It’s not easy to run the Selway. Be one of the happy few who do.
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Women Outside, Fall 1998
Adeventure Classics: Rafting
GEAR | TRAVEL | FITNESS | HEALTH |
TRAVEL: Fly-Fishing | RAFTING | Skiing | Trekking | Diving
What every 1,239,840-acre wilderness needs is a main artery, a watery route through bear grass and virgin red-cedar forest where gray wolves hide from ranchers and loggers gaze covetously. The way to Idaho’s Selway River Basin, U.S. 93 to Magruder Road, drops on a narrowing dirt track about 3,500 feet from the Bitterroot Range, finally spitting you
out at the riverbank. This is the Selway, arguably America’s most seductive and pristine river, and it invites you to plant yourself on a raft’s rubber tube and watch for flashes of west-slope cutthroat trout as you float through the heart of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
To the northeast, on Lolo Pass, is the spot where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark almost starved, a Forest Service ranger says. Nearly halfway into the float, he’s one of very few humans to be seen, mowing the Moose Creek Airstrip with the help of a team of mules. The Selway-Bitterroot was one of the first areas to be declared under the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, which
On the River
Because relatively few rafters even get on the Selway (more on that later), its seldom-seen cascades are reputed dragons. You will hear about monster holes where rafts, one after the other, flip end to end, dumping their yelping human contents into the water. Though exaggerated, these stories stem from truth. From mid-May to late June, Washerwoman and Galloping Gertie rapids
The first half of the five-day, 47-mile trip contains more than ten sizable drops. Cast for trout (and put them back) in the slow pools between. Take a day to dry out and lounge at camp; look for a stopping point at one of the many white sand beaches along the float and make camp under rotund cedars. Pick huckleberries on the riverbank. Hike up any number of creeks to alpine
A Selway run is as tough to arrange as it is worthwhile. The Forest Service allows one trip per day, with a maximum of 16 rafters per trip, from May 15 to July 31. This is good. It accounts for a river where the wildlife and wild water take center stage. The flip side is that it’s virtually impossible to mount your own trip on this river, only four companies have permits to run