Friday, June 14, 2024

Prepare wisely to float the Priest River

by JON QUINN-HURST / Contributing Writer
| June 8, 2024 1:00 AM

There is great fun and adventure in floating the Priest River on a hot summer day.

However, those who are unprepared are often stranded meeting unforgiving rapids and rocks not anticipated, and need assistance. Two deaths have occurred due to drowning in rapids in the Priest River since 2006, unprepared for the swift water. 

Please be prepared and have fun when floating the Priest River.

Two popular Priest River sections:

1. “The Steps” — This float runs from the pullout near the 3-mile marker on Highway 57 to the Mudhole. It is an easy float.

2. The second float runs from the bridge at McAbee Falls on Peninsula Road to the Steps. This is a more challenging float.

The public locations for easy put in/ take out are only McAbee Falls and the Steps. For a lazy/safe float put in at the Steps and float to the Mudhole.

Be prepared for the specifics of the river:

• Sustained Class II rapids (medium) short sections of Class III (difficult) for 2 miles in 8 Mile Canyon.

• Personal flotation devices are required by law, especially for children.

• Flat water boats (canoes or kayaks) are not suitable craft for Class II or III water.

• Plastic rafts/ tubes/“floaties” tear on the rocks in the rapids. Heavy-duty white water rafts, pontoon rafts, or white water canoes/kayaks are recommended.

• Heavy-duty large truck inner tubes are a blast when the water level has dropped, which is usually in July as Outlet Dam is maintaining summer levels at Priest Lake.

• Wear shoes/river sandals. Bare feet on river rocks in rapids are dangerous. Flip flops and Crocs get lost.

• Plan enough time. Allow four to five hours from McAbee Falls to The Steps. Two to three more hours to Mudhole from the Steps.

• Alcohol consumption or other mental capacity-altering substances can contribute to situations where drowning or injuries occur. Swimming is for the sober.

For information on floating the Priest River, go online to

    A new generation of floaters is getting ready to have fun on the Priest River.

Jon Quinn-Hurst is a Priest River fisherman and floater.