Check it out
Distance: 22.5 miles Difficulty: Moderate Paddling time: 6-8 hours or overnight Season: Virtually year-round Maps: USGS St. Regis, Keystone Peak, Quinns Hot Springs Info: USGS Water Resources Office in Helena, Mont., (406) 441-1319
Paddling trip notes:
Access: Put-in: From four-way stop at junction with Mullan Trail Road in St. Regis, Mont., drive north on Highway 135 about 1/2 mile. Turn right toward St. Regis fishing access site just across railroad tracks on Clark Fork River.
Take-out: Continue north on Highway 135. Milepost 10.7, pull over to see first significant rapid. Milepost 11.4, pass campground. Milepost 12.5, optional take-out at developed boat ramp access. Milepost 16, scout Cascade Rapid (Class 3). Milepost 19.5, take-out across from Quinns Hot Springs. However, this is private property. PERMISSION MUST BE SECURED at resort.
Attractions: Although access easy with highway paralleling most of trip, Clark Fork River offers backwoods feeling. Mostly easy paddling with some challenging rapids. Camping spots available. Trout fishing good in March and April and from mid-June through October.
Hazards: Bridge abutments, rocks; Cascade Rapids may require portage.
Comments: River can be broad and featureless during spring runoff, but moves quickly with power that must be respected. In summer, flows more mellow; rocks show in riffles.
First significant rapid follows long straight stretch of slower water as river bucks up against rocky rubble below highway. Pass under railroad bridge and note campsites on bench between river and highway. Optional pull out at boat access on river right just beyond highway bridge.
Small rapids on river right are warning for Cascade Rapids (Class 3). Scout from road on river right in low water conditions. In high water, stay on river left to avoid being sucked into rapids. Eddy out and begin scouting or portage where railroad tracks depart from riverbank.
When flows very high, say 20,500 cfs, paddlers can avoid rapid by maneuvering through rocks along river left. Certain lower flows allow canoes to slip along left side of rapid. In typical summer flows, it’s possible but difficult to sneak through Cascade Rapids without decked boats.
Good beaches on river left just downstream from rapid. Last signficant riffle at bend marked by large rocks along road and island (in high water).
Glacial ice dammed the Clark Fork 15,000 years ago near current site of Lake Pend Oreille. Ice put portions of western Montana under 1,800 feet of water. When dams broke, centuries of accumulated water flushed out of lake in 48 hours, creating most catyclismic flood recorded on earth. Flow had 10 times more water than combined flow of all rivers in world today. This, combined with succeeding floods, scoured Eastern Washington landscape and left its mark all way to Pacific Ocean.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area
The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = COLUMN - Routes: Classic Trips in the Inland Northwest