Mellow canoe trips in the Northwest


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Week of March 27-April 3, 1996
Laid-back river trips in Utah
Backpacking routes in New Mexico
How to make camp life more comfy
Mountain biking on Maui
Beating the heat in Death Valley
Mellow canoe trips in the Northwest

Mellow canoe trips in the Northwest
Q: I am looking for good canoeing rivers for my wife and I to putz around in. Class II rapids are OK, but I have little or no interest in peeing in my pants in a Class III rapid. Can you offer any suggestions for inland Northwest? I don’t really want to drive more than 50-100 miles, especially now that Washington has upped the speed limit to 70
mph on the highway, as nine mpg with a canoe on the roof at 70 mph is no fun. Idaho is good with us; we’ve never canoed the St. Joe or St. Maries. Thanks for any help.

David Buschhorn
Spokane, WA

Idaho’s Saint Joe (above) and Saint Maries rivers offer mellow canoeing

A: In my opinion, the St. Maries River–just over the Idaho border–is just your speed. You can’t beat its gentle Class II-III rapids for pure putzing pleasure, and the surrounding pine forests are beautiful and delightfully secluded.

The 15-mile stretch will take you about four hours, longer depending on the speed of your putz, and you won’t have any mean portages to contend with. Just below the put-in near the bridge at the Mashburn railroad siding on Idaho 3, the river drops into a deep canyon, with straightforward Class II swiftwater for much of the run. The biggest rapid, dubbed “the Loop” is a
get-your-money’s-worth, yet entirely do-able Class III just below the first railroad trestle. Survive that and you–and your shorts–are home-free: the river’s even flatter below the Loop. From there, it’s a long, laid-back paddle to the take-out at tent-friendly Grassy Flat, on the left below the third trestle.

For more information, about the St. Maries or the decidedly more fierce St. Joes, pick up a copy of Idaho: The Whitewater State, by Grant Amaral (Watershed Books, 208-726-5244).

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