St. Joe River camping

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Steve Vaughn, Jun 16, 2013.

  1. Steve Vaughn

    Steve Vaughn Member

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    Trying to arrange a 3 or 4-day trip to fish the St. Joe for the first time. I was planning on tent camping not knowing the quality of the campsites or the road for that matter. However, it would be nice to have my travel trailer for the extra comfort. I would be interested in anyone's input that is familiar with the camping along the river as to whether or not I should bother hauling a small (25') travel trailer over there or just plan on tent camping. Thanks in advance.

    Steve
     
  2. skyrise

    skyrise Active Member

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    Sadly have not camped on the Joe in way too long.
    but by memory we had great camping back then. campsites were very nice. they can get full though.
    i would check online for more info.
     
  3. P.Dieter

    P.Dieter Just Another Bubba

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    I've only camped at the end of the road and found it to be a small but nice campground. Lots of primitive spots to just pull off and set up along the road too. The road up and over from st Regis is the way to go IMHO. Although dirt half way ( it think) it's a damn fine dirt road I wouldn't hesitate to haul my pop up on.
     
  4. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

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    As Paul points out, the road from St. Regis and down to the confluence of Gold Creek and the St. Joe is gravel on the Montana side and paved on the Idaho side. It is about 45 minutes from I-90 to the confluence. Last summer, there was work down on the Idaho side to smooth out some of the dips in the Gold Creek Road. Friends of mine with travel trailers do tend to do the longer drive from St. Maries. The gravel road tends to eat tires on campers. There are a few campgrounds and other spots in Avery where you can get water.

    Steve
     
  5. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

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    There's a number of great spots to camp along the St. Joe and use your trailer. I'm not sure how crowded the area is this time of year as I've always gone in the fall... that would be worth checking as I do recall the camp areas are fairly small. Have fun, it's a beautiful area and great water.
     
  6. run26miles

    run26miles Member

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    Huckleberry campground near Calder is a nice spot on the river, but I tend to like to fish up above Avery once the river warms up (July-September), as the rubber hatch around Calder can be quite heavy. There are a number of primitive sites starting at about Marble creek and going upstream which can accommodate a trailer, and you should be able to get a decent one as long as you don't show up on the weekend.
     
  7. William Wallace

    William Wallace Active Member

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    I am with run26miles. I have camped many times above Avery, there are many camp site along the river first come first serve. Great river with some nice trout.
     
  8. Kim McDonald

    Kim McDonald member

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    There is a campground (USFS) call Tin Cup or Tin somethingorother where just off the riffles I I think I caught one of the largest cutts in my fly fishing career.

    Nice campground, although along the road, but not a lot of traffic.

    I've camped along it several times in a VW Van, so a trailer might work.

    There are also campgrounds when you follow the St. Joe at the bridge and head up country.

    I'll echo comments, great river, wonderful trout, and funky bar in Avery!
     
  9. Dave Evans

    Dave Evans Active Member

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    We had our trailer up there last weekend. Once you get to the junction of the river road with the road to St. Maries, go upstream two more miles and there is a big open meadow on the right along the river. That is where we stay whenever we haul the trailer up. A lot more open spaces than in a campground; great spot for dogs if you have them. The river up that far was not ready yet as of last weekend, but saw more people fishing down towards Avery. Have a great trip!
     
  10. IveofIone

    IveofIone Active Member

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    Steve, I have done the St Joe several different ways and they were all good. There are two main camps up past Avery-Turner Flat and Tin Can Flat. Both are nice campgrounds that will have room enough for your trailer. There are more camps higher up but they are more rough camps. I have taken my 5th wheel trailer up there and used those camps and have also stayed at the Swiftwater Lodge RV park right in Avery. The advantage there is that if it is bloody hot you can hang out in air conditioned comfort during midday and fish early and late. For more information call 425-773-3724. The park is right on the river and you can use your truck to run up and down the road.

    You can also get your non-resident license in Avery at Sheffy's store in case you don't have it already. There is a fly shop in Avery to help you out.

    I am going over in the morning and will be sleeping in my Explorer for a couple of days. In the fall I'll go back in my pickup with a tall canopy and sleep in that. I don't really need a campground but since they are half price for me and I usually meet some pretty nice folks I use them.

    A 25' trailer doesn't seem that small to me and I would want to keep it on pavement if it was mine. The entire road up the St Joe is paved if you go in by way of St Maries. Another thing to consider is that with each passing year there are more of us retirees out there and going midweek is not the same as it was just 10 years ago. Sites do fill up and dragging a trailer around looking for a campsite is no picnic. Have a Plan B.

    Finally, there are dozens of pullouts right along the road, many overlooking some great looking water. The farther you can walk from those places to fish the more productive you will be.

    Ive
     
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  11. Steve Vaughn

    Steve Vaughn Member

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    Great insight fellas, thanks. Ive, I am three years away from joining the ranks of retirees and can't wait. A lot to consider here. I will be contacting that RV park in Avery.

    Steve
     
  12. Topstoy

    Topstoy Member

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    Besides lot's of camping along side the hiway. Many places that are not official campgrounds but nice pull offs that you can dry camp at. Also if you want you can hang a left at Avery and go up the N. Fork and there are lot's of camping spots along the river. Beautiful area up there. I took my 29' Motorhome pulling an enclosed trailer up there and didn't have a problem. I may be up near Avery some time this summer as well, it has been a few years and I can't wait to get back there.
     
