3 Days on the Selway River Trail Reflections on our Seek the Clearwater Discovery Trek

  • Directions: Take Highway 12 east past Kooskia to Lowell. This is where the Lochsa and Selway Rivers meet to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River. Take a right to cross the bridge onto Selway Rd (Route 223). Three Rivers Resort will be on your left. Follow the Selway Road to its end. This is Race Creek Campground and the Selway River Trail #4 Trailhead.
  • Notes: Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes on this trail. They used to be prolific among the warm rocks lining the trail and shore. I have yet to see one, but other hikers have.

The Selway River Trail is one of my favorites, which might be why I keep finding myself back out on it. It was fun sharing it with new Trekkers on our Seek the Clearwater Discovery Trek at the end of June.

We set out to regain our mental, emotional, and spiritual balance by immersing ourselves in nature for 3 days.

The waters were high and flowing fast, and as usual, the campsites all along Selway Road were full of people enjoying the area. I was able to spend some time alone by the river before everyone else showed up and introductions were made. It’s fun to share in the connections that are made through The Clearwater Trekkers, our Facebook group page, and the wider hiking community we are part of. I love meeting new faces and sharing the trail with new friends.

We made good time on the trail, even while taking our time to explore the open beaches and snap some photos. Our goal was 6 to 8 miles, and I had thought to take most of the day to do it, but we hit our mark on a beautiful white-sand beach within about 3 hours.

The beach was covered with these little bugs that looked like a cross between a water strider and a mosquito. They didn’t bite, thankfully, but they were everywhere. They climbed all over our tents and feet and bags…at one point I thought I was stuck in a Pearl Jam song. I think we just kept waiting to get used to them.

I had imagined spending some quality time lounging on a white-sand beach reading a good book, occasionally taking a dip in the river when the sun got too hot, but the swarming bugs prevented me from finding the stillness that I sought. Yet, as I reflect upon this now in the writing of it, I realize that what prevented me was not the bugs but my own desire for what “stillness” would look like on this trip. Perhaps stillness could have been found inside my tent, or in the rhythm of prepping firewood. Wherever it was, it was not where I wanted it to be, and that was the hindrance.

On Saturday, a few of us packed a lunch and took to the trail again. We explored a few miles further upriver and found some really neat campsites along the way. There are several good campsites all along the stretch of trail we covered over the weekend.

At about 3 miles in, there is a large, open beach area with a couple of stone fire rings, and another, smaller site on the other side of the trail next to a large tree.

About 5 miles in at Renshaw Creek (I’m giving my best guess on naming these creeks, but I could be off a little), we saw a tent in a tree-shaded campsite next to a large stretch of open, white-sand beach. I think this is the most popular site because it’s been occupied every time I’ve been out here.

We stayed on a beach at the 6-mile mark near Maiden Creek. Our beach would probably be perfect right about now, assuming that the bugs would have cleared up as the sands dried out more. (We noticed that the bugs clung to the waterline, so were absent where the river had receded and the ground had dried out.)

My favorite site might be the one about 8 miles in along Cupboard Creek. The camping area is a sandy stretch under the shade of several pine trees, and there is a large rock fire pit built up against the wind that comes in off the river. To the right was a small stretch of sandy beach that caught the river in a pool about waist deep. It was spacious, but the sloped sand would make it hard to fit more than a few tents here.

The last site we visited was at Power Creek, nearly 10 miles in. There was a large grassy area that would fit several tents and a sandy beach hedged in by river rocks lining the shore. This looked like a very comfortable site, but I preferred the campsites with smooth beach access to the water. As it was, we joked about how every new site we came upon was better than the last.

We could all imagine coming back again to enjoy a couple of nights out on this trail. The views aren’t just stunning, they’re interesting. The beaches, the rapids, the rocks and caves…there’s always something to wonder upon. And the trail brings you to all of them with relative ease. There are some ups and downs, but no switchbacks and no grueling rises.

The Selway River Trail is a pleasant hike through captivating terrain.

We parted ways on Sunday at different times. Aaron and I hit the trail a little earlier than the rest of the gang. I thought I might do some exploring on the way home, but the incoming rain changed my mind.

Altogether, I am so grateful to everyone who came out and for the opportunity to put this Discovery Trek on the calendar. I learned a lot on this trek about the experience I am trying to shape, and I owe that insight to my fellow trekkers who came with me and gave me their feedback.

I can’t wait to see what’s over the next rise.