Middle Fork Salmon Rafting
Over the course of 100 miles and 6 days, run whitewater rapids, soak in relaxing hot springs, hike scenic trails and view breathtaking waterfalls.
Middle Fork of the Salmon River Rafting
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River contains numerous slightly technical class III ( and a few class IV) rapids providing a fun rafting trip. When not running rapids the scenery varies but is always breath taking. Home to cutthroat, rainbow, and steelhead trout, the river provides daily catch and release fishing opportunities. Common wildlife sightings include to see big horn sheep, mule deer, otter, osprey and eagles. As one of the original eight national wild and scenic rivers and surrounded by the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, Middle Fork Salmon Rafting trips float through one of the most remote, pristine areas in the U.S.
Early season trips launch at Boundary Creek, while later in the season a scenic flight transports groups to the Indian Creek put-in. From Boundary Creek to Cache Bar the river descends 3000 feet through magnificent trees and breathtaking canyons. Over 100 rapids including Velvet Falls, Devil’s Tooth, Tappan, and Haystack lead into the legendary Impassable Canyon, making this a premier alpine rafting experience. Those wanting a longer rafting trip can “turn the corner” and raft an additional 6-days on the family friendly Main Salmon River.
The Middle Fork remains an undammed, free-flowing river fed from snowmelt. June has exciting high water, however by late summer the river offers a more mellow float. Water temperature on the Middle Fork warms from around 50°F to 65°F through the summer.
$2,550 - $2,750 per person
Length: 80 or 100 miles/6 days
Price: $2,550 per youth, $2,750 per adult
Optional Rentals: sleeping bag + pad ($40/person), 2-person tent ($40/tent)
Season: June – September
Min. Age: 7 years during Low Water Levels; 12 years during High Water Levels (June – early July)
Activity: Class III/IV Whitewater Rafting and Inflatable Kayaking
Meeting Place: Stanley, Idaho
Ending Place: Stanley, Idaho
Middle Fork Salmon Rafting Details
Meet at 8:00 pm the evening before the trip in Stanley, Idaho at the River 1 Store. During the pre-trip meeting, the lead guide distributes dry bags for packing your gear, reviews trip and shuttle information, and answers last-minute questions. Most people make a reservation well in advance to stay at the The Mountain Village Lodge next door.
Middle Fork Salmon Launch Day
At the time designated during pre-trip meeting a bus will meet the group at the Mountain Village Lodge. The drive takes 1 1/2 to 2-hours to the put-in at Boundry Creek for June and early July trips. Trips later in the summer will be transported by van to the Stanley airport and then flown 30 minutes to the Indian Creek Landing Strip. Trips launch from here in the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness Area.
After a short safety and orientation briefing at either location, you will launch on the river around noon. Floating several miles and running a few rapids brings you to the first night’s camp. Once the rafts are unloaded there is a camp tour, and everyone decides where they will set up for the evening. Then it’s time to relax and enjoy appetizers while the guides prepare dinner.
A hearty breakfast and fresh coffee get each day started on the river before packing your dry bags and loading into the rafts. Middle Fork Salmon rafting trips typically float 15 to 18 miles over 5 to 6 hours with multiple stops to visit old homesteads and pictograph sites, scout rapids, soak in a hot spring, and partake in a riverside lunch. You can rotate rafts at stops so everyone has the opportunity to paddle or relax. You usually arrive at camp in the late afternoon and are free to hike, relax, swim, or fish while the guides prepare dinner. After dinner enjoy a campfire under the stars while listening to the river in the background.
Last River Day
After a full morning of fun rapids to finish Impassable Canyon, you will take-out at the confluence of the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers and say goodbye to the crew. There will be a quick stop in North Fork, Idaho to change clothes, re-pack and say goodbye to the lead guide before continuing on to Stanley for a late evening arrival around 7:00 pm.
All the group camping and river-related safety equipment is included along with plenty of fresh food and snacks starting with lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day. There will be plenty of water but if you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own, (beer and soda in cans; wine in boxes or bags; hard liquor in plastic bottles).
You are expected to supply your own camping and sleep gear. However, you can also rent tents, pads, and sleeping bags for the trip (prices can be seen in the facts above). The price includes transportation from Stanley, Idaho to the put-in point (by bus or small plane), and take-out point back to Stanley.