  13. dibling

    dibling Active Member

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    Last Fall I stayed a few nights at the Conrad Crossing Campground, 28 miles above Avery. The road is paved the whole way and there were quite a few large rigs camped there. This campground is very close to where the dirt road from 90 dumps in, but i drove from St. Marie's/Avery and it was an awesome, well-paved drive. The only negative of driving that far above Avery to fish was that it was maddening to pass so much prime water up and watch so many other people fishing away. If you go that far, shoot me a PM and I'll let you know about a few spots that worked really well for me -- not that you can go wrong anywhere up there.
     
  14. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Active Member

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    I highly recommend you visit the fly shop in Avery for a fantastic huckleberry shake!
     
  15. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

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    There is an amazing bar in Avery too. Don't ask for the Budweiser.
     
  16. Steve Vaughn

    Steve Vaughn Member

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    No problem, Ed. I would never ask for Budweiser - there or anywhere else for that matter.
     
  17. bitterroot

    bitterroot Love vintage graphite!

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    Hahahahaha! I know that story!
     
  18. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

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    I'm going up with a big group in late July to float. I'll bring a rod too !!!
     
  19. IveofIone

    IveofIone Active Member

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    Just back from a couple of days on the river. The flow measured at Calder is right at 2000cfs and that means there is still a lot of water in the upper river. Wading is not easy although if I was 8'4'' and weighed 480# it would have been much easier. At 6' and 172# the water can pretty much push me around like a ping pong ball. But if you find the nice runs at the right speed with the right water depth there will be fish in them. Monday it was hot and sunny and I fished mostly around the 50 mile mark down near Avery. There was a steady up river wind which detracted from casting but once I found the fish I did ok.

    There was just no one there. In two days of fishing I only saw one other guy on the water and stopped and shared some intel with him. All the campgrounds were empty and of course all the free ones available too. Some of those good looking spots I told you to avoid haven't been fished much yet, I took 7 fish out of one very popular and well worn location that I wouldn't even bother to stop at a month from now.

    Tues saw some cloud cover with lower temps and the fishing picked up. I went up past mile 64 and did well then fished my way back down.

    I took the Moon Pass road out of Wallace on the way in. If you fish the St Joe you need to take this road at least once. It goes through a series of 7 tunnels, some of which are curved and of course they are unlighted. You wouldn't want to take a trailer through those and meet another guy with a trailer half way! It is a rough dusty but beautiful drive. The road gives you city boys a great opportunity to get your $45,000 pickup or SUV out and do at least a little of what it was designed for instead of transporting a guy in a suit to the office. To find directions on where to pick up the road in Wallace I used Mapquest and the instructions were perfect.

    The road on the Avery side of the pass runs along the NF of the St Joe and it is a beautiful stream indeed. I asked the guy in the fly shop about fishing it and he said it was very productive but is so wild and difficult to access that very few people ever see very much of it. A 4WD road runs along much of it so if you are looking for a challenge in an out of the way location with potentially great fishing this might be your opportunity. Just looking down into it from above I would guess that you need to be young, strong, a powerful wader that is good at beating brush and climbing steep banks. And eager-you gotta be eager. But that is just a guess since I have never driven along it's length. Perhaps even an old fart like me could get in there although I have none of those attributes except eager.

    Fishing is just so much easier in the fall when you can wade anywhere and fish spots that can't even be approached right now. This was my last spring trip over there, I'll go again in the fall when the October caddis are out.

    Ive
     
  20. John Read

    John Read New Member

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    We were up river last week for 4 days, Sun-Thurs. Camped at Tin Can Flat and fished mainly upstream from Avery. Water levels were around 3000cfs at Calder.
    These two sites will give you the water levels at Calder (lower river) http://waterdata.usgs.gov/id/nwis/uv?12414500 and Red Ives (upper river) http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv/?site_no=12413875.
    There are two runoff periods on the river. The lower river gets an earlier runoff than the upper river. Often, early in the year, the lower river can be too high to fish effectively while the upper river is easily fishable.
    I found the best fishing to be after 2pm until dark. Fished everything from an 8 Stim to 22 parachutes. The Stim is a good searching pattern on the Joe, and works year round. Caught a few fish on a 14 red copper john, but had the best luck one evening on a 14 parachute PMD (20 fish in an hour, up to 14"). There are spots on the river that always hold fish. You may not catch, or even see them, but they are there. Unfortunatly, my memory fails me once I leave the river, or I would tell you exactly were they are.

    For camping info check out this web site. It gives all the sites and services available. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ipnf/recreation/recarea/?recid=6891
    There were very few people in the campgrounds or fishing. Look for that to change as the water flows drop. A lot of the Spokane-Couer d'Elene-Montana fishers don't show up until the flows get under 1500cfs.
    The campgrounds tend to start filling up on Wed thru the weekend. There are a lot of nice small turnouts that the forest service has provided portapotties for because of slob campers. These won't be listed as official sites.

    Once you get above Gold Creek, I believe all the campsites are no pay but please leave a donation. All donations at these sites pay for your toilet paper and clean toilets.
    Typically the river upstream from Gold Creek is the busiest part of the river when the flows come down. As the water temps rise, the fish tend to move upstream into somewhat cooler waters. Plus, this is the first sight of the river the people coming over from St. Regis have. There is a mistaken belief that all of the larger fish are above Gold Cr. I believe that there are plenty of big fish downstream, but you have to work harder to find them because the water is bigger.

    When the flows get below 2000cfs we generally float. Over the years, I've floated the entire river except for St. Joe Lake to Heller Ck (too steep and too small), and Skookum and Tumbledown Canyons (too scary for me). There are lots of good floats, 3 to 6 miles, on the river. In high water (3000 to 6000 cfs) people generally float from the highway bridge above Marble Cr to either Huckleberry CG or Calder using drift boats. These are also good floats in the fall.

    We are going to try to get back up next week, but the weather doesn't look to nice.

    John
     

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