Photo Gallery: Spring Rush on the Jarbidge and Bruneau Rivers

Photographer John Webster takes us down a seldom seen desert run in western Idaho

We were looking right at our future and everything that makes this river possible: The Jarbidge Range, the East Fork Jardbige corridor, and our trusty steed pinning it into the horizon.
Ed Geiger was a huge source of entertainment on our way to the Jarbidge. Being a shuttle driver in the area for more than 20 years, he has met legends and has made friends from all over the world.
Juniper trees lurked over us throughout the Jarbidge trip. We were advised to be vigilant of snakes hanging down from branches.
At the start and end of the Jarbidge, the canyon walls open up, letting in the light as well as perspective. In the middle you get lost in a maze of impressive rock features.
A typical rapid on both rivers looked like this. One move, maybe two, were required until the 5-mile Class IV section.
Remnants of deer and bighorn sheep were spotted along the shores of the river. Previous groups saw cougars roaming the area. Lucky for us we frequently saw birds of prey flying over our heads.
The scenery was hypnotizing.
Like cathedral pillars, these rock structures had a presence the whole time.
Trent and Ryan scout Castle Greyskull-a Class V which is a usually a portage. Maybe next spring we'll send it if we catch higher flows.
We encountered random trees in the middle of the river at times, reminders that this desert run does dry out enough for plants to grow.
We found Cougar Creek camp to be extraordinary.
Chef Holmes making a hearty meal of eggs and sausage, all with a smile. Day two begins with wind and strong coffee.
A fireside chat over a hearty breakfast provided by Chef Holmes.
By the time the sun peaked over the canyon rim, the crew was stuffed and ready to suit up for Day Two on the Jarbidge.
Overhanging rock was in abundance throughout the trip. Weird currents pushed into the walls which kept us on our toes for the long, flatwater sections.
Ryan Holmes paddles into the safe channel of the infamous Wally's Wallow rapid. Wood clogs the other route through this Class IV stretch.
Rain crept in as we merged with the Bruneau. Spirits were rejuvenated by the site of Indian Hot Springs not far from the confluence.
Indian Hot Springs proved to be a little too hot for comfort, but paddling around in the steam made for a unique pick-me-up after all the cold spring rain.
Ryan Holmes paddles into the bend of the last significant rapid of the Bruneau: Wild Burro. I lost my boat while shooting and had to climb a cliff wall just off frame on the right. Thankfully Ryan and Trent retrieved my boat and we got to the take-out right at sunset, beers in hand.

Words and photos by John Webster

The Whitewater State, as Idaho is informally known, received a solid snowpack for the 2015-16 winter, and paddlers looked to the southernmost part of the state to see if the desert rivers would run. Prayers were answered and bucket lists were checked off when the Owyhee, Bruneau, and Jarbidge rivers all flowed consistently for longer than they have in years. By the powers of Instagram and the one-degree of separation in kayaking, Trent Meisenheimer invited me on a trip down the Jarbidge and Bruneau, two corridors of enchantment and profound views.

The rapids, cliff walls, and camps on the 71-mile run were new to everyone in the party, which added a sense of discovery to the whole trip. We were told many things about this stretch: the scenery is amazing, the portages are a pain, and the water is cold in the spring. We found all of this to be true.


We put on the Jarbidge near the Idaho-Nevada border and followed it north. From Day One on this stretch, we encountered what can only be described as maze-like scenery. Even though we were following the river, we passed some corners we swore we’d seen before. Everything surrounding us was dream-like. There was nothing to distract us, only ways to feel connected to this corridor deep in the Idaho desert.

Day Two tested us with wind, clouds, and colder temperatures. Light rain lingered as we met the Bruneau and its ominous gates that led us deep into the canyon.

Day Three was filled with 40 miles of paddling. Throughout the day, we saw massive rock structures and the Sheep Creek confluence, another classic desert run. After paddling a majority of those 40 miles in headwinds, we began to hear a roar: the aptly named 5 Mile Rapid. The consistent Class IV section was completely rejuvenating and reminded us once again of classic Idaho whitewater… big, fun read-and-run.

The hype was true; these two rivers are absolutely incredible. I found myself constantly looking up, bumping my boat into rocks because I was so enchanted by this place. Check out the photo gallery above to get a taste of why this run, though hard to catch, is worth waiting for.

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