Double the Fun on the Selway
by Christina King
Photos by Christina King and Irene Cooke
Weve had a lucky year. Two Selway permit dates which allow us to run trips back to back (June 8, 2005 and June 13, 2005) thanks to Pat and Keith. All the rivers in the West had good flows this Spring and weve had the good fortune to enjoy many of them (Salt, Taos Box, Gates of Lodore). Five of us made up the first Selway trip and the rest of the group joined us in Hamilton for the second Selway trip to grow our group up to 13 fun loving boaters.
Selway Trip #1: Pete & Christina King, Keith Fuqua, Bill Cooke and Pat Campanello
What a day! Last night Karen Kidd (our shuttler- scroll down page to Selway shuttlers) met us in Hamilton and we completed the first part of our two trip shuttle logistics paperwork. Karen was great and I would highly recommend her Selway shuttling company. They did a great job with both of our shuttles. It was a long and bouncy drive in to the Paradise put-in from Hamilton (with just a few items bouncing out of Keiths trailer- which we scooped up), all of us were anxious and excited. Its been a long time since Pete and I rowed the Selway too long. The weather is looking pretty good.
It takes the few of us a long time to rig up because none of us have any helpers. Five boats, five boatmen. The flow is sitting at 2.9 on the gauge. Pete and I had rigged and stacked our cats in Hamilton but it still took a lot of handling to load and run the boats down the ramp.
We lunched and launched by 2 pm. Not bad considering there were only five of us doing all the work. The Selway trail is well marked and follows us all the way down the river. We ran the first rapid Slalom Slide entering left and moving right. All of us read and ran Washer Woman rapid wrong (we entered right). Bill wedged for about 10 minutes on a rock (river right) until he slid off after some pulling on ropes, and jiggling his boat. We could have all had trouble here. The better run looks far left at this water level. Ping Pong rapid is aptly named (shallow and rocky) and it looked like a better run far right (more about that on the second Selway trip log). Needless to say, we juked around by entering in the center and moving right. Oh well, good thing we have light boats. We camped relatively early at Goat Creek (small eddy, fast landing, easily missed). Our five boats fill up the small eddy sitting side by side but it sure is an idyllic camp next to Goat Creek in the trees with a nice beach. The eddy is probably too small for seven boats (our next trip) unless we swing boats out into the current. I can tell this camp is used a lot because there are lots of ants (including some in Bills pants)! Just before dinner, a bald eagle swooped low just over the river in front of us and performed a dive bomber show. Keith fixed us a wonderful pasta dinner and we went to bed by 10 pm (just getting dark this far north). I noticed that I tended to over-row today (due to excess energy and nerves). I fell asleep to clear skies.
Day 2, Thurs June 9, 2005, 2.7 feet, Tony Point camp
I woke to clear skies (very nice) but a dewy tent. We spread our tents out to dry in the sun. We decided to run conservatively and scouted Goat Creek rapid. Its a long boulder strewn rapid that rounds a few bends before ending. Top entry was right, if I remember correctly. The day ranges from sunny to partly cloudy and cool. We dress warm and stay warm rowing. The Bear Creek tributary looks like a river (big from runoff). We scout Ham rapid on the left (just below Green Eggs rapid) and enter the rapid left and stay left of the big domer. Water looked really fast on the scout but moved slower when we were actually running the rapid. Last time I ran this rapid there was a huge log we had to duck under while staying left but its gone on this trip. I remember having only about a 12 inches above my thole pins to get under that log; pop up and continue rowing after clearing the log. Its much easier this time. We spotted Roots camp on the left but decided to float down to Tony Point instead.
