The St. Joe River is a Coeur d’Alene Lake tributary in North Idaho and it is one hundred and forty miles long. It begins at an altitude of over six thousand feet in the North Range of Bitterroot in the eastern part of the Shoshone County. It generally flows westward through the River Valley along the Avery and Calder communities. It continues to flow past Calder into the Benewah County and also through the township of St. Maries. It gets the St. Maries River which is its biggest tributary. From there, it turns northwest and passes through the Heyburn State Park until it reaches its mouth, which is north of the line of Kootenai County. It is touted as the highest river available for navigation in the whole world with its mouth elevation of over two thousand feet.
Over thirty five years ago, about sixty five miles of the river were managed by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System for protection. Over twenty five miles of the river was declared as wild. Over forty miles of the river was declared as a recreational area. Sixty eight per cent of the River belongs to the United States Forest Service and is cordoned off as the St. Joe National Forest. Four per cent of the river belongs to the Bureau of Land Management and two per cent of it belongs to the Idaho State. The remainder is distributed by private ownership.
The watershed of the St. Joe River is covered mainly by a mix of coniferous forest that includes species like Douglas fir, larch, pine and true fir. Alder has become familiar in the interface zones between the land and the river valleys that are situated at a high altitude. Cottonwood is dominant in the interface zones that are located at low altitudes and many areas of these zones has been transformed into agricultural land. Cattails, rush and sedge are found frequently in the flood plains of the river. These plains are being used to cultivate wild rice.
The Saint Joe River has become home to several fish species that include the brook trout, Chinook salmon, Kokanee salmon, native cutthroat trout, non-native rainbow trout, sculpins, mountain whitefish and shiners. The upper portion of the Saint Joe River has a self-sustaining bull trout population in the watershed of the Coeur d’Alene Lake.
The best trout fishing that you can find in Idaho is probably on the St. Joe and you can arrive there by Interstate 90 from either Missoula or Spokane. You can then go on to the Bitterroots on the gravel road. In some sections of the river, the trout is very easy to catch. You can even give the fish some pointers on how to doge the cheap fly. You will find some cutthroats that are as huge as a foot and a half. They do not struggle as much as the rainbow trout. St. Joe River is hailed by many as the best cutthroat trout fishery region on the western side of the Rockies. If a guided option is what you are looking for, join our St. Joe fly fishing trips during most of the year!