For most of the year from the US 195 bridge in Colfax, all you see is a skim of water beneath 20-foot concrete walls. The Palouse River doesn’t look appealing to paddlers in a region with so many spectacular options. But the flood control channels are a clue that the Palouse isn’t always a trickle. During the brief weeks of high water, knowledgeable paddlers head to the canyons up and downstream from Colfax, where the walls are basalt, rather than concrete, and the Palouse is still a river. From its source in the Hoodoo Mountains of the St. Joe National Forest, the Palouse gathers from a tangle of small tributaries.
When water conditions are right, the stream is floatable for about 120 miles from Laird Park Campground east of Harvard, Idaho, to the confluence with the Snake River. In that length, the river ranges to Class 4 in some stretches, with obvious portages around the flood control channels at Colfax and at the dangerous gorge upstream from Palouse Falls. This trip covers a manageable 16 miles. It starts in the small town of Palouse, and ends in Elberton, which is little more than a ghost town. There is one alternative access, at Eden Valley, to cut the trip in half. Most of the shoreline along this route is private land.
© Verne Huser, Rich Landers, Dan Hansen, and Doug North/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.