Trip Report Magruder Corridor

I took leave the week following Labor Day to drive, hike, camp, and fish the Magruder Corridor. This is a trip a long time fly fishing friend and I have been planning for months. Unfortunately, the week before our departure date he had complications with work and had to cancel. Undeterred I set out with just my dog.

We traveled from Eastern Washington through Darby Montana to traverse the corridor from east to west. Arrived at the 'official' start at 5 PM Monday.
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Most of the road up to Nez Perce Pass is paved and the gravel portions are as good as Forest Service roads come. Nez Perce Pass is the state line of Montana and Idaho. There is information on the two wilderness areas Magruder Corridor bisects.
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Our next stop would be Magruder Crossing then the 12 miles to Paradise Campground where we would setup for the night. The road from the Pass to Paradise is a gravel road which is excellently maintained. I could have easily driven it in my MG Midget. For anyone wishing to access the pristine fish filled waters of the upper Selway coming in from the Montana side is the way to go. However, you should be aware...
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After several stops to fish Deep Creek on the way down we reached Magruder Crossing the Selway. Deep Creek only yielded a few small Brook Trout.
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Along the 12 miles from Magruder Crossing to Paradise there are numerous fish holding runs and holes with easy access from the road.
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It was at one of these as I fished my way to Paradise :D I netted my first fish. To my surprise it was a Redband Rainbow. After this little guy I caught multiple West Slope Cutthroat, and lost 3 Bull Trout.
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We reached Paradise and setup camp for the night. The campground is 1/2 mile up Whitecap Creek. As the Selway is 100% catch & release I fished Whitecap in a hole just upstream from our camp site and picked up a couple nice Cutthroat for dinner. The rest of the evening was spent in the warmth of our campfire, sipping whisky and watching the stars. I did encounter one of the locals on my way to the camp grounds only toilet so if you go with kids or dogs be aware.
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Day 2

After a good breakfast and drowning the campfire I gathered the items we would need for a day hike and put them into my pack. We set off at the Selway trailhead.
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This trail runs for 50 miles to Selway Falls with most of it right on the river. For those who are interested in a multi day hike on almost unfished waters full of Cutts and Bulls this is one you should consider. The trail is relatively flat with unimproved campgrounds spread out along the length of the trail. There is even a Forest Service air strip at about the half way point. We only hiked about 5 miles before it was time to head back to camp. The fishing was steady but not super hot. The only fish encountered were Cutthroat, no Bulls. I did use my 2 wt. all day which made it lots of fun.
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In the afternoon we fished our way back up the Selway to Magruder Crossing / Campground and spent the night. We encountered a Black Bear on the side of the road eating berries who took off as we approached. At the campground we met a sweet young lady named Georgia (86 years old) and her two daughters who were spending the week at Magruder Campground as part of a family tradition. Georgia's husband proposed to her at this campground when she was just 17 years old. Her husband has passed but they still make the trip every year. I learned a lot about the history of the area and have a standing invitation to visit them at their homes any time I'm in the area.

Day 3

In the morning I packed up camp and we began the trek along the Magruder Corridor proper. Once leaving Magruder Crossing it is a 15 mile steep grade uphill to the crest. This section of the road is much rougher with speeds averaging 10 MPH. The temperature gauge rose noticeably but stayed in the normal range. If you plan to take this trip make sure your coolant is good. Part way up I noticed something odd on the side of the road and stopped. It turned out to be Grizzly Bear scat. My shoe size is 12.5.
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Days 4 - 5
On this section of the road the only fishable water are the high lakes. They include; Gold Pan, Elk Track, Three Lakes, Trilby Lakes, Spread Point Lake, Burnt Knob Lakes, and Stilman Lake. All of these lakes are 1 - 5 miles off the main road and to reach them you must hike. We had planned to hike into all of these but as my friend couldn't make the trip I opted to only hike into the easier ones. Each of the ones I reached produced lots of WSC. Many of these were in full spawn colors.
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We left the high lakes area and headed for Poet Creek Campground. This section of road is the roughest so far. Lots of ruts and exposed boulders which slow down the travel to an average of 5 MPH. About a mile from our campground we encountered a black wolf. It gave us the sink eye it for a bit then casually wandered off into the woods.
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I set up camp and pulled out the little Tenkara rod and worked my way up Bargamin Creek which boarders the campground on the east. Every run and hole was full of hungry little Brook Trout. After about 30 minutes and an untold number of brookies we returned to camp for dinner and bed. With our encounter with the wolf so close to camp I opted for the dog and I to sleep in the Jeep that night.

Day 6
After breakfast and packing up it was a relatively quick trip to the end of the Magruder Corridor and the Red River Ranger Station. This section of the Red River is where Idaho Fish & Game plant / spawn Chinook Salmon. There were many deads along the river as we fished our way down to the South Fork Clearwater River. The Red River didn't produce much but once we reached the South Fork fishing got hot. I pulled Cutts and Bows out of every place we stopped.

By the time we reached Kooskia where the South Fork meets the Middle Fork it was time to put away the rods and make the dash for home. I'm already looking forward to doing this trip again next year.
 

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Music

Active Member
I have considered this trip before but have been concerned about how bad the road is. Is it doable in a standard 4wd pickup?
The main road is completely doable in a pickup, 2 or 4 wd. I saw several pickups, two 4wd pickups with horse trailers, and even a Suburban pulling a 2 axle U-Haul. The only places I needed 4wd was the few side roads.
 
Magruder’s has become a popular “adventure” drive. We did it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it - beautifully situated (thank you Nez Perce), great history (thank you CCC), and great views (thank you climate change forest fires), but the road was in good shape and with the amenities (several maintained campgrounds) and the number of fellow travelers, it didn’t feel like as much of an adventure as some other back roads we’ve traveled over the years. Definitely worth the time if you are thinking about doing it.
 

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