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Hidden Idaho Gems – Jarbridge and Bruneau Canyons


The Jarbridge is a low volume, fast moving river that flows through stunning vocanic canyons from Jarbridge Mountains on the Idaho-Nevada border. The Jarbridge flows into the Bruneau River near Indian Hot Springs where the canyon opens into Idaho sage brush planes before descending again into the red-walled canyons of the Bruneau. The flows on the Jarbridge are highly variable and difficult to predict, but if you get the opportunity to do this run from Murphy Hot Springs to Bruneau you should jump on it.

The entire run is 70 miles, 30 on the Jarbridge and 40 on the Bruneau. The shuttle is not too bad (the road has been fixed!) if you camp near Bruneau the night before and use Ed Geiger’s Bruneau Shuttle Service right out of Bruneau, ID. The weather can be harsh (typical spring in Idaho), but also lovely down in the canyons.

We spent one night on the Jarbridge and two nights on the Bruneau. There’s plenty of whitewater on both sections. The Jarbridge is more technical and has three of the most difficult rapids. We portaged two of the rapids because they are relatively new slides with sieves and wood, but we ran Wally’s Wallow. It’s technical class four and probably would have been a little easier with more water.

After the confluence with the Bruneau, the river substantially increases in volume. There’s a great read and run continuous class four section the last day on the Brunuea. It’s about five miles and really fun. Even with a loaded 9R, I had a blast hitting little boofs and eddies down that section. The whitewater is a bonus, the scenery is really the main attraction. It’s amazing. The canyon walls come straight down to the river in many places with hoodoos towering above. The canyons are remote and there’s lots wildlife sign, such as elk, cougar, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn on the sage plateaus above.

We had time for a few hikes up the side canyons, and the views were as spectacular as those you would find in the Grand Canyon. Go with a good group who all love wilderness rivers, whitewater, camping, multi-days out of their kayaks, and a good time! You can always squeeze in extra beers in a creek boat! These canyons are truly and Idaho hidden gem.