Middle Fork Salmon River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is a 104-mile-long (167 km)[1] river in central Idaho in the northwestern United States. The Middle Fork lies in the middle of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, part of the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 states. In 1980, the area was designated by the United States Congress as a federally-protected wilderness area. In total the Frank Church is 2.5 million acres.

Middle Fork Salmon River
Middle Fork Salmon River Idaho.jpg
Country United States
State Idaho
 - coordinates 44°26′57″N 115°13′51″W / 44.44917°N 115.23083°W / 44.44917; -115.23083
Mouth Salmon River
 - elevation 3,015 ft (919 m)
 - coordinates 45°17′50″N 114°35′36″W / 45.29722°N 114.59333°W / 45.29722; -114.59333Coordinates: 45°17′50″N 114°35′36″W / 45.29722°N 114.59333°W / 45.29722; -114.59333


The Middle Fork is a tributary of the Salmon River, which is the main tributary of the Snake River, which in turn is the main tributary to the Columbia River. The Middle Fork is one hundred miles of whitewater. The nearest town is Stanley, Idaho. The Middle Fork's elevation starts at 7,000 feet (2,100 m) above sea level and drops down to 3,900 feet (1,200 m). Bear Valley Creek and Marsh Creek converge to form the Middle Fork. The Middle Fork has around a hundred tributaries; some of the bigger tributaries are Rapid River, Loon Creek and Camas Creek. These three tributaries range from 20 to 25 miles (32 to 40 km) long. The Middle Fork flows through 2,500 square miles (6,500 km2) of rugged terrain known as the Salmon River Mountains, in which there are peaks that reach as high as 10,000 feet (3,000 m) (Midmore 1–2).


A permit is required to travel down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, which can be obtained through the Four Rivers Lottery and Permit Reservation System. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River permit season runs from May 28 - Sept. 3. Pre and the post season launches are first come first serve.[3] Getting a recreational permit to float the Middle Fork is notoriously difficult and is awarded through a lottery system. There are a combined total of seven commercial and recreational launches a day. To become a permit holder you have to be 18 years old. The permit holder must work with a group to take care of the fees. The permit cannot be given to someone else, and the permit holder must be there at all times on the river. The permit holder must make sure that the rules, which are given by the United States Forest Service, are followed. An example would be that they must have a fire pan and port-a-potty.


A raft in a Class II- riffle on the Middle Fork Salmon

The Middle Fork has three hundred ratable rapids. Some of the well-known rapids on the Middle Fork are Dagger Falls, Sulphur Slide, Velvet Falls, the Chutes, Power House, Pistol Creek, Tappan Falls, Red Side, Weber, Cliffside, Rubber, Hancock and Devil's Tooth. All but one of these are class III+ to class IV (on a scale of I to VI), with Dagger Falls being class V.

Dagger Falls is just above the put-in of the Middle Fork which is on Boundary Creek. It is runnable on the left above 3 feet, but best at 6–8 feet.

Velvet Falls, a class IV, has a recirculating ledge hole in the middle at some levels. To avoid danger take the left side. Velvet Falls gets its name from the small stream, Velvet Creek, flowing in on river right immediately above the drop, which refers to the velvet-like layer on developing antlers of deer and elk. (Other nearby streams include Elk Horn, Buck Horn and Ram's Horn.)

Power House is a class IV where you have to pick your way through gaps and at the same time not get stuck on rocks or driven into the wall on river right, especially in higher water.

Near mile 20, the river makes an S turn which is called Pistol Creek, a class IV. A person must make sure that they don't let the water slam them on the last turn of the S. Tappan Falls (class IV) should be run right of center to avoid a recirculating hole in the middle. It is a straight shot and hard paddling must also occur.

At Red Side (class IV) there is a big rock in the river and the river is trying to push you into the rock. In high water, sneak far right. In low water, enter center and run far left of the wrap rock.

Weber (class IV) is known for the big holes of whitewater that it makes. Angle to left bank in higher water to square up on laterals. Make sure when entering the rapid to hit with speed and keep the boat straight.

Cliffside (class III+) is a big wave train that pushes you into the side of the cliff.

Rubber (class III+) has very big waves. Keep the boat straight to laterals same as Weber and avoid the rock on the right side. Both Rubber and Weber are biggest at 4–5 feet of water.

Hancock (class III+) can be rocky at the top; the river goes right and one has to hit the wave train straight.

At Devil's Tooth (class III+) put the boat into a small gap to avoid flipping. After going through the gap, turn the boat straight.

All of theses rapids change significantly with water level. See the Forest Service guide book for complete details.

Hot Springs[edit]

The Middle Fork has six natural hot springs in the first 52 miles (84 km) of the river, Trail Flat, Sheepeater, Sunflower, Whitey Cox, Loon Creek and Hospital Bar. The hot springs vary in temperature and are all very popular places to stop on the river.

  • Trail Flat hot springs is 30 yards (27 m) from the river and has one pool.
  • Sheepeater hot springs is a half a mile from the river. There are three different pools which range from "super hot" to "just right".
  • Sunflower hot springs has five pools. There is also a part of the hot spring that pours off the rocks and makes a shower.
  • Whitey Cox's hot springs is up on a hill with large sandy-bottom pools which can hold a lot of people.
  • Loon Creek hot springs is a mile-and-a-half hike along Loon Creek from the Middle Fork. A wooden tub has been built with a nice view of Loon Creek.
  • Hospital Bar is a small hot spring with two pools, one right next to the river.





See also[edit]