Prepare Wisely to Float Priest River

By Jon Quinn-Hurst, SCA Board Member & Avid Priest River Fisherman and Floater

There is great fun and adventure in floating the Priest River on a hot summer day. Unprepared people are stranded meeting unforgiving rapids and rocks not anticipated, and need assistance. Two deaths have occurred due to drowning in rapids in the Priest River since 2006, unprepared for the swift water. PLEASE be prepared and have fun when floating the Priest River!

Two popular Priest River sections

  1. “The Steps” (pullout near 3 mile marker on Highway 57) to the Mudhole. An easy float.
  2. From the bridge at McAbee Falls on Peninsula Road to the Steps. A more challenging float.

The public locations for easy put in/ take out are only McAbee Falls and the Steps. For a lazy/safe float put in at the Steps and float to the Mudhole.

Be prepared for the specifics of the river:

  • Sustained Class II rapids (Medium) short sections of Class III (Difficult) for two miles in 8 Mile Canyon.
  • Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) are mandatory by law, especially for children.
  • Flat water boats (canoes or kayaks) are not suitable craft for Class II or III water. Plastic rafts/ tubes/“floaties” tear on the rocks in the rapids. Heavy duty white water rafts, pontoons, or white water canoes/kayaks recommended.
  • Heavy duty large truck inner tubes are a blast when the water level has dropped, which is usually in July as Outlet Dam is maintaining summer levels at Priest Lake.
  • Wear shoes/river sandals. Bare feet on river rocks in rapids are dangerous. Flip flops get lost.
  • Plan enough time. Allow four to five hours from McAbee Falls to The Steps. Two to three more hours to Mudhole from the Steps.

Priest River Float Resources on the internet:

Idaho Paddlers Website

USDA pamphlet information on floating the entire Priest River