Job with a View
"River Rangers"
Barry Miller-Selway River Ranger
"Barry Miller-Selway River Ranger"     

The Selway River in central Idaho is one of the most pristine rivers in the country. It is part of the National Wild and Scenic River System and for nearly fifty miles there are no roads along the Selway. That's because much of the river flows through Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area, a spectacular region of lush forests and steep mountains. The wilderness area covers well over a million acres and is home to a multitude of plants and animals.

The Selway river not only transports rafters into a beautiful wilderness it also challenges them with some of the states most difficult whitewater. Depending on water flows the rapids on the Selway range from class III to class IV+. That means rafters and kayakers will want to have plenty of experience and skill before attempting this trip. From the put-in below the Paradise Guard Station to the take-out near Selway Falls, the river drops an average of 28 feet per mile. This steep drop is what creates the numerous rapids that test even a seasoned boaters skill. Some of the most famous rapids on the Selway, such as Ladle and Wolf Creek confront rafters after the waters from Moose Creek nearly double the rivers flow.

But even if you have the skills to negotiate the rapids, getting on the Selway river isn't easy. From May 15 to July 31 access is limited to one launch per day. To get a permit to launch on the Selway boaters have to participate in the Four Rivers Float Permit Lottery. (Those rivers include the Selway, the Main Salmon, the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and the Snake). Last year (2000) more than 14,000 applications were received while just over 1,000 permits were granted. The Selway permit was the most difficult draw with the odds of getting a permit about 28:1. For more information about the Selway River call the West Fork Ranger District in Darby, MT. at (406)-821-3629.

The Main Salmon is another central Idaho River that is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system. The Salmon is the longest free flowing river in the lower forty-eight states. It begins in the rugged mountains of Central Idaho and flows unhindered to its junction with the Snake River. Along the way it cascades through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness in the lower United States.

  Herder in camp
   "Linda Walton-Salmon River Ranger"

The Shoshoni Indians called the river "Tom-Agit-Pah" or "Big Fish Water." For centuries the natives depended on the huge annual salmon runs in the river to provide an important part of their diet. The Indians thought the river was too dangerous for canoe travel and Lewis and Clark decided the same thing when they first saw the river in 1804. Instead of attempting to float down the river they opted for a difficult overland journey through the Bitterroot Mountains.

But with today's rafts and kayaks the Class III and IV whitewater doesn't stop thousands of visitors from enjoying a Main Salmon trip every year. Like the Selway, use of the Main Salmon is also regulated through the Four Rivers Lottery system. From June 15 through Sept 7 you'll need a permit to tackle Main Salmon rapids such as "Vinegar" and "Ruby". But the 9:1 odds for a Main Salmon permit are better than the long shot for a Selway permit. For more information about the Main Salmon River, call the North Fork Ranger District at (208)-865-2700.

Outdoor Idaho's "Salmon River Country"