The Selway at Last

Happy to Not Row

Story and Photos by Ray Brooks

I first entered the U.S. Forest Service’s Selway River lottery, along with my wife Dorita and other rafting friends, in 1993. It’s a very tough lottery to win. Only one group a day can launch on the Selway and only three private groups can launch each week. The river, which drains the west side of the Bitterroot Mountains that form most of the Idaho–Montana border, is often high and dangerous until the last week in June, and then it goes down rapidly and by mid-July is usually too low and rocky for rafts.

It was the only U.S. river included in the 1964 Wilderness Act, as part of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, and then it was designated “wild” under the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, one of only eight rivers in the country that originally were protected by that landmark legislation. After about eight years of losing the Selway lottery, our group gave up on it and concentrated on the Middle Fork Salmon lottery, which one of us would win every three or four years.

Much time went by and then on June 1 of this year, I got an email from a Selway River outfitter. There had been cancellations on a five-day trip that started June 18. Only ten passengers were allowed on the float. Did I want to go? We signed up within a few hours, paid our fees, and made ready. The well-respected Idaho outfitter would provide everything for the trip except our personal clothing. 

I had wanted to do this for more than a half-century.

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Ray Brooks

About Ray Brooks

Ray Brooks is a native Idahoan. Beyond retirement age he remains an active rock-climber, river runner, and hiker, who keenly appreciates Idaho history. His climbing career started in central Idaho in 1969. To support his outdoor habits, he worked on Forest Service helicopter fire crews, was a Middle Fork Salmon boatman, ran an outdoor shop in Moscow, and became a sales representative for outdoor gear.

3 Responses to The Selway at Last

  1. Mary Erickson - Reply


    Thanks Ray! This was delightful! I lived on the Selway, at Selway Lodge and North Star for 7 years and enjoyed several
    Short floats and many interesting encounters with outfits on the river. They often pulled into the beach at Selway Lodge fascinated by a lodge that remote. Most floaters do t even know N Star Ranch is there since little is visible from the river and there are no good spots to pull over.

  2. Dana Quinney - Reply


    Thanks for taking us along, Ray!

  3. Pam and Steve Rayborn - Reply


    Always enjoy your adventures . Envious that youre writing can.take us all along with you ! Steve and I have floated it twice in May before permits ! 5 to 6 ft. Scary my opinion and a lot of bailing in a fourteen foot River Rider. I was scared the entire trip but appreciate that you noticed what kind of trees we floated by !!!! Talk about cold !! Ladle is quite impressive at 6 ft. One of our rafts flipped there. We saved the crew but they had to hike to The Moose Creek Ranger Station because their raft went on down to Selway Falls . We brought it home !! Pam

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