South Fork Clearwater River

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South Fork Clearwater River
Looking-glass-village-site-near-kamiah-ID-april-2011-roger-peterson-001 (5688477312).jpg
The river at the Chief Looking Glass Village site near Kooskia
Country United States
State Idaho
 - left Red River (Idaho), Crooked River (Idaho County)
 - right American River (Idaho)
Source Confluence of American and Red Rivers
 - location Near Elk City, Nez Perce National Forest
 - elevation 3,901 ft (1,189 m)
 - coordinates 45°48′30″N 115°28′29″W / 45.80833°N 115.47472°W / 45.80833; -115.47472 [1]
Mouth Clearwater River
 - location Kooskia, Idaho County
 - elevation 1,224 ft (373 m)
 - coordinates 46°08′45″N 115°58′57″W / 46.14583°N 115.98250°W / 46.14583; -115.98250Coordinates: 46°08′45″N 115°58′57″W / 46.14583°N 115.98250°W / 46.14583; -115.98250 [1]
Length 62 mi (100 km) [2]
Basin 1,175 sq mi (3,043 km2) [3]
Discharge for Stites, about 4 mi (6.4 km) from the mouth
 - average 998 cu ft/s (28 m3/s) [4]
 - max 13,800 cu ft/s (391 m3/s)
 - min 44 cu ft/s (1 m3/s)
Location of the mouth of the South Fork Clearwater River in Idaho

The South Fork Clearwater River is a 62-mile (100 km)[2] long river in north-central Idaho in the United States. Draining about 1,175 square miles (3,040 km2), the South Fork joins with the Middle Fork Clearwater River to form the Clearwater River, a major tributary of the Snake River.

The river is formed by the confluence of the American River and Red River in the Nez Perce National Forest at an elevation of 3,901 ft (1,189 m). The roughly 20-mile (32 km) American River rises at 5,200 ft (1,600 m) and flows generally south to the confluence, while the northwest flowing Red River, rising at 6,100 ft (1,900 m), is about 25 mi (40 km) long. The American River is sometimes considered part of the main stem.[1] From the confluence the South Fork flows west through a canyon followed by Idaho State Highway 14, receiving the Crooked River from the left and Newsome Creek from the right before reaching Golden, where it receives Tenmile Creek from the left. Further west the river receives Johns Creek from the left, Meadow Creek from the right and Mill Creek from the left, and the gorge deepens to a maximum of some 2,000 ft (610 m) as the river swings north near Grangeville. From there the river flows generally north, past Harpster and Stites, before reaching its mouth on the Clearwater at Kooskia, at an elevation of 1,224 ft (373 m).[2]

Grangeville (Harpster) Dam was built on the South Fork in 1910 for hydroelectricity generation. In 1963, the dam was demolished, restoring the river's populations of Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Today, the entire South Fork and its headwater tributaries are free flowing and unobstructed by dams or major diversions.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "South Fork Clearwater River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1979-06-21. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  2. ^ a b c USGS Topo Maps for United States (Map). Cartography by United States Geological Survey. ACME Mapper. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  3. ^ "Clearwater River, South Fork Subbasin". Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. State of Idaho. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  4. ^ "USGS Gage #13338500 on the South Fork Clearwater River at Stites, ID" (PDF). National Water Information System. U.S. Geological Survey. 1912–2012. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  5. ^ "Protecting Rivers: Dam Removal in Idaho". Idaho Rivers United. Retrieved 2013-06-13.