I still cant figure out where we are supposed to scout the Tony Point camp (right at the bridge) but we took a chance that no one had laid over at the camp. Tony Point camp (across from Moose Creek- river left) was open so we pulled in for the night. We have a strong incentive to camp before the Moose Juice section because there are no camps downriver in that difficult section and we will have lots of big rapids to run tomorrow. Moose Creek itself is a large river with a lot of water coming down (almost a third of the size of the Selway itself). There are lots of bees in this camp and it looks heavily used. Pat provided a feast of Winter Park Ribs and we ate until we almost burst. I hope we dont see any bears stop by camp tonight to munch on the leftover bones. I enjoyed watching the river float by and wasnt motivated to hike down several miles to see the big rapids. We plan on scouting tomorrow and I dont need to think about the rapids all night. I rowed much more efficiently today, not as much nervous energy. Pat spotted some snake skins by his tent but they look strange to me. We dont seen any snakes on this trip. No bears either. Glorious sunny evening.
Notes about the Moose Creek camps: Stop at the Tony Point bridge (on river right). I didnt see a good eddy anywhere on the right near the bridge but did see lots of rocks and fast landings. Ive heard some boaters even camp here [not recommended because of pack horse trains - they (rangers and horsepackers) dont want you to camp here]. Anyway, the goal is to pull out at the bridge (river right), walk down the trail (river right) to see across river (scout) if the camp is open at Tony Point (across from Moose Creek- river left) or if the lower camp (further down the trail but on river left) is open. If they are; great, take Tony Point as a first choice. If both are taken, walk across the bridge and ask if you can share with the group already there. If there is only one launch a day, there shouldnt be anyone at either camp. BUT, not everyone is running the same number of days your group might be running and its a popular place to camp, layover, hike down the trail and scout some of the big rapids several miles downstream. Why do all this work and just find another camp downstream? There arent any more camps once you pass the second (marginal) camp past Tony Point. You would then be forced to run all the big rapids and have a VERY long day. I personally think that Tony Point is not a great camp due to all the airplane noise (quite a bit in this section). I liked staying up at Roots camp on the second trip better (rockier but quieter and not as stressful). If all else fails and you reach the bridge and all the camps are filled up and wont share; stay put and make the most of the bridge camp (not a good camp plus the rangers and horsepackers will not be pleased with your choice). After describing all of this we didnt do it and just winged it hoping Tony Point would be open. It was but it turns out the next day we caught the group (a day ahead of us) camped just below Tony Point so it had the potential for not working out well.
The morning began with the pitter-patter of raindrops on our tent which grew into a full-fledged downpour- this is the Selway Im familiar with. The rain had us scurrying out of camp and packing up/launching by 8:30 am thoroughly soaked. Bill managed to fix us a warm eggs benedict breakfast right before the rain really pelted down on us. We passed our first group today at the Lower Tony Point camp (looked like a marginal camp). They told us they wanted to camp at Pinchot so we made a note of that as a reminder to look for a different camp tonight. It took us several false starts to remember/recognize the scout to Double Drop but we finally found it. Last time I ran Double Drop I managed to flip in the bottom hole after it sucked me back in. My boat was just too light last time but this time I have a cat and feel it will break through and not get pulled back. Keith and Pat scramble up the slanted rock cliff and give Pete, Bill and I a Vulcan-mind meld (i.e. they relayed what they saw) and we all ran the rapid. I couldnt even grab an eddy above Double Drop rapid and had to hold onto Bills boat while he clung to a rock above it. We ended up running the Double Drop slot between the two top rocks (left to right) and then hugged the left side tongue once we cleared the top entry slot. Very uneventful runs for all of us but stressful because all I could envision was my last unsuccessful run. Ive only flipped 6 times in the last 25 years but I tend to visualize the worst rather than my best runs. Ive got to work on that. Wa-Poots rapid was next and I got a bit too fancy trying to pull away from the big waves/rock and hit the waves sideways (very stupid move). I had to high-side in my boat to stay upright. That shook me up after such a good run in Double Drop. Our next scout was Ladle rapid- what a messy looking rapid. Downright ugly. Its hard to believe that all those rocks dont make it un-runnable. Pete, Bill and I stuck with our initial center run and ran it well (not pretty- but well). I think its very difficult to run this rapid without touching a rock. Keith and Pat went with a far right run but Pat got stuck too far right between the shore and a log/rock combination. Keith ran okay. We pulled out (and tied off our boats) after the rapid and walked back up to survey the situation. Keith, Bill and I wound up attaching some ropes and pulling Pats boat upriver and setting Pat and boat on its rightful course once again (after about 30 minutes or so of work). After re-grouping downriver, we ran Little Niagra (what a freight train roar from the hole in this rapid) without scouting (ran the left side). In fact, the only rapid we scout the rest of the trip is Wolf Creek on the last day. Keith and I misjudged Miranda Jane and we both ended up NOT making the pull to the far right and ran the hole in Miranda Jane (MJ). Very big mistake with no consequences other than a very humbled rower. After my run in MJ (should be named Calamity Jane) I saw Keith headed for the same hole. I even put my whistle in my mouth anticipating Keith flipping (which he didnt). Pat ended up running left but got through okay also. Bill and Pete were the only ones who ran through MJ unscathed. It was really Keith and I who ran it the worst. Next time Im cheating this rapid far right with no attempt to get fancy.