Guides appreciate gratuities for their efforts. Typically, tips are around 10% to 15% of the trip cost and can be given to the head guide to be evenly distributed among the crew. That being said, the choice to tip is yours and depends upon your feelings about the trip and tipping in general as well as your financial means.
What to Expect
Making the most of your rafting trip
We find people have the most fun when they are flexible. Rafting trips provide an adventure with the guides continually adjusting the plans to make the most of each day. It can be nice to leave your watch behind.
Idaho’s summer weather is usually excellent. In the upper canyon the highs range 65°F – 75°F and drop into the 40’s°F at night. Lower in the canyon day time highs can reach the 90’s and night time temps are in the high 50’s. Afternoon rainstorms are a regular event but typically done before camp is reached. Being prepared with layers and good rain gear will make any experience of rain an enjoyable part of the trip. The river temperature varies between 50 and 60°F as the water drops during the summer.
Boats & Group Size
Your main forms of transport will be oar rafts, a paddle boat, and inflatable kayaks for those who wish for a more interactive experience. Oar powered rafts are about 18 feet long and carry three guests plus the guide, who maneuvers the raft with a set of oars mounted on the raft. Normally three to five boats travel together, and group sizes can be up to 22 guests, maximum.
The 14-foot paddle raft carries six people plus a guide. Each person paddles as a guide calls out commands. When water levels are suitable, single, and two-person kayaks let you challenge the rapids on your own terms. Please note that space in a paddle raft or inflatable kayaks is not guaranteed. If more people wish to ride in these boats than there are spaces, paddlers will rotate so that everyone gets a chance to participate.
Whether you’re an experienced camper or it’s your first time under the stars, camping on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. Everyone gets to select their own tent spots and guides are around to help those who would like assistance setting up tents. Guides set up a clean, private toilet first thing upon arrival at camp and the last thing to be dismantled the next morning.
There will be plenty of healthy tasty food on the trip. A full breakfast with cowboy coffee gets the day going. A riverside picnic sets the scene for lunch. Dinners can be anything from a steak, grilled filet of salmon, or a Mexican feast and may be followed by a hot, Dutch oven dessert. There are plenty of snacks and water available throughout the day. Alcoholic beverages are not included, but you are welcome to bring your own. When signing up for the trip you will have an opportunity to share any special dietary requirements.
Packing for your rafting trip
You will be provided with a suggested packing list after signing up for the trip. The key equipment includes good river footwear and clothing that protects you from the rain and the sun. Proper rain gear will make any rain showers a much more joyful experience. Here are some rain gear, footwear, and other clothing options we recommend.
Middle Fork Fishing
Fishing on the Middle Fork Salmon River is excellent and usually gets better after the water levels drop in mid-July. Poles should be protected in sturdy cases, and only a small amount of tackle is needed. Dry flies and small spinners with single barbless hooks work well; you do not need waders or nets. The river is catch and release only so all hooks must be single and barbless. Those wishing to fish can purchase an Idaho License on-line through Idaho Fish and Game.
Getting There and Away
Drive your vehicle to Stanley, Idaho which is about 3 hours from Boise. Your car will be left there during your trip. Some groups prefer to end their trip in Salmon, Idaho if they are driving north afterwards and pay to have their vehicle shuttled to Salmon by River Shuttles. Arrangements are best made in advance however you can fill out a form at the pre-trip meeting. The cost of the shuttle is around $150 per vehicle.
Fly into Boise and then fly via Gem Air (small propeller planes) from Boise to Stanley the day before your trip launches. The morning after your trip ends fly from Stanley back to Boise. Or stay in Salmon, Idaho after your trip and fly from there to Boise in the morning which saves a long bus ride from Salmon to Stanley. Gem Air costs about $180 per person per leg.
Another option is to rent a car in Boise and drive it 3 hours to Stanley.
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Spectacular in every aspect!
As a retired river guide, I was thrilled to take family and friends down one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen.
Entrusting my loved ones to the skilled guides was easy. From technical river skills and safety, to the quality meals and entertainment, the staff was impeccable.
I will remember that trip fondly, and look forward to playing on a river with them again:)
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