The St. Maries is low elevation drainage with an early run off. It generally starts in early March, running into mid to late May. Peak flows can exceed 10,000 CFS, and levels can rise rapidly with heavy rainfall. Minimum level is around 550 CFS for kayaks, though rafters may want a bit more water as some sections can be a little scrapy at low flows. At around 2,000 CFS the character of the run starts to change. The rapids become much longer, consisting of large standing waves and big holes. In the early season, access to the take out may be blocked by snow.
The run starts off with about an hour of fast moving flatwater, winding through an open canyon. The first rapid of note is marked by a string of old railroad cars buried into the river right bank, propping up the rail road bed. At the first bridge, the gradient picks up and the river drops into a an inner gorge, known as "The Loops", where the canyon forms a series of oxbows. The Loops consists of long, continuous class II and III rapids, formed by basalt ledges and sharp turns against walls. As flows increase, the Loops become faster, more continuous and more difficult. At the next railroad bridge, the river flattens out again, with about another hour of swift, flatwater to the takeout. Just past the third railroad bridge, be ready to eddy out immediately on river left. This is the take out. Due to the extremely remote nature of the canyon, continuous whitewater and cold early season weather, the run is recommended for class III paddlers only. Some sources rate the run as class II, but it in my opinion it is defintely class III (III+ at higher flows). An old railroad follows the river the entire length of the run should you need to walk out. Dress warm and bring snacks, as this is a long run and it can get quite chilly in the early season.
The Put is in located where Hiway 3 crosses the river at mile market 72 (a few miles South of the junction of Hiway 3 and Hiway 6). The mile post is fastened to the bridge railing. The put in is on the upstream, river river side, adjacent to the bridge. Putting in here requires crossing a small piece of private land. There is another launch site approximately 1/4 mile down stream, but access is slightly more difficult. To get the take out, head North on Hiway 3 to the town of St. Maries, make a left at the IGA supermarket, and head up the St. Maries River Road. The road starts out paved, but soon turns into rough dirt. In the early season it can be snowy and muddy, and 4 wheel drive is recommended. There are mile markers painted in red spray paint on the trees along the road. The put in is just past mile marker 8 at the bottom of a slight grade where a primitive road drops down into a grove of tress. If the road to the take out is blocked by snow, take out at Kittle Loop road, which adds an extra mile or two of flatwater. Don't block access if you park at Kittle, and leave others plenty of room to turn around.
From St. Maries, up the St. Joe river there are several excellent whitewater runs ranging from Class III to class V in difficulty. The North Fork of the Joe is a scenic class II-III+ plus run through a scenic canyon near the town of Avery. A short distance below Avery is Slate Creek, a low volume class IV-V steep creek. Another few miles below Slate, is Marble Creek, which is a fun class III-IV medium volume creek with funs rapids and near continuous whitewater.
|Ave Gradient:||28 fpm|
|Season:||Mar - Apr|
ViewSt. Maries River
in a larger map.
There are several good creeks nearby in the St. Joe Basin, including the North Fork of the Joe (Class III), Marble Creek (Class IV), and Slate Creek (Class V). The South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene (Class IV) can be run from West Mullan to Wallace (or extended all the way West to the town of Osburn).
Copyright Todd Hoffman 2009 - All Rights Reserved