The Selway River: A Preseason Kayaking Treat


The Selway is an epic river trip.  It’s a wild and scenic river and is considered by many to be one of the premier wilderness floats in the lower 48.  It’s a tough river to get a permit for and many people that do get permits get shut-out due to high water levels in late May and early June.

Local Missoula river rats have made the Selway a pre-permit season tradition.  Every year several groups of local Missoulians make their way over Nez-Perce Pass in big rigs, with 40 inch deflated tires towing some sort of homemade military looking trailers, that are usually packed with beer, kayaks, rafts, a few dirt bags that couldn’t fit inside the vehicles and plenty of gear for the adventure that lies ahead.

Now when I say tradition, I’m talking Montana style.  In the past, some of these traditions have included everything from bachelor parties, weddings, and wilderness golf tournaments.  This year, there was no theme to the trip, just plain old fun.

One of the most important things I think about before going on multi-day trips is the group dynamic.  I try and go with or pick a group of people that will work well together, respect each other, regardless of experience, and have lots of fun.   When you’ve got all of those things going then it creates great energy with-in the group.

The Selway is a place for me to gather my thoughts and reflect on the busy upcoming river season.  It helps remind me of what’s important in life, and allows me to think, outside of the Missoula eddy that we all get stuck in.

I know most Missoulians have a place where we can get away and take a deep breath.  That’s one of the reasons why we love Missoula so much right?  And it’s all so close.  Once I’m done having one of my “moments,” I usually get back to laughing, heckling my friends, drinking some beer, and making my way downstream to the next rapid.  Speaking of rapids, the Selway does have a few.

Ladle, Ham, Little Niagara, Double Drop, and Wolf Creek will definitely pucker you up, especially if it’s your first time down.  Most people don’t raft the Selway over 6 feet but many kayakers choose to do a high water run in one day.

Not only does the Selway have plenty of great rapids, it’s also got plenty of critters.  It’s common to see hundreds of elk, and hear wolves howling at night.  A lot of people also like to horn hunt on this trip.  The only horn we found this trip was attached to a kayak helmet and it was certainly intimidating.  Great friends, good food, and spectacular scenery made this year’s float another memorable one.  Life is good.

I could go on forever but I won’t.  If you get a chance to float this river, do.  If any of you readers out there have an epic Selway story or memory I would love to hear it. I know you do!

See Jason Shredder’s “Go With the Flow” archive.


Jason Shreder, owner of local whitewater company Zoo Town Surfers. I love Missoula, the great community, and all the awesome water that surrounds it.  I’m constantly moving and 90% of that movement involves kayaking, rafting, working, and hanging out with my awesomely supportive girlfriend and dogs.