxing drive along the Lewis and Clark trail with a stop at the Lolo Pass National Park Service visitor center.
After a long drive through Montana and back into Idaho we camped at Corn Creek on the Main Salmon. There were several groups of boaters putting-in for 5 day trips. The water gauge level was negative 0.2 feet. Does that mean that they were boating on air? The river level was below the 0 foot mark so the ranger said it was approximately 19 inches above a boater's Tevas. Not sure how official this is but it was low. We stopped to check out the new rapid (starting to be called "Derigger) on the Main formed by a rain blowout. It has some big waves and I guess I'll stop derigging my boat before the Cache Bar takeout in the future : )
Sunbeam Rapid on the Main Salmon on our way to Stanley
The autumn leaves are beginning to turn in Idaho and Fall is in the air. We had perfect Indian Summer conditions and it seemed like the country and animals were holding their breath expectantly waiting for the first snowfall. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area landscape was spectacularly jagged with minimal snow on the ragged mountain crags.
We saw a sweep boat and commercial group at Boundary dead-heading down to Indian Creek to pick up their fly-in passengers (due to low water). They were on their last trip of the season. If you look carefully at the picture below you can see their run down the center in First Bend Rapid. Dagger Falls looked low and ledgy. Stanley was very quiet and sunny while we breakfasted at the Stanley Baking Company deck.
Sun Valley and Ketchum rounded out our last stops of the trip before heading home. We enjoyed our last leg of the trip through Aspen, Colorado on our way home and had a golden drive through the turning aspen leaves.