SEASON: As one of the few multi-day trips in the lower 48 with unregulated flows, it's always a challenge to plan your trip and decide what launch dates to request six months in advance. The road to the put-in is generally clear by early June. If it's not, kayakers can paddle in on Marsh Creek and rafts can fly in to a point further downstream. Weather for pre-season trips can be cold but you'll likely have your pick of hot springs as fewer people boat the river. During high snow pack years flows can be dangerously high in the early part of June--many trips have met with disaster in high water years. The greatest demand for permits is always towards the end of June. In low snow years you should still have plenty of water and in high snow years you'll be past the peak. Decent boating opportunities normally persist into July and by August the river is typically pretty low.
LOGISTICS: Trips start out at the Boundary Creek put-in (at the base of Dagger Falls). From Highway 21, take FR 579 about 10 miles, and then bear right on FR 568 which goes another 13 miles to the launch ramp. It's best to arrive the evening before your launch if you want to strategize for the best campsites. For kayak self support trips early in the season you may have to put in on Marsh Creek. In high snow pack years the road to Boundary Creek may not be accessible until early June. Rafts use the Indian Creek airstrip as an alternate access point particularly later in the season when flows are too low for the upper section. The shuttle is 210 miles and takes a full day. Groups often hire someone locally to run the shuttle for them. The take-out is the Cache Bar boat ramp on the mainstem of the Salmon River.
DESCRIPTION: Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon is considered by many to be the country's premier multi-day whitewater trip. With unregulated flows, remarkable wilderness scenery, numerous hot springs, a native fishery, and great whitewater it's no wonder that anyone who secures a permit in the annual lottery has no trouble finding people who want to go. Most plan for a week-long trip on this federally designated Wild and Scenic River with full raft support, but kayakers have paddled it as a long--and intense--day trip during peak snow melt in the highest water years.
From Dagger Falls the river starts right off with some great continuous whitewater action (at 40' per mile). At moderate flows this section provides some of the best rapids of the trip, but at higher flows it can be a little too much action for inexperienced paddlers. Several groups, especially those with less experienced raft crews, have gotten into serious trouble right away when attempting this section at high water. At low flows this section can be a real pain with rafts. While kayaks can make their way through the shallow boulder gardens, those with rafts should consider flying in to the Indian Creek access downstream when flows begin to drop down to 1200 cfs. Even kayaks may want to use this alternate access at flows below 700 cfs. Velvet Falls, Powerhouse, and Pistol Creek are good rapids that come early in the trip. Once you pass Indian Creek the river eases up (23' per mile from here to the take-out), but you still have good whitewater. The Tappan Rapids and Haystack are highlights of this section. Most of the best whitewater, and some incredible surfing at higher flows, comes near the end in the Impassable Canyon--so named for the fact that there is no land route. The rapids Redside, Weber, and Rubber are all found in this stretch.
The run ends with a four-mile paddle on the Main Salmon to Cache Bar.
Boundary Creek Boat Launch. Mile 0. Permits and schedules are issued here. Credit for the lat/long coordinates and descriptions for this and the other rapids and features goes to Fred Williams and GPXchange.com. Contents used by permission. Thanks!
At high water (above 4 feet) this is one of the most difficult rapids on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. You can scout it the night before by walking down the trail on river left. There is a boat flipping hole on the right that gets harder to avoid as the flows get higher.
If you flip here at flows above 5 feet you may not be able to recover the boat for a few miles. A swim could be very long and potentially life threatening.
Teepee Hole Camp. A small but heavily used site good for 10 people or less.
Cable Hole Camp. A small camp located on a rocky bench with some clear areas. Suitable for 10 people of less.
Gardell's Hole Camp. A large camp on a sand and gravel bar just above a large pool and Sulfur Slide Rapid.
Sulphur Slide Rapid (Class III). This is a steep, fairly long rock garden. At moderate to high water start left and work center. Advisable to scout at low water.
