Idaho: North Fork of the Clearwater
LOCATION: Kelly Forks Campground to Aquarius Campground 18 miles
SEASON: April-August (high water May-June)
LENGTH OF TRIP: half and full day (road access)
USER FEE: where applicable
The North Fork of the Clearwater is one of the lesser-known big water play runs in Idaho. When the water is running big this is a surf destination. Mixed in between the stellar play are a couple of class V rapids to remind you of who's in charge. There are three separate runs on this river and the road runs beside it most of the way. This makes it nice for people who don't want to run the hard rapids. You can select the section you want to descend from the road.
The upper run contains several big rapids, including a huge boulder-infested class IV-V drop known as the Irish Railroad. There is another fun rapid just up from the bridge at Oregrande Creek. The wave train on the run out to this rapid features one of the best surf spots in the state. Upstream from the Kelly Forks Ranger Station, the North Fork enters a deep canyon with some magnificent scenery and some class II and III rock gardens. Watch out for logs below Hidden Creek, where the avalanches on the canyon side dump debris into the river every winter.
This is a very remote part of Idaho and there are plenty of trails and side creeks to explore. It would be smart to bring a bike along so you have other options while staying in this magnificent drainage.
Contact the Clearwater Ranger District, route 2, Box 475 Grangeville, Idaho 83530 at (208) 983-1963
Information Provided by: State of Idaho
Written by: Joseph Carberry