The Kootenai River
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the Kootenai River
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Except for two sections, floating the Kootenai River is not difficult, and offers a pleasant float. The scenery is nice and the current is fast, especially during high water. Prime floating conditons occur with river flows between 8000-12,000cfs.
A float trip can begin at a boat ramp located about a mile below Libby Dam. Four miles below the dam, a short class III rapid, called the Jennings Rapid, can either be floated through or be easily portaged.
Below the rapid, the Kootenai River flows quickly but smoothly for twenty-two miles until it reaches the class III China Rapids. This rapid is long and, depending on river flows, can provide a rough ride for inexperienced floaters or parties in canoes. Due to the constant fluctuation in river levels and the effect it has on rapids, it is highly recommended to scout the rapid before running it.
Two miles below the rapid, the Kootenai River goes over Kootenai Falls and then enters a gorge. A portage of the falls is required, as it is over thirty-feet high. A convenient take out point is located just above the falls.
Below the falls, the Kootenai River runs through two miles of moderate whitewater, the severity of which depends on the river levels. A floater contemplating running the gorge should expect to encounter at least 3-4 class IV rapids and 2-4 class III rapids. Additionally, as it runs through a gorge, there is know way out if it once you commit to it. Due to the whitewater, don't expect to do much fishing while floating through the gorge.
Below the gorge, the Kootenai River continues on towards Idaho, with only a few riffles and small waves to deal with, and should not pose any problems for a floater of any skill level.
Libby Dam: 50.3
Jennings Rapid: 46
Libby Bridge: 33
China Rapids: 24
Kootenai Falls: 21.6
Troy Bridge: 15.5
Yaak River Confluence: 6.1
Idaho Border: 0
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