Ramshorn Rapid (Class III).
Velvet Falls Rapid (Class IV). Look for a large 10 x 10 x 20 foot boulder on the river left bank with a small creek on river right. Hug the left bank just past the boulder for a chute that avoids the recirculating ledge.
Boy Scout Camp. A small rocky camp on river right.
Big Bend Camp. A large camp on a low sandy bench with both timber and open areas.
Trail Flat Camp. A large camp on a bench just above the river. Hot springs at water's edge washes out at high water.
These rapids are immediately following the hot springs at Trail Flat an are very challenging at flows below 2.2 feet.
The Chutes Rapids (Class III). Stay left, avoiding the rock at the channel entrance.
Elkhorn Bar Camp. Camping is possible both on the higher bank and just around the bend at this large camp. Look for a large rock in the center of the river, just above the camp.
Saddle Camp. This site is named for the large grassy saddle on the ridge above the timbered flat, where the camp is located.
Boot Camp. A very small site located on a high, timbered bench.
Powerhouse Rapids (Class III-IV). You can land on the right just above to scout from a bench above the river. A cabin and other ruins are found here.
Joe Bump Cabin and Camp. This large camp is on a timbered bench just across from Soldier Creek. Joe Bump's cabin can be found upstream by following the well worn trail a couple hundred yards.
This is a great camp near Sheepeater Hot Springs
Sheepeater Camp. Landing can be a problem at low water because the river is wide and shallow here. A hot spring can be found on the terrace above the camp.
Fire Island Camp. Space for a large party on this low timber and grassy bench.
Lake Creek Camp. Mile 14.9. This large camp is just across the river from Lake Creek.
John's Camp. This large camp occupies the bench where the river bends sharply to the right.
Greyhound Creek Camp. This small camp is by a large pool about 10 feet above the river back into the trees.
Dome Hole Camp. This small camp lies just past the pool on river left.
Artillery Rapids (Class II). This is a series of long but relatively easy rapids.
Rapid River Camp. Room for a large party on this timbered bench.
Big Snag Camp. A large campsite above a calm pool.
Dolly Lake Camp. This large camp is located just below the calm pool on a right-hand bend.
Cannon Creek Rapids (Class III). Work left to avoid the ledge.
Marble Creek Rapids (Class III). Follow the center channel.
Middle Fork Lodge. Mile 33.3. Privately owned fishing lodge and retreat.
Tappan I Rapid (Class II). Stay in the center.
Tappan Falls Rapid (Class III). Mile 57.9. Best run is right near the bank. Scouting is recommended at lower flows.
Camas Creek Camp. Mile 59.9. This large camp is found just above the mouth of Camas Creek.
Petroglyphs in a cave above the river. Large boulders mark the river bank.
Jack Creek Rapids (Class III). Mile 70.7.This stretch extends nearly a half mile and at high water contains many fun big waves.
Rattlesnake Cave. Mile 74.4. Camping prohibited. Cave contains Indian petroglyphs.
Fly Camp. Mile 75.7. A small camp on a sandy beach identified by Kimmel Creek waterfall on the opposite bank.
Porcupine Rapids (Class III). Mile 81.0. A short straightforward rapid on a sharp right bend. Enter center and then work left.
Redside Rapids (Class III). Runs vary depending on flows.
Weber Rapids (Class III-IV). Run center or center left at most flows.
Upper Cliffside Rapids (Class III). Run inside on this right hand corner.
Rubber Rapids (Class III-IV). Mile 91.1. Stay in the center and follow the main current.
Hancock Rapids (Class III-IV). Mile 92.2. Large standing waves as the river rounds the corner below the creek entering on river right.
Devil's Tooth Rapid (Class III). Run to the right of center in this drop punctuated by large boulders.
House Rock Rapids (Class III). Harder at high flows when a hard left is required.
Confluence with the Main Salmon. Mile 96.3.
