Idaho: The South Fork of the Clearwater
LOCATIONS: Golden Canyon Section from Golden to the Bridge. Mickey Mouse Section from the Bridge to Harpster. 20 miles
SEASON: March to July (High water April-June)
RAPIDS: Class III-V. Golden Canyon stretch is IV-V.
LENGTH OF TYPICAL TRIP: full and half day
USER FEE: Certain campgrounds and parking areas
In the canyon below Grangeville there is a river that can give even the most hardcore kayaker butterflies. If you happen to be around the South Fork of the Clearwater in late May, try to make an early morning breakfast stop at one of the cafes on the road to Elk City. If you're lucky, you'll see a bunch of cold boaters nervously drinking coffee while waiting in line to use the toilet.
At 4000 CFS, this run rivals Waiamae in power. The put in for the Golden Canyon Run is at Coyote Falls, a grumpy class V-plus rapid that runs into continuous whitewater. Needless to say, many boaters put in right below Coyote. You don't miss much. The water rifles down this section for miles of non-stop action through rapids like Henry Rollins and Fish Jump. This is all road accessed so you can take out when you've had enough but you could float all the way to Harpster and feel fully challenged the whole way during high water (1500 CFS and above).
The section below the bridge is known as the Mickey Mouse run but don't be lulled into complacency because of the name. There is a stompy class IV-V rapid at high water under the bridge and many of the rapids after the bridge can be downright rowdy.
The South Fork of the Clearwater is a gorgeous canyon with the moss on the rock walls turning almost gold in color at certain times of the year, hence the name Golden Canyon. This river has a much more moist eco-system than the drainages further south.
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