We took a mental/physical break at a small beach below MJ and all of us babbled at once except for Pat who was quiet as could be. My hands were shaking from excitement. It was a tough day. They call it the Moose Juice section because in an approximately five mile section of river below Moose Creek there are three to four Class IV rapids and numerous Class III rapids very close together with very few scouting opportunities. I think that the ratings on the Selway are truer to how rapids should be rated Class III and Class IV. Ive run the Middle Fork of the Salmon at very high water and the Selway is a notch harder at times. Ive never run the Selway at high water but 3 feet is plenty high for me. Im sure 4 feet and above would be very intimidating. We continued on to run Meeker and Osprey rapids and enjoyed an early camp at Tango Bar. Tango Bar became my favorite Selway beach camp. Its located on river left, hidden on a bend below a rock beach on the left (above) and in the middle of some fairly large rollers. If you enjoy the wave train approaching and passing the camp you will easily miss the eddy. Everyone was tired (mostly mentally) but the sun was so hot we soaked in the heat and enjoyed a swim in the river (which is very cold). Hard to believe its really the Selway river in Idaho. Pat fished while Pete sizzled up a grill full of steak, served with corn on the cob and salad. We retired to our tents early tonight when it started to cloud up and sprinkle. It was a long day full of adventure.
Day 4, Sat June 11, 2005, 2.6 feet, Takeout day
Pete and I woke up early to start our Eggs Idaho Dutch Oven breakfast for the group but I went back to bed and let Pete continue on without me. Not sure why we are up so early but I just cant seem to get the group to slow down. I hope Im more successful on our next trip. Idaho is a great place to make a late start to the day in order to allow the day to warm up before we get on the river. Its opposite of desert rivers where you want to get up and going before the hot thermals push you back up the river. I think Idahos daytime temps hit their highs around 4-5 pm on most days. Heck, when its light until 10 pm it makes sense ignore your wrist watch and pattern your day to the natural part of the world. We even joke about launching on the Middle Fork at the crack of noon every day. We dont get to dry our tents on the last day and pack them soaking wet when it starts to rain during breakfast. Water seems up today or maybe its the diurnal flows catching up with us. Right after we leave camp, I round a bend (half asleep), not paying attention and dump into domer hole. No one even turns around as I surf in the hole and only Pete enjoys my frantic attempts to move on down river. How ironic, to get in trouble on a no name domer. My adrenalin is revved up now. The cloudy skies end up clearing by 11 am. We stop to scout Wolf Creek where we all tried to enter left and stay left but all of us were pushed to the hole and big waves at the bottom. I slipped through Wolf Creek nicely with no extra excitement. While scouting Wolf Creek a pack train came plodding down the trail with cowboys who really wanted cigarettes. I spied the dead mule lying on some rocks by the river that Linda (West Fork Ranger station) had told us about on our launch day but it was below the camp she had mentioned. I enjoyed a sunny warm float to the takeout and then the really hard work began.
We grunted all the equipment up the small hill to our vehicles for round two on Monday. The road out was very slow going with lots of potholes. Karen (our shuttler) had left us a note telling us that our trailer cable had popped out resulting in locking up our trailer brakes on the way in but all was well. I can understand how it popped out on that road because we went slowly and it took us about 2 hours to drive those pot-holey roads. Selway Falls are always impressive.
