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Idaho river runners enjoying good water year

WHITEWATER RIVERS -- Rafters, catarafters, kayakers and surfers had thrills and a few spills and chills over Memorial Day Weekend at Lochsa Falls rapids on the Lochsa River, Idaho.

The snowpack forecast spells a great whitewater season for floaters in the Inland Northwest.

Read on for information on booking summer trips from the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Idaho whitewater river flows are "ideal" for summer season;
Good time to book river vacations while seats are available

BOISE, Idaho -- (May 31, 2012) -- As Americans plan their summer vacations, Idaho whitewater outfittersare reminding folks today that the state's nationally famous rivers like the Salmon, Hells Canyon, Middle Fork Salmon and Selway are all hitting "ideal" levels with plenty of flows for a long summer season, officials said.

Hearty river flows also will enhance jet boat scenic tours on the Snake and Salmon rivers. 

Recent media reports indicate that part of the West, including Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, have suffered a drought winter, and river rafting seasons will be shorter than usual because of low flows and lack of snow.

Idaho experienced a robust winter, and stream flow forecasts for the summer rafting season range from 85 percent to more than 125 percent of normal. Idaho is dubbed "the whitewater state" because it has more whitewater miles of rivers than any other state in the lower 48, with approximately 3,250 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids.

"We're lucky we live in Idaho," says Ron Abramovich, Idaho snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Boise. "Idaho is the place to go rafting this year since the rest of the West is struggling with low flows. The mountains still have plenty of snow to sustain the river flows throughout the summer months."

"We're looking forward to a great season," said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures. "Idaho's going to be a popular spot because we'll see a lot of private boaters coming up here from Colorado and Utah. The word will get out quickly that Idaho's the place to go rafting and paddling this summer.

"If someone hears that there's a drought in Colorado and parts of the Southwest, we just want them to know that Idaho's conditions are totally opposite," Grubb said. "The Moyie River in North Idaho, where we do day trips, is now sitting at 157 percent of normal."

The Salmon River, a popular national destination for family river trips, will be a popular spot this weekend as local paddlers and outfitters gear up for the "Big Water Blowout" June 2 in Riggins, Idaho. The event typically attracts hundreds of whitewater enthusiasts who blast through popular Class 4 rapids, with crowds on the sidelines taking videos and photos. If you don't have your own raft, you can enjoy the fun with a professional outfitter.  

Last weekend, hundreds of whitewater boaters attended the annual Memorial Day extravaganza on the Lochsa River, east of Lewiston, Idaho. A new video on the thrills and spills at Lochsa Falls was being sent around on twitter and Facebook social media this week.

"There were lots of happy people up here last weekend," said Marty Smith, owner of Three Rivers Rafting, which runs trips on the Salmon, Selway and Lochsa rivers. "This is the kind of year we wait for. The water flows are ideal, and we'll have fun levels throughout the summer season."

Greg McFadden of Canyons, a Middle Fork and main Salmon outfitter that specializes in whitewater kayaking trips, said he understands the predicament in Colorado because he's a ski guide there in the winter. "In Idaho, we're lucky, we're on target for a great, solid season," he said. "Last year, the water was too high in June for some of our beginning kayakers, but this year, we won't have to worry about that. We're going to have friendly flows all summer long. The kayak surfing should be great."

Idaho's rivers that are fed by reservoirs, such as the Hells Canyon of the Snake River and the Payette River, will have plenty of flows this summer because reservoirs are brim-full, Abramovich said. That will enhance rafting and jet boat trips in Hells Canyon, and world-class kayaking on the North Fork and South Forks of the Payette River.

Floating enthusiasts can download the free VisitIdaho mobile app from to view a full-color Idaho whitewater boating guide.

If people are interested in booking a river trip, go to to research whitewater rafting vacations and jet boat adventures. Day trips and multi-day trips are available.

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Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.