Southwest Idaho offers river runners the solitude that comes with extreme isolation. The Canyons carved by the Jarbidge, the Bruneau, and the Owyhee rivers are among the most spectacular in the West, with canyon walls rising almost 800 vertical feet in places.
The three rivers have cut through broad plateaus of basalt and rhyolite, which were laid down 12 million years ago. Getting in and out of these canyons is next to impossible, except at certain access points. Even minor mishaps can prove troublesome, as help is a long way off.
These desert rivers tend to have a relatively short rafting season, with water flows usually peaking in May or early June. Boaters must also contend with Class V dirt roads to the put-ins, which can sometimes make travel impossible.
The put-in for the 29 mile Jarbidge run is at Murphy Hot Springs, near the Idaho-Nevada border. The take-out, at Indian Hot Springs, is also the beginning of the Bruneau run, the more popular desert river trip.
The 40 mile Bruneau run is more suited for rafting than the Jarbidge, since the chutes are wider and there are no portages. There is, however, Five Mile rapid, three miles of technical, continuous Class IV water, followed by two miles of milder rapids.
The put-in for the East Fork of the Owyhee, one of several tributaries of the Owyhee River, is just north of the Nevada border, on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, at Garet Crossing. By many estimates, the East Fork is the most remote river trip in Idaho, perhaps in the lower forty eight.
At low flows, the East Fork is a perfect multi day canoe trip, assuming you know how to get out before Owyhee Falls. (This is the trip we took for "The Whitewater State." Otherwise, the take-out is at either Rome, Oregon or Three Forks.
The most popular Owyhee River run is from Rome, Oregon to the Owyhee Reservoir; at normal flows, this is a four day excursion through incredibly varied geography... including a dramatic, pink ryholite canyon near the end of the journey.
None of the various desert runs require permits.