It started to rain at the Fenn Ranger station and then turned into an Idaho downpour. The group vetoed camping at Three Rivers Resort (confluence of the Selway and Lochsa rivers that form the Clearwater) and we shot back to Hamilton to re-group in dry circumstances. We saw some miserably wet and cold boaters on the Lochsa on our drive back.
Day 1, Mon June 13, 2005, 2.6 feet, North Star Eddy
After drying out, doing laundry, cleaning up, re-supplying and meeting the rest of our additional group in Hamilton we repeated our drive into Paradise. We couldnt seem to stop patronizing the Kmart, Bob Wards Sporting Goods and Super IGA grocery stores in Hamilton but finally left town as a caravan to Paradise using Karen Kidd again as our shuttler. The water at Paradise appears to be lower and a check of the gauge says its down 0.3 tenths of a foot to 2.6 feet. Getting all the gear down the ramp isnt any easier the second time around but seems easier with more hands to help. We launch by 2:30 and reach camp by 4:30 pm. We only went about 8 miles today. Slalom Slide rapid was the same left to right run. We tried a different approach to Washer Woman rapid with mixed results. I think this rapid is worthy of a scout next time because we didnt have great results as a whole group. We all ran far left this time but Pete and Bill had bad runs dumping over a domer sideways on the left with Pete popping both his spare oars out of their new buckle clips. Pete even slightly rearranged his cat tube with the force of his dump. Betsy slid out of Pats front seating area and really bruised her legs between the frame floor and river. Betsy ended up with some nice bruises by the end of the trip from her little adventure. In fact from all the rock scrambling and scouting in difficult places we all end up with an ugly assortment of scrapes and bruises. Im sure our co-workers will look at us strangely when we get home if they havent faded by then. Pete caught one of his spare oars himself below Washer Woman and Keith/Ava chased and caught the other soon after. Pete continues the testing on the new spare oar buckles and doesnt have any more problems the rest of the trip. I slid down the far left at Washer Woman rapid fairly easily without too much of a hit, not sure about the rest of our group. We stopped for an early camp at North Star eddy (river right- not a formal camp) and enjoyed a quiet evening with a nice calm eddy for the boats. Sometime after dinner we discovered a sandpiper? nest with four eggs right between our tents. Mama Sandpiper kept a sharp eye on us and scooted onto the nest to keep the eggs warm once we avoided the area. She was back on her nest the next morning.
Diana saw some big "kitty cat" tracks (ie cougar) behind camp this morning and Betsy swore that she heard the stealthy crackling of dry twigs last night from her tent. I think weve had a cougar visitor last night but nobody was bothered. We enjoyed a leisurely morning with a warm breakfast, some Yoga and pushed off at 10:30 am. My kind of morning in Idaho, even got our dewy tent dry before leaving camp. Ping Pong rapid is even shallower than last week and both Mike and Bill got stuck. I tried to help bump Mike off the rock he was stuck on but didnt budge his boat. We scouted Goat Creek again and watched Mike and Bill do a "synchronized routine" in the middle of the long rapid. Olympic scoring would have been a 9.0 rating for their interlocking display of skill.
We stopped for lunch at the Selway Lodge bridge (heard it was a private residence now) and shared deli meat with the ½ Airedale and ½ Pointer dog. Ill bet this dog loves boaters who stop at his place. Bear Creek looks a lot smaller and the river in general looks noticeably lower. More eddies and rocks to dodge. We scouted Ham again (same run) entered left, stayed left. We camped at Roots where Pete forgets to tie up his boat and Betsy makes a valiant leap on board Petes boat and brings it back to shore. Its a rocky and hard landing for boats. Okay camp. No planes bothering us.
