The Selway River flows through portions of 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 above 9,000 feet in elevation and ends at more than 1,400 feet.
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.
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 Selway River employs a permit system to protect it from excessive human impacts. As part of the protection plan, we ask you to learn and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics. Because of the remote location, man’s presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today. Though there are trails, private ranches, a Forest Service Station and a few landing strips, access is limited and opportunities for solitude abound.
The Selway River Permit Lottery application period will open December 1, 2020 for reservations during May 15, 2021 - July 31, 2021.
This permit authorizes the permit holder to float the Selway River.
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.
Permits are not required outside the control season on the Selway River.
Pre-season boaters must be off the river by 11:59 PM, May 14, Mountain Time.
Post-season floaters may not launch until 12:01 AM August 1, Mountain Time.
Group size is limited to 20 people outside the permit season.
All other rules and regulations still apply.
Need to Know
When applying for or reserving a launch date on this river, I certify that:
This launch date is not transferable upon securing this reservation; I will become the responsible person for this group;
I am/will be at least 18 years old by the launch date;
I am not currently being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation on this river;
I will only submit one application for this river's lottery;
I am limited to one permit and may only hold one launch reservation during peak season;
This reservation/application is for a private (non-commercial) float permit unless authorized as a commercial operator on this river.
Rules and Regulations
Permit holder must be 18 years old
Control season is May 15-July 31; only 1 party is allowed to launch each day
Permits not required outside of control season, (August 1-May 14), unlimited number of launches per day
Pre-season floaters must be off the river by 11:59 PM, May 14; post season floaters may not launch until 12:01 AM, August 1.
There is a $6.00 non-refundable application/reservation fee.
Permits are not transferable for any reason
Contact West Fork Ranger Station 14 days prior to launch date to make arrangements to pick up the permit, (406) 821-3269
Permits must be cancelled at Recreation.gov 14 days prior to your launch date to avoid a late cancellation penalty
Late cancellation/no show penalties prevent you from holding a permit on this river for 1 year
When water levels exceed 5 feet at the Paradise gauge, or snow is blocking the road to the Paradise launch site, the late cancellation penalty will be waived
Permit season: Maximum party size is 16
Pre and post season: Maximum party size is 20
Porta-potty (preferably washable) toilet with appropriate capacity
Fire pan (3-inch sides)
Ash container (preferably metal)
Permit holder’s photo ID
Group members must camp together
Plan lay-over days in less used sites
Camps at Moose Creek may need to be shared with other groups/users
All dish/waste water must be strained; broadcast grey water above high water mark
All human and pet feces should be packed out in porta-potty
Only toilet paper and human/pet waste in porta-potty; no sanitary wipes, tampons, sticks, etc. Foreign objects not compatible with RV dump stations.
All fire ash should be packed out in ash container
All urination can be above the high water mark
No soaps, even biodegradable, in any water source
Camp on already hardened sites; avoid packing vegetation down
All litter, food particles, including micro-trash must be packed out
Leave No Trace camping techniques are required.
Use only dead and downed wood or charcoal for fire. Do not build fire rings or burn garbage. If you pack it in, pack it out.
Return any rocks to where found if used for tent, tarp or boat anchors
Leave beaches unmarked; smooth disturbed surfaces.
Leave camp in a pristine state.
Do not disturb or harass wildlife.
Do not touch, remove or damage any heritage resources (e.g., historic cabins, pictographs, artifacts, etc.) Oils from fingers contribute to deterioration of pictographs
Permit holder must sign permit, is responsible for the entire group, must accompany group at all times
Observe all local, State and Federal laws and regulations
Idaho Invasive Species stickers are required
Carry and display permit upon request of any Forest Officer
Public nudity is discouraged
Respect private property, do not enter unless acknowledged or invited
Contain dogs at boat or on leash
Be courteous and efficient at put-in and take-out sites, no camping or leaving parked vehicles at boat ramp. Paradise Campground is approximately ¼ mile from the launch site.
Call ahead about road conditions and campfire restrictions.
The Reservation/Application fee ($6.00) is non-refundable.
There are no per person recreation fees for a Selway River permit.
The permit is non-transferable.
Changes to group size, exit date and watercraft can be made until the permit is issued. The launch date and the permit holder’s name cannot be changed.
If you cannot make a trip, you must provide a cancellation to the reservation system. To submit your cancellation, please go to your existing reservation with Recreation.gov and click the Cancel button.
You must cancel your reservation no later than 14 days prior to your launch date to avoid any issues or being flagged as a “late cancellation” or “no show.”
The 14-day advance notice requirement may be waived in cases where water levels exceed five feet at the Paradise gauge, or if the access road is not open. Regardless, a cancellation must be submitted. Failure to provide timely cancellation will trigger a penalty. These statuses can impact your ability to get a permit for one year on the Selway River.
6735 West Fork Road Darby MT 59829
Office Hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Mountain Time, M-F