Idaho Public Television

Outdoor Idaho:

50 Years of Wilderness

Running Ladle Rapid

DENNIS JESSE—Lead Guide, Whitewater Adventures

Dennis Jesse

Ladle is a rapid that a lot of trips have ended on for people. It's strung together with what we call Moose Juice. But Ladle is kind of the centerpiece, and Ladle is a boulder field. Most of the Selway disaster stories are Ladle. And it's definitely probably the most impressive thing most boaters see, have ever seen when they first look at it from the trail.

In high water, it's a lot of pour-overs, really dangerous hydraulics, really confusing to find a line in, and it's still confusing at lower water. It's a puzzle. And I think most people that first see it at, say, the water level today are like: What? Where do we go? How do we do this?

It takes time to figure out what might work, what might not work, there's usually a lot of discussion. And rescue in Ladle, if you have a problem, is very difficult. You're on your own usually until you solve your problem.

And it's taken us awhile to finally settle on the line we'd like at every water level, and it changes quite a bit. So, you're always scouting Ladle. I don't know anyone that would seriously go into Ladle blind. I always like to stop and look, and I think everybody does.

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You're thinking about, first of all, entering. Where am I going to enter? It's kind of like pulling up to a picket fence. Which picket do we go through? And you've looked at it. You've seen it from the trail. You have a plan. You've seen your line that you would like to do, and that entry is probably the most critical thing, getting in the right spot to start. And then you drop in, and Plan A might become Plan B really quickly. If you bump one rock and your line's changed there are not a lot of options down in there.

The boulder field is pretty unforgiving for even being off a foot from where you wanted to be. So, that's what really makes it interesting. And you know what's waiting at the bottom is the big hole at the bottom, and how you enter that could flip boats if you're out of control. You want to get through all the rocks above and then find that time to straighten out for the big hole at the bottom

And how does it feel when you get through there?

Great. It's where every guide wants to be, I think everyone on the trip wants to be down there looking up. It's so much more fun from that angle.