Lochsa River, Idaho

Lochsa River

Rafters on the Lochsa River, Idaho     Photo: Chelsea N./Flickr

For paddlers, Idaho offers options. Impassable Canyon, on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, delivers awe-inspiring views of granite grottoes. Paddling the hydrological mousetrap that is the Selway’s Class IV+ Ladle rapid will give you sweaty palms. But my favorite river here is ­bordered by a ribbon of asphalt: the 70-mile Lochsa, which flows through the Bitterroots alongside Highway 12. I discovered it one drizzly June morning while living in Missoula, Montana. After a three-hour drive west, I put in to kayak-surf a well-known wave called Pipeline near the confluence with the Selway. The water was so clear that the boulders on the river bottom stood out in HD relief. As the foam pile atop the wave spat me out, I looked down and saw a torpedo-shaped rock that appeared to be working its way upstream. Two other wriggling rocks joined it: they were three chinook. “Holy shit,” I yelled to no one in particular. “Look at that!” I’ve returned more times than I can count, packing a fly rod along with my boat. (The river also teems with westslope cutthroat trout.) These days, after surfing and fishing, I like to complete my triathlon by heading upstream to soak in the Weir Creek Hot Springs, the stars above ringed by ancient cedars. It’s not as popular as the Ironman, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

From Outside Magazine, Aug 2011 Get the Latest Issue

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