Clearwater River, Idaho

The Clearwater River flows in North Central Idaho, westward from the Bitterroot Mountains along the Idaho-Montana border. It is a seventy-five miles long river which joins the Snake River at Lewiston. The Clearwater River has a history that dates back two hundred and nine years when the Lewis and Clark Expedition came down the river in dugout canoes. They halted at Canoe Camp which is five miles downstream from Orofino. It is the biggest tributary of the Snake River by its average discharge. The river was formerly known as Koos-Kai and it was named by the Niimiipuutimt Tribe, meaning `clear water’.

The river has a drainage basin which is over nine thousand square miles with an annual discharge of over fifteen thousand cubic feet every second. The Clearwater River Middle and South Fork merge to form the principal shoot at the small town of Kooskia. The larger part of the Middle Fork makes up the mixed flow of Selway and Lochsa Rivers that flow from Bitterroot Range, which are situated in the east. The small South Fork starts off in the Bitterroot-Selway wilderness in the southern part. The Monster Heart region of Nez Perce National Historical Park at U.S. Route 12 trails the Clearwater River to Kamiah from the junction where it flows northwest and it merges with Lawyer Creek.

The Clearwater River continues its journey in the north-west along a canyon to the union with the Lolo Creek, passing Greer Town where the Jim Ford Creek opens up from its right side. The River gathers the water body of the Orofino Creek at Orofino and takes a swing westward along a straight line up to a distance of three miles where it gets the Clearwater North Fork from the right with Ahsahka, near the Dworshak Reservoir., probably named after the great Czech Composer, Antonin Dvorak. The Clearwater River then moves to the west and meets Big Canyon Creek at its left and Weirdo Creek at its right after the North Fork supplies its flow.

The Clearwater River passes the Lenore and Myrtle communities which have not been incorporated as its canyon cuts into the Columbia Plateau deep. It gets Cottonwood Creek at its left before it proceeds to Arrow. This is the place where the Potlatch River meets it at its right. It is then joined by the Lapwai Creek from the left where it passes near Spalding. The U.S. Highway 95 crosses the Clearwater River here whereas the Highway 12 runs along its northern shore. The river then widens and slows down into the slackened waters of the Lower Granite Lake as the river gets near to Lewiston. As soon as it crosses the state line of Idaho-Washington, it is joined by the waters of the Snake River.


The Clearwater River in Idaho has become popular for the big `B-Run’ Steelhead. This fish returns to the spawning regions after wandering a couple of years in the ocean. These large fighters will weigh upwards of twenty pounds. This river in the Central part of Idaho is one of the largest steelhead streams in the Northwest. The fishery is ably supported by the Steelhead and Salmon Hatchery which is the largest in the world. It is situated at the union of the North Fork and the mainstream of the Clearwater River, close to Orofino.  Our Clearwater fly fishing trips will have your arm soar by end of each day!

The Clearwater River is suitable for all fishing styles. It could range from back-trolling to drifting or from fly fishing to spin fishing. It could also be done from shore or from the boat. Early part of July brings the `Catch and Release’ Steelhead fishing season. The lower waters of the Clearwater are open to `Catch and Keep’ fishing by august with the main section of the river being open to people in October. The early fish tend to weigh around five to ten pounds whereas the larger fish weighing more than twenty pounds enter the Clearwater River sometime by late October and November.

The Clearwater River backs an amazing spring and summer rainbow trout fishery besides the superb fall and winter Steelhead fishing season. Steelhead fishing and many other styles of fishing are practical on this Grand River. Chinook salmon in the spring season has been a welcome addition to make up an exciting spring fishing choice since the last few years.