What a week on the Lochsa River! Last weekend, Saturday May 11th and Sunday May 12th, were both “high water” days on the river with the level being over 7 feet on the bridge gauge in Lowell. At that level rafting is very exciting, very fast, and a bit scary! I can report there were only a few people that fell out of the boat and all of them were snatched back up quickly without trouble.
The Log Jam rapid is tricky at high water but, our seasoned Bearpaw River Guides were able to navigate the rapid with no trouble. Running the log jam rapid is similar to driving on a narrow logging road trying not to go over a cliff. The “what if we went off the road” scenario is grim, but nobody ever does drive off the road! Same with the log jam- we never get close to the log jam but the “what if” is spooky. I guess that is the thrill of rafting the Lochsa at high water.
Hot weather is behind all this run-off and high water. After the warm weather last weekend, the river skyrocketed to 9 feet on the Lowell bridge gauge Monday! Now that is some serious run-off! At 9 feet you will see trees and debris in the river and it is not uncommon to see a full length uprooted Douglas fir running the river- something you don’t see often. Tuesday was a pivotal day as some clouds rolled in and the temps dropped. By mid week, we were experiencing rain and solid cloud cover; now the river is back in the 6 foot range.
So it looks like this weekend will be back to steady 6 feet, the rush and flush of 7, 8, and 9 feet is gone for now. But what does the future hold? Will the river come up or go down? I guess that depends on the weather Warm = big water, cooler = slow run-off. I will try my best to keep Montana Outdoor Radio Show fans updated on water levels as much as possible during the season. You can always give us a call if you are curious about conditions, we have Bearpaw River Expedition crews running the Lochsa most days. 406.543.0988
Today is “Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day” in Maryland. Bearpaw river rats wear their life jacket to work every day! Be safe out there. Wear you personal floatation device and be responsible.
Here is a short video from last weekend at level 7.5 going over Lochsa Falls. We had a few swimmers, fortunately with our training we retrieved them with no problem and it was just a gentle swim in the Lochsa.