44.531800, -115.294367, 0.0M, Boundary Creek, RL
44.624550, -115.198500, 10.7M, Scout Camp, RL
44.783900, -114.856233, 46.2M, Whitey Cox Grave, RR
45.032400, -114.724000, 72.9M, Wilson Creek, RR
44.891583, -114.722533, 59.9M, Camas Creek, RR
44.956683, -114.734633, 66.8M, Flying "B" Ranch, RL
45.211017, -114.684117, 87.9M, Parrot Cabin, RL
45.318583, -114.636583, 99.7M, Cache Bar, RR
New Gudebook out June 20, 2006 by
Matt Leidecker Photography
P.O. Box 3834
Ketchum, ID 83340
Easily the new standard for guidebooks.
new online whitewater guide for idaho and montana area paddling - check it out!
11 years ago
by Chris Noyes
Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Plan includes management plan for Middle Fork Salmon and Salmon Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The gauge is at Middle Fork Lodge. Middle Fork regulars often refer to the staff gauge in feet. 3'=1830 cfs, 4'=2700 cfs, 5'=5300 cfs (the meaning of the staff gauge changes slightly from year-to-year depending on changes in river bed morphology). Flows above 5000 cfs are considered high water which becomes more of an issue for rafts. Expert kayakers have paddled the river much higher. Below 1200 cfs the upper section starts to get a bit boney.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Murph's Hole at High Water
Goat Creek Camp
Goat Creek Rapid
Jump Off Rapid
below House Rock Rapid
House Rock Rapid
Devil's Tooth Rapid
Mist Falls Rapid
Cutthroat Cove Rapid
Big Creek Rapid
Big Creek Bridge
Waterfall Creek Rapid
Kimmel Creek Rapid
Rattlesnake Cave Pictographs
Middle Fork Salmon
Jack Creek Rapid
Bernard Creek Guard Station beach
Bernard Creek Guard Station
Aparejo Point Rapid
Shark Fin Rock
Downstream of Camas Creek
Dish Wash Station at Camas Creek
Breakfast at Camas Creek Camp
Camas Creek Camp
Camas Creek Trail Bridge
View from Camas Creek
Cove Creek Rapid
Tappan I Rapid
Hospital Hot Spring
Middle Fork near Loon Creek
Lower Loon Creek Bridge
Giant helleborine orchids
Look Creek Hot Spring
Hiking Up Loon Creek
Bush Plane Take Off
Big Loon Camp
White Creek Pack Bridge
Floating Down the Middle Fork
Little Loon Creek
Cameron Creek Day Use Site
Cameron Creek Pictographs
Little Creek Bridge
Hydropower Plant at Middle Fork Lodge
Middle Fork Lodge Bridge
Sunflower Hot Spring
Marble Creek Rapid
Orelano Creek Rapid
Pungo Creek Camp
Indian Creek Access
Upper Middle Fork
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
The Trust for Public Land last week announced the purchase of a critical 80-acre private property in the heart of the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho. This land will be added to the Frank Church and made available for all to enjoy as unspoiled wilderness, and will help protect the incomparable Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
If you want to obtain a permit to float the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon Rivers in 2010, you need to know about changes coming in the Forest Service permit lottery and launch reservation system. The Four Rivers Lottery is going “green”, incorporating an entirely online system as part of our desire to go paperless.
A mining company has proposed a large scale mining exploration operation 3 miles inside of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The mining operation would take place in the Big Creek watershed, which enters the Middle Fork Salmon at the beginning of Impassable Canyon. American Whitewater filed preliminary comments on the proposal this month, and will alert paddlers to additional comment opportunities later this spring.
<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho is proposing a $13 registration fee for non-motorized boats greater than 7 feet in length. Under this registration fee proposal all kayaks and rafts on Idaho waters would be required to have a registration sticker fixed to the bow of each boat greater than 7 feet in length. Stickers would not be transferable between boats. Out of state boaters would be required to comply as well.
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