You already know that Idaho has the most river miles of any other state in the country (over 3,100 miles, to be exact). You also know that Idaho’s rivers are magical, scenic, rushing, and often untamed despite our desert climate, which in itself is a geologic and natural wonder.
But Idaho’s rivers are also a source of life, here. Waterfront towns depend on them for irrigation, recreation, and energy, while our wildlife and flora depend on them to nourish the beauty of our landscape. That’s why with fishing and travel season upon us, it’s time to get up close and personal with just a few of our state’s beautiful rivers – listed here in no particular order.
1. Owyhee River
At 350 miles long, the Owyhee River is an often overlooked part of Southern Idaho's landscape despite its breathtaking path through the sheer canyons and rocky landscape of the Owyhee Plateau... all of which were carved by this roaring, ancient waterway.
2. Lochsa River
Accessible, exhilarating, and one of the nation's first Wild and Scenic Rivers as designated in 1968, the Lochsa River - "Loc-sah" - was aptly named by Native Americans, a name which means "rough waters." Highway 12 runs parallel to the river, which converges with the Selway River.
Little known fact: for an exciting whitewater trip, river flows of 1,000-5,000 cfs are recommended, but the year after the Lochsa's designation in 1963, it peaked at over 35,000 cfs. Wow.
3. Selway River
Less than 100 rafting permits are issued for this epic river every year, which offers arguably the best whitewater opportunities in the West. Weaving through canyons, the lush forests of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and numerous wildlife havens you'll find a trip down this historic waterway to be an incredible scenic experience.
4. Boise River
The Boise River is a 102-mile long waterway that is unique for the sheer number of diverse habitats it travels through. A vital part of the Treasure Valley, as well as a beautiful, meandering beauty within the rugged Sawtooths, the Boise River was once known as "Reed's River" back in the days of the Astorian Expedition.
5. Salmon River
There are well over a dozen Salmon rivers in the US, but Idaho's own is no doubt the best and most beautiful of them all. The longest single-state contained river in the country, the Salmon River runs through Central Idaho and divides our state into its two time zones before converging with the Snake River.
6. Big Wood River
The Big Wood River has its source in the Sawtooths near Galena Summit, continuing all the way south to the Magic Valley area where it conjoins with the Malad River. This 137-mile long waterway is known for its naturally plentiful fly fishing.
7. Clark Fork River
The 310-mile long Clark Fork River runs through both Western Montana and Northern Idaho before draining into Lake Pend Oreille. Peaceful and winding through the Lolo National Forest, tt was originally named Clark's River after the expedition passed through on their return journey from the Pacific.
8. Jarbidge River
This short (50-mile), Wild and Scenic river originates in Nevada before meandering through the high-altitude canyons of Southwest Idaho's rugged desert expanse. Through a series of confluences with other major waterways, it is one of the few rivers in the US to empty into the Pacific Ocean.
9. Coeur d'Alene River
Coeur d'Alene has always been known more for its lakes than its namesake river, which is a shame. This short and sweet, crystal-clear waterway passes through the old-growth forests of the Bitterroot Mountains and offers a fishing experience that is as beautiful as it is rewarding.
10. Snake River
Idaho's lifeblood is without a doubt the Snake River. Stemming from Yellowstone and merging with the Columbia in Washington, this 1,100-mile waterway meanders throughout the entire lower basin valley of Southern Idaho and provides countless recreation and irrigation opportunities. Thousands of Native Americans once lived along its banks and canyon rims, which were carved by the rushing ancient waters and glaciers of thousands of years before.
11. St. Joe River
There's plenty to love about the "
Shadowy St. Joe
,"starting with its dense, tree-lined banks and idyllic setting.
12. Big Lost River
Central Idaho's Lost River Range and aptly named Big and Little Lost Rivers are truly something special... although they may not look like it. Most of the water "disappears" into Idaho's underground aquifers, reappearing 100 miles south at Thousand Springs in Hagerman.
We have so many gorgeous rivers to choose from here! Do you have any favorites? Just remember, wherever you go this season to enjoy Idaho’s beauty up close, be sure to share your photos and stories with us!