Day 3, Wed June 15, 2005, 2.6 feet, Tango Bar camp, Moose Juice day again
It seems like the water came up a bit last night. We rowed down to Double Drop- scouted again- same run between the slots. I managed to slide into the river while getting back on my boat right before running Double Drop rapid. Pete got a chuckle at my "deer in the headlights look" towards him but managed to get the boat back to shore and clamber back in (soaking wet before the rapid). That was nerves for you. This time, Pat ran a bit too far left at Double Drop, popped an oar, couldnt get left of the monstrous hole. Pat hit the hole in the deepest part. From upriver, I saw his tube go up on end with Pat missing from his boat. Betsy ended up the hero again and pulled Pat out of the river back into the boat. Pat is lucky he didnt flip at Double Drop. Everyone else ran okay. Wa-Poots is still big but this time I didnt get fancy and hit it straight with no problems. No highsiding needed this time.
Ladle Rapid Sequence
We scouted Ladle again (while some of the photographers in our group concentrated on flowers by the trail) and ran the center again. Ladle is a hard rapid to read from above and in the rapid. I need all the concentration I can get and dont even remember to carry my camera up on the scout. I wish I would have gotten some photos of the rapid itself but Irene and Ava (using Keiths camera) capture all the action. Mike, Jim, Keith and Pat run Ladle on the right while Bill, Pete and I run our center run again.
Keith, Mike, Pat and Jim running Ladle (Right Run)
All of us ran Ladle well with no mishaps this time. Bill had the most stellar center Ladle run without touching a rock. Pete would have given Bill an A but because Bill waved for our photographers before finishing the rapid, Pete downgraded him to a C. I skimmed one domer and got uncomfortably close to the left before pulling hard back to the center but otherwise it was a flawless run. I got a B for skimming a domer rock. I would hate to see this rapid at really low water. It is a maze of numerous boulders and small channels.
Cooke's, Christina & Pete in Ladle (Center Runs)
We continued on down to Little Niagra with Bill running the hole (I thought that was crazy). I didnt see his run but it sounds like his boat shuddered and stalled in the hole but eventually popped out. I snuck Little Niagra on the left along with everyone else. This time I didnt even mess with Miranda Jane and snuck the whole mess on the far right (much better choice). I cant believe I ran this hole just a few days ago. I dont want to do that again. We ran Meeker and Osprey (hugged the right side here) without problems.
We pulled into our favorite Selway camp (Tango Bar) again. We saw no other groups this whole trip. Everyone in the group loved the beach at Tango Bar and watched as a bald eagle showed off for us on the hillside.
Mike and Joanie prepared a delicious pork tenderloin dinner but said next time they will fix a much easier dinner. We wolfed down their dinner and enjoyed our last night on the Selway. After we went into our tent for the night (and it got dark) Pete and I heard growling noises (it was Mike) but it fooled us (along with Keith and Ava) for a few minutes.
Day 4, Thurs June 16, 2005, 2.7 feet, Takeout
Today is the last day of our back to back Selway trip adventures. The river seemed to come up overnight. We enjoy watching several eagle nests (with eaglets in them) on our float out. We couldnt have asked for better weather and company. We didnt have Selway double troubles but absolutely double the fun on our adventures. I cant believe our good fortune. Wolf Creek is our last big rapid of the trip and we scouted it again. Irene is focused on photographing flowers on the trail beside the scout while the rest of us are looking at the rapid intently. I chide her for turning her back to the big waves below to focus on honeysuckle flowers. Irene manages to spot our only snake of the trip (harmless). We ran the same runs (left tried to stay left) but went center with no problems.
Wolf Creek Rapid sequence
Our second trip only had about 30 minutes of rain (hard to believe it was Idaho). De-rigging involved a lot of sweaty heavy load carrying work. We ended up going home via McCall and Boise to enjoy a stop at Cascade Outfitters. Our special Selway trips allowed us a rare look at the Selway from a two trip back to back perspective. We couldnt get any luckier with good weather and great flow. Thanks to Pat and Keith.
Selway River Mile waterproof guides from the Forest Service. Contact West Fork Ranger station, 406-821-3269 or fax 406-821-1211 to order the newest one. I have both old and new and think they cover the basics nicely and I like the small size.
Whitewater Campsites.com has great photos of many camps including Selway's
Book by Pete Fromm called Indian Creek Chronicles that describes a winter on the Selway in 1990