The St. Joe drains an approximately 1,000-square-mile area of low mountains and luxuriant forest in northern Idaho. The northern section of the Bitterroot Mountains forms the northern part of the drainage and the Clearwater Mountains form the southern end. The ancient Precambrian Belt Series rock which underlies the area is visible in many places along the river. The rock is composed of metamorphosed mud and silt stone from an ancient seabed.
The run is a 17-miles remote backcountry run through one of the most scenic stretches of the St. Joe watershed. The upper St. Joe is a Wild River in the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Unfortunately, running this stretch is usually a race between the time when the road to the put-in opens (in late June) and the time when the river becomes too low to boat.
The run is primarily Class III with some Class III rapids. More importantly, there are numerous log-jams whose locations change from year to year. Though the rapids are not difficult, anyone attempting this stretch should be aware that it is a wilderness run.
There is a trail along the right side of the river for the entire distance of the run. It is accessible for scouting or self-evacuation if necessary.
The put-in is on Heller Creek; you will need to paddle a short ways down the creek to reach the St. Joe.
To reach the take-out, drive to Red Ives Ranger Station, upstream form the town of Avery. Continue along the river for about two miles until you come to end of the road.To reach the take-out, drive to Red Ives Ranger Station, upstream from the town of Avery. Continue along the river for about two miles until you come to the end of the road.To reach the put-in, return to Red Ives Ranger Station and turn right up Red Ives Creek. Follow the road for 12 miles up and over the summit to Heller Creek Campground.For information on road conditions, call the Avery Ranger Station at 245-4517.Camping: There are Forest Service campgrounds at both the put-in and take-out, as well as along the river upstream from Avery.