The Selway River flows 47 incredible miles through the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness from the launch site at Paradise to the takeout above Selway Falls. I have been trying to get a permit for this section of river for a few years now, but only one group can launch per day during the height of the season when weather and flows are good, and chances of winning the lottery are slim. Thanks to this high water summer, many groups were canceling and I was able to pick up a permit for a three day kayak self-support trip over July 4th weekend.
Gonzo, Dick, Drew, Christie, Emily & Jake
I made a few last minute phone calls to rally a crew. Drew Eastman and I drove out from Oregon and my brother, Jake Glissmeyer, came up from Utah. We met up with Missoula boaters, Emily McGinty, Dick Lewan and Gonzo, late night at Rusher's birthday bonfire on the Lochsa. That is a dangerous way to start any kind of adventure, but luckily the sun was out and the excitement meter was high early the next morning. The six of us headed to Darby, Montana where we picked up our shuttle driver and headed up over Nez Perce Pass into the heart of Idaho country.
By mid-afternoon we reached the put-in, crammed three days worth of gear and food into our kayaks, and headed downstream. The first 10 miles were giant rolling wave trains and I began to feel very small out there.
The river level was fluctuating between 16,000 and 18,000 cfs on the Lowell gauge all weekend making the run very continuous and the bigger rapids pretty spicy. Fortunately, Emily is Selway savvy and was able to show us all the smooth big water lines and primo campsites.
After a couple hours of big wave paddling, we rolled up on one of the plentiful white, sandy beaches and set up camp for the night in a grove of giant cedar trees. Considering the small amount of gear we can carry, this only took about 5 min. and we were all set just in time for happy hour on the river. I really enjoyed the simplicity of a self-support trip (except when we ran out of beverages on night #2).
The best part about multi-day kayaking is you get to paddle first thing in the morning.
I loved waking up here . . .
Day #2 was full of excitement. We spent the morning surfing our way down the river. There is nothing like carving up a big green, glassy Idaho wave. After lunch we made it to the top of Moose Juice, a 3-mile stretch of seven continuous class IV-V rapids!
The first rapid, Ladle, is the most dangerous. If anyone had experienced trouble there, they might have swam the entire stretch. The water was moving really fast and rescuing swimmers and retrieving gear would have been challenging. We were all wide-eyed and white knuckled, but had great lines and made it safely to our next campsite.
Tango beach and swimming hole is a welcoming sight on a hot day. With afternoon shade and morning sun, this was easily one of my most favorite campsites ever.
The next morning was the 4th of July! I can't think of a better way to celebrate. The day started off first thing with more big water wave riding and then we hit Wolf Creek rapid for one last big hooray. This sporty stretch of whitewater was so big that it felt like a giant roller coaster ride and my stomach would drop every time I crested a wave and went screaming down the other side.
Carnage free, we were off the river by noon on day #3, and happy to be greeted by cold beers at the takeout. What a dream trip.
Shortly below the takeout is this monster of a drop, Selway Falls. I'm pretty positive that there was no chance of running this rapid at high water without a severe beat down, but it was sure entertaining to pick out some hypothetical lines through the chaos. Then we said our goodbyes and headed off to our good old hometown firework celebrations.
Happy Birthday America, and thanks for being so freaking awesome!