North Idaho Rivers and Creeks

Colt Killed Creek (White Sand Creek): Colt Creek Bridge to the Crooked Fork

USGS Water-data graph

Colt Killed Creek

Run Description:

Colt Killed Creek is a 12 mile run through a pristine, roadless canyon. Go prepared for a full day on the river in a remote, wilderness setting. From the put in to Storm Creek Pack Bridge expect continuous class IV whitewater. From Storm Creek down things start to ease up, with the last few miles being a class II swiftwater cruise. Wood can bee a serious hazard on this run so don't run any drops blind. As noted in the flows section, the run increases in difficulty as flow increases.

The Colt Killed creek has an interesting history. It was named by the Lewis and Clark expedition in September of 1805. Exhausted, starving and finding no game, the party butchered a horse to eat, and named the creek Colt Killed Creek. In 1907 the creek was given the name White Sand on the General Land Office map. In 1988 regional historian Lalia Boone successfully lobbied to have the name changed back to Colt Killed Creek, though it took many years for maps to be updated (Titone). Some guide books, and many boaters and locals still call it White Sand.

"Here we wer compelled to kill a colt for our men & Selves to eat for a want of meat & we named the South fork Colt Killed Creek and this river we call Flathead River (Lochsa). The mountains which we passed to day much worst than yesterday the last excessively bad & thickly strowed with falling timber & Pine Spruc fur hackmatak & Tamerack, steep & stoney our men and horses much fatigued." - Meriwether Lewis. September 14, 1805

There is additional whitewater upstream from the put in on upper Colt Killed Creek (Class V), and Big Sand Creek (class V), a tributary of upper Colt Killed. For more information on these runs, see links to American Whitewater in the Planning Tools section.


Exit Hiway 12 at Lochsa Lodge / Powell Ranger Station, and take FS road 102 for 2.2 miles to the bridge at the confluence of Colt Killed Creek and the Crooked Fork. This is the take out, and the source of the Lochsa River.

To get to the put in, cross the bridge and continue 4.2 miles up FS road 111 to FS road 360. Continue on FS 360 for 5.9 miles to FS road 359. Continue down 359 for 5.6 miles until you reach the river. Note that road 360 crosses Savage Pass which is 6,168' in elevation, and is usually snowed in till late June.

Camping is available near the take out at White Sand Campground (3,560'), and at Powell, which is a short distance downstream. A further 3 miles downstream on the Lochsa are Whitehouse and Wendover Campgrounds. There is also developed camping up FS road 360, a short distance past the 359 junction, at Colt Creek Campground (5,700').

Recommended Reading:

Ambrose, Stephen.

Undaunted Courage:

Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Devoto, Bernard.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

Mariner Books, 1997.

Egan, Timothy.

The Big Burn:

Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America. Haughton Milflin Harcourt, 2009.

Hamilton, Ladd.

Snow Bound.

Washington State University Press, 1997

Josephy, Alvin M.

The Nez Perce Indians

and the Opening of the Northwest. Mariner Books, 1997.

Moore, Bud.

The Lochsa Story:

Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains. Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1996.

Titone, Julie.

Small River To Be Known As Colt Killed Creek

. Spokesman Review [Spokane] 8 May 1995, Online ed., NATION/WORLD sec.

Season and Flow Information:

The season starts when the road to the put in is clear of snow. This can vary widely, but it generally doesn't happen until late June, when Savage Pass (6,160') and all the shady corners finally melt. Stories abound of boaters getting skunked trying to get into Colt Killed. The neareast online gage is on the Lochsa near Lowell. When the Lochsa is above 4,000 cfs, Colt Killed jumps up a notch in difficulty. Minimum level is around 2,500 cfs. While there is no official correlation, 4,000 cfs on the Lochsa equates to roughly 1,200 cfs on Colt Killed. This is just a rough, eye ball estimate.

Stream Stats:

Average Gradient:

70 fpm

Maximum Gradient:

N/A fpm


Class III/IV


Late June

Minimum Level:


Maximum Level:


Quality Rating:

Eye Candy

Planning Tools:

NOAA Snowtel Data - Lolo Pass NOAA River Flow Forcast - Lochsa Near Lowell USGS Gage - Lochsa Near Lowell Lochsa Lodge USGS Topo Map (CalTopo) Big Sand Creek: American Whitewater Upper Colt Killed Creek: American Whitewater Lower Colt Killed Creek: American Whitewater

Key Places:


White Sands

in a larger map.

Copyright Todd Hoffman 2016 - All Rights Reserved