Idaho Paddler's Website: a supplemental resource for users of the book Guide to Idaho Paddling.
North Idaho Rivers
Priest Lake Outlet to Dickensheet
This stretch on the Priest River begins just below where the river departs Priest Lake and undertakes a sinous 45-mile journey to finally join with the Pend Oreille River. It is a serious stretch of water with a long class III rapid midway through. If you are an experienced boater, however, you'll find it an exhilarating kayak or inflatable run. It can also be run in a canoe but you would want to use a whitewater boat with large float bags. Except for some homes towards the tail end of the run, you'll find yourself largely out of sight of development and ensconced within a forested shoreline.
Difficulty: Class III - continuous
Levels: 1,200-4,500 cfs at the Priest River gage
Distance/Time: 4 Miles / 1 hour at 3,000 cfs.
Getting to the Take-out. Dickensheet Campground. From the town of Priest River, drive north on Idaho 57. At approximately 25 miles from Priest River, you'll come to a junction with the road to Coolin. This junction is the so called "Dickensheet Junction." Take a right here and head towards Coolin. The road swings around in a big "U" and 1 mile from the junction passes over the Priest River. The take-out is at Dickensheet Campground (river left, downstream of the bridge).
Getting to the Put-in. Pull-off just below Priest Lake Outlet. Check your odometer starting at the Dickensheet junction, described above. Drive north on Idaho 57 for 3 miles. At approximately 3 miles from the Dickensheet Junction, look for a pull off. It's the only wide spot in the road to the right as you are driving towards Priest Lake. Park here. There's a short trail (50') to the river. (Note that at this location you are just .3 river miles away from Priest Lake outlet and the outlet dam. The dam is used for both power generation and controling lake levels for recreational purposes.)
Map. The area outlined in orange below is the area covered by this paddle trip. Note that if you have purchased a copy of the book Guide to Idaho Paddling, you can download a free high resolution PDF of this map. It is included in a special map booklet which also includes an annotated and detailed river map of this segment created from 7.5 minute USGS maps. You can download the map booklet here.
The Trip. The river starts out ripply and continues to ripple it's way right into the first rapids (II+ to III-). That first rapids followed by a bit of a break, then it's the main course: a half-mile-long class III rapid. The top of rapid is guarded by some sizeable waves. A left entry worked for us but that could vary depending on levels. If you are alert, you can generally scout from the seat of your boat, but certainly stop and take a look if something doesn't look right. Eventually, the river loses steam and things settle down for the rest of the paddle.
Although the highway parallels the river on it's western side, the ample forested area along the river makes you feel that it's hundreds of miles away. As long as you are prepared and experienced (and you avoid it when the water is high), you'll find it the perfect way as Thoreau might say "to affect the quality of your day."
The ending point comes at the bridge at Dickensheet campground, the only bridge on the stretch. The take-out is on the left, downstream of the bridge.
Shuttle. 4 miles, paved. The bike shuttle is short, but be prepared for heavily traveled roads and a narrow shoulder.
Craft. Kayaks and inflatables. Canoes should be whitewater type with air bags.
Our thanks to our boating and skiing companions Gene Ratcliff and Judy Moyer of Athol.
A Legal Reminder: running rivers is dangerous. It is the reader's responsibility to ensure that they have sufficient skill and fitness to participate in this activity safely. We do not assume liability or responsibility to any person or entity for injuries, death, loss or damages which are caused directly or indirectly by the information contained here.