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Bruneau River
Bruneau River.jpg
Bruneau River in Idaho
Bruneau River is located in Idaho
Bruneau River
Bruneau River is located in the United States
Bruneau River
Location of the mouth of the Bruneau River in Idaho
Country United States
State Idaho, Nevada
Counties Owyhee County, Idaho, Elko County, Nevada
Physical characteristics
Main source Jarbidge Mountains, Elko County, Nevada
2,457 m (8,061 ft)
41°34′42″N 115°24′50″W / 41.57833°N 115.41389°W / 41.57833; -115.41389
River mouth Snake River
C. J. Strike Reservoir, Owyhee County, Idaho
749 m (2,457 ft)
42°56′57″N 115°57′43″W / 42.94917°N 115.96194°W / 42.94917; -115.96194
Length 153 mi (246 km)
Basin features
Basin size 3,305 sq mi (8,560 km2)
Type: Wild, Recreational
Designated: March 30, 2009

The Bruneau River is a 153-mile-long (246 km) tributary of the Snake River, in the U.S. states of Idaho and Nevada. It runs through a narrow canyon cut into ancient lava flows in southwestern Idaho. The Bruneau Canyon, which is up to 1,200 feet (370 m) deep and 40 miles (64 km) long, features rapids and hot springs, making it a popular whitewater trip.

The Bruneau River's drainage basin is bounded by the Jarbidge Mountains to the southeast, the Owyhee Mountains and Chalk Hills to the west, and the Bruneau Plateau to the east.


2013-06-28 15 51 07 View south up the Bruneau River at Elko County Route 747 (Deeth-Charleston Road) about 38.6 miles north of Deeth in Nevada
The Bruneau River at Charleston-Deeth Road in Elko County, Nevada, near its source.

The Bruneau River system originates within and near the Jarbidge and Mountain City Ranger Districts of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in northern Elko County. The three main streams are the East Fork Bruneau River, the West Fork Bruneau River, and the Jarbidge River, all of which flow generally north. The Jarbidge River joins the West Fork, then the East and West Forks join to form the mainstem Bruneau River. Sheep Creek and Jacks Creek join from the west, and Clover Creek joins from the east. Most of the watershed is characterized by high plateaus through which the Bruneau and its tributaries cut deep, sheer canyons, especially along the middle Bruneau River and the lower reaches of the Jarbidge River, Sheep Creek, and the East Fork Bruneau.

The Bruneau River emerges from the plateau and canyon region 16 miles (26 km) upstream from its mouth at the Snake River's C. J. Strike Reservoir. At this point the river enters the broad and fertile Snake River Plain. This lower section of the watershed is occupied by farms and ranches, and the town of Bruneau.

River modifications

2013-07-12 09 39 00 Charleston Reservoir near Charleston in Nevada
Charleston Reservoir near Charleston, Nevada

The Bruneau River is used for irrigation purposes near the Snake River. Irrigation withdrawals result in a number of its tributary streams being largely dewatered annually.


The Bruneau River region was historically occupied by the Northern Shoshone, Northern Paiute, and Bannock tribes

The Bruneau River was given its name sometime before 1821 by French CanadianPierre Bruneau 1796-1873 voyageurs working for the Montreal-based fur trading North West Company. The name is derived from the French meaning "dark water".

Bruneau jasper, a semi-precious gemstone, was discovered near the bottom of the Bruneau River canyon walls, and named after the river.

Recreation and protected areas

Bruneau Canyon Overlook ID
Bruneau Canyon from overlook

Much of the mainstem Bruneau River above Hot Spring is designated as a Wild and Scenic River, as are parts of the West Fork and East Fork, and some of Sheep Creek. The Jarbidge Wilderness covers a portion of the southern end of the Bruneau watershed. The Bruneau River is protected in the new Bruneau - Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness, which was created by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 and signed into law on March 30, 2009. The new wilderness area includes the Bruneau from about five miles upstream of the Jarbidge River confluence down nearly to the confluence with Hot Creek, as well as portions of Sheep Creek and Clover Creek.

Whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities exist on the Bruneau and Jarbidge Rivers. The Jarbridge canyon contain stretches of whitewater with class 5 and class 6 rapids from both recent and distant canyon wall collapses. From the bridge below the confluence of West Fork at Indian hot spring to the take out it is class 3 dominate with just a couple rapids that reach class 4 at flows between 1600-3000 cfs.

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