Outdoors

Outdoors Q&A: Buffalo Creek rapid on the South Fork of the Boise River still looms large

Q: Hey Roger, do you have any information on Buffalo Creek rapid on the South Fork of the Boise River? Supposedly it’s a pretty ugly rapid and causing rafters and drift boaters some issues.

MICHAEL MALKO, Ketchum

A: Mike, you’re ahead of me on this one, but it’s an excellent question with the South Fork flowing 1,600 cfs below Anderson Ranch Dam and the weather getting hot. People will be looking for places to float, especially from a dam-controlled river considering the sparse spring runoff will leave some whitewater rivers low and rocky earlier than usual.

As you know, the rapid you described was created by rainstorms and flash floods last year. Flash floods spewed debris into the river and caused a partial dam, which the river has breached and formed a rapid below Buffalo Creek in what’s now called Buffalo Creek rapid.

Boaters are rating the rapid between Class IV and Class V, which is considerably more challenging than the Class III rapids boaters previously had to negotiate in the stretch from Danskin Bridge to Neal Bridge.

The new rapid is about halfway down the canyon and about a half mile downstream from Devil’s Hole rapid. The river is backed up, so there’s a pool above the new rapid.

The new rapid should be taken seriously for several reasons. Once you’re in the canyon, there’s no way out except downstream, or an extremely nasty and dangerous hike out of the canyon. The rapid can be portaged or boats lined through it, but it’s not easy to do.

The river is still changing, and there are logs that can shift with changes in flows, or just the whims of the river. The slopes remain unstable upstream, so more flash flooding could occur.

Not to be a total wet blanket, it’s also exciting to see rivers form new rapids, and the South Fork is still a beautiful river canyon. It has a wilderness feel even though it’s only about an hour and a half from Boise.

But people need to know what they’re getting into and be prepared to deal with it. People looking for the most current conditions can contact Conny Carrico at 868-3255. She runs shuttles for kayakers and rafters and keeps abreast of river conditions.

Whitewater boaters are good about sharing information, and the South Fork is a reminder that rivers are constantly changing and people should be vigilant, even if they’re familiar with them.

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