The Selway River flows through portions of western Montana and north-central Idaho, within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The Selway is unique because it is the only river in the United States that received instant inclusion as a wild river, in both the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The natural beauty of the canyon, combined with the challenge of the rapids and the outstanding opportunities for solitude, make the Selway one of the highest quality whitewater rivers in the nation.
The main fork of the Selway is about 100 miles in length, from the headwaters in the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains to the confluence with the Lochsa River near Lowell, Idaho. It is a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and drains 106,977 acres of Idaho County. It begins at above 9,000 feet in elevation and ends at more than 1,400 feet.
While the river was designated an official recreation river when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1968, the Idaho Legislature recommended the Selway and its five tributaries as Outstanding Resource Waters in 2002. The relatively new designation commemorates the river's powerful discharge.
The river flows for 47 miles through the heart of the wilderness. From the Paradise Launch Site to the Race Creek Take-out, the river drops an average of 28 feet per mile, creating a technical whitewater experience that challenges even expert boaters. Numerous exposed and barely submerged rocks, and stretches of unbroken whitewater with very few quiet recovery pools, require a high level of skill and expertise. Immediately below the confluence with Moose Creek, the increased gradient of 50-feet-per-mile combines with a major increased volume of flow, creating an extremely demanding technical section of the river.
Permits are not required outside the control season on the Selway River. Pre-season boaters must be off the river before May 15th. The limited permit season runs annually from May 15 to July 31, and is designed to protect the wilderness and river resources, while providing opportunities for solitude, adventure and a quality floating experience. Only one party of up to 16 people is allowed to launch each day during that time.
Permitted floaters who do not show up to the river on their reserved launch date will be penalized and may forfeit their permit. A permit-holder must be with the group at all times.