Difficulty IV-V
Length 33 Miles
Flow Range 1.00 - 4.20 FT
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 3.29 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/08/2020 1:09 pm

River Description

The South Fork of the Salmon is a great multi-day river trip in central Idaho.  The put in is at the confluence of the South Fork and the Secesh River.  The trip can be combined with runs on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon, or on the Secesh.  The last 20 miles of the trip are on the Wilderness section of the Main Salmon River.  You must get a permit to run this river from the Krassel Ranger District of the USFS, but they are free and easy to get (there is no lottery). Visit the permit page for more details. 

The river changes dramatically with flow.  At base flows it is an enjoyable Class III+ paddling trip with a few rapids that may be considered Class IV.  Fall Creek Rapid, near the end of the run is a standout rapid harder than all the rest at low flows.  During spring snowmelt the South Fork dishes out some of the biggest water around and is a committing Class V expedition.  Expect huge waves and holes, many of which are unavoidable, stacked throughout the run.  Medium flows provide an experience somewhere in the middle.  Rafting descents of the South Fork are challenging and relatively rare.  It is largely the domain of self-support kayakers.   

The scenery is spectacular.  While much of the river flows through a roadless area, there are several ranches and small developments scattered along the river corridor as well as one significant road crossing.  Camping is great but sparse. Follow the rules on the permit page, and please make every effort to follow leave no trace practices in the river corridor: park responsibly, camp on durable surfaces, and use fire pans and portable toilet systems so no ash or human waste is left behind. 

This would be the shuttle going to the takeout at Vinegar Creek: Link.

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

At low flows around 2 feet this run is Class III/IV with Fall Creek Rapid being a solid IV.  At high flows the run is a very stout Class V big water run.  At According to Amaral's book it is IV-V difficulty at 4.2 feet and higher. (See his book for important insights and caveats about this gage!)

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1999-05-31 High Fatality Other Read More



article main photo

Tell Us Why You Love the South Fork Salmon River!

Evan Stafford

The South Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho is under threat from a massive mining proposal. As many of you know, the South Fork is a magnificent river with an incredibly wide range of whitewater opportunities on numerous stretches, including the East Fork, all the way through a Wilderness multi-day run that takes you to the confluence with the Salmon River at Mackey Bar on the Main Salmon wilderness run. We're collecting stories and photos of the South Fork for use in ours and our partners campaign to raise awareness about the imminent threat that this classic whitewater river faces. 

article main photo

Idaho Proposes Registration Fee for Non-Motorized Boats

John Gangemi

<?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.

article main photo

Can You Taste Victory?

American Whitewater

FERC revokes Preliminary Permit for
hydropower project on Boundary Creek in
Northern Idaho.

Kevin Colburn


Ryan Kinzer


Thomas O'Keefe


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1214889 05/08/20 Kevin Colburn updated description
1214890 05/08/20 Kevin Colburn updated permit
1214891 05/08/20 Kevin Colburn updated description
1214892 05/08/20 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1214901 05/08/20 Kevin Colburn updated permit
1198459 10/25/10 Kevin Colburn photo, description, etc
1190415 02/07/04 Ryan Kinzer n/a
1198897 12/01/10 Thomas O'Keefe permit update
1203601 08/08/14 Thomas O'Keefe photo updated
1206820 08/06/18 Kevin Colburn permit
1213149 07/02/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position