This is a multiday backpacking trip in a remote corner
of southwestern Idaho. The Jarbidge River has one of the most
beautiful river canyons around. The vertical rhyolite walls
have been eroded into spires and buttresses and even some small
caves. Wildlife include elk and mountain lions. A small number
of people kayak the river in the brief spring run off. After
that it is deserted. It is comparable to hiking the Virgin River
in Zion National Park but much longer and more isolated. The
author took four days to hike the 28 mile length of the canyon
in early September. This may be the ideal time to hike since
the water level is low, and the hottest summer days are over.
You should pack your camping gear in water proof gear bags.
Take a walking stick. The river bottom consists mostly of very
slick cobbles. Like many rivers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon,
the Jarbidge has poison ivy on its banks. Although the author
did not find this problematic, others may be more sensitive.
Since you are walking near exclusively in the river, exposure
is minimized. Be careful at campsites.
A very useful map which covers the entire river and surrounding
area is published by the BLM. It is the surface management
status Sheep Creek 1;100,000 scale. The BLM also has a very
useful boaters guide which has topomaps showing campsites,
rapids, and approach roads.
To get there from Interstate 84 take state highway 51 south
to Bruneau. Then go south on the Bruneau Three Creek Road
past Hot Spring. Continue south on the graded gravel road.
Eventually you will reach a paved T. Turn right and head southwest
to the hamlet of Murphy Hot Springs, which is just north of
the Nevada border. You can also get there from Rogerson on
highway 93. Two miles north of Murphy Hot Springs there is
a small campground from which you start the hike. The first
two miles are on a crude trail on the right side of the river.
After it fades out the easiest way to continue is to wade
in the river for most of the next 26 miles. It is seldom more
than knee deep. You may encounter deep wades and possibly
a short swim so the water proof gear bags are important.
There are several side canyons. The most noteworthy of these
is called Arch Canyon after an arch found near the rim about
three miles up from the confluence. Those who have hiked up
Arch Canyon ( also known as Cougar Creek) report that there
are some narrows, at least three short swims and a lot of
brush, so it’s a good idea to wear long pants.
The Jarbidge River meets the Bruneau River at Indian Hot Springs.
There is a dirt road that comes down to the river on the right
side. It leads in 18 miles back to the above mentioned Bruneau
Three Creek Road. The two miles leaving the canyon are four
wheel drive only. The rest can be driven in a pickup truck.
The author, lacking a shuttle, spent a fifth day hiking the
18 miles back to the Bruneau Three Creek Road from which he
was easily able to hitch hike back to his car near Murphy
Hot Springs. There are supposed to be people in Bruneau who
run shuttles for kaykers, so they can certainly do it for
hikers too. Inquire locally.
Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge.
The following photos were taken by Hank Hays on a spring
kayaking trip on the Jarbidge River.