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This spring I padded my first self support kayak trip! I am just a little embarrassed to admit that it took so long, but better late than never. I have only been inspired now to do more. Nestled in the seemingly flat BLM lands of south western Idaho are two incisions in the desert formed by the Bruneau and Jarbidge rivers. Together these deep and sometimes quite narrow canyons make up 69 designated Wild and Scenic miles of a class II-IV river trip. 3 nights and 4 days gave us (a kayak only trip) enough time without having to rush too much, though we easily could have added another night.

After dropping our shuttle vehicles at the takeout with some cows we drove 2 hours across BLM and Air Force land (where signs read “Caution objects may fall from the sky”) with little sign of water or a canyon anywhere. Eventually the canyon bent in front of us and we descended down to a creek where we questioned whether or not we had enough water for the run. By the time we reached the put in however, while the volume will still low and somewhat boney a tributary had joined that padded out the flow just enough. We paddled on the Jarbidge for 2 days catching tons of little fun eddies beneath juniper trees, meandering our way through mellow boulder gardens and gawking at the narrow gray walls towering above us that made us feel like we were paddling between the turrets of a giant dribble sand castle.

The magic of the self support is that you pull your kayak up on shore pull out your bags and bingo! camp is unpacked. I greatly appreciated the simplicity of this after many a certainly luxurious, but also fiddly raft supported trip. The Zen served me well also. And while I had packed very conservatively not knowing how the weight would affect paddling or how everything might fit, I had plenty of room to spare should I choose to be out on a longer trip down the road in the same boat. While I felt the weight of the boat a little in my muscles (it was also my first days on the water of the season) it did not affect how the boat paddled at all. It was still easy to steer, fast and did not feel too low in the water. Packing the boat was a breeze and I especially appreciated how simple it was to remove and replace the foot block.

On our 3rd day we paddled into the Bruneau where the overall volume of the river grew by a factor of 3-4. After a short dip in a bathtub stationed by an extremely HOT hot spring we carried on downstream into more narrow grey canyons accented by large arches and caves in the walls above which provided homes to an abundance of avian life. The whitewater was bigger now but still friendly, as increased the volume now splashed in our faces. On day 4 came the whitewater grand finale – five miles of back to back to back class IV rapids with big water characteristics. Finished too quickly! Then suddenly the canyon walls receded and we were met by the friendly faces of cows as we neared the take out.

I am grateful to have finally had a chance to spend several days out camping and traveling downstream with only a few friends and what can fit in my boat. The Jarbidge-Bruneau was an excellent intro to the kayak multiday with simple logistics, fun and friendly whitewater and gape worthy scenery. I am grateful also for the opportunity to paddle these remote and beautiful wilderness rivers because they are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act so that we, and future generations, can continue to enjoy and appreciate such places. Thank you to all of those who have fought and continue to work to protect these rivers and happy 50th Anniversary to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act!

Photos: Jane Koopman, Tim Kelley and Devin Kuh