|from $1,845* per person||6 Days||June-September
Exertion level: 4
|Operator: ROW International
12 people max
Idaho's legendary Middle Fork of the Salmon River is an iconic whitewater rafting trip. Bounce along through more than 100 rapids over the 105-mile stretch of the Salmon River. The free-flowing Middle Fork Salmon rafting trips drops 3,000 feet through central Idaho's remote and spectacular "River of No Return" wilderness. Natural and untamed, scenic and diverse, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is one of America's first "Wild and Scenic Rivers" protected by Congress.
We launch our boats into the Salmon River nearly 6,000 feet above sea level and immediately enter an enchanted forest of fir and spruce. The river is steep, shallow and narrow and we careen through boulder-choked rapids. With each passing mile, side creeks tumble into the Middle Fork's clear sparkling water and deepen the flow around our boats. The whitewater rapids are frequent and challenging on the Middle Fork. Guides speak their names with reverence - Velvet Falls, Ram's Horn, the Chutes, Pistol Creek, Devil's Tooth and House Rock to name a few on this Idaho rafting trip.
Dropping in elevation, the Middle Fork Salmon River widens and the spruce forest opens up to vistas of pine-studded mountains. Rafts drift quietly over deep pools of transparent water—home to native cutthroat and rainbow trout. Guides stop the group often to visit nearby Native American pictographs and pioneer homesteads. ROW guides are intimately familiar with this majestic canyon and use their interpretive knowledge to help draw the silent stories from these historic places.
Further downstream, the trip enters Impassable Canyon. Granite mountains of staggering dimensions slice out of the clear Middle Fork water and into the cobalt blue Idaho sky. We'll stop for hikes underneath Waterfall Creek and up to Veil Falls. Soaking in the many natural hot springs along the Middle Fork are highlights for many of our guests.
As we near the end of our Idaho rafting journey, having dropped 3,000 feet in elevation and gained a lifetime of memories, it's hard not to envy the Native Americans and pioneers who spent their whole lives in the vast wilderness along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
ROW offers raft-supported hiking tours of this magnificent country. Load up a day pack with supplies to get you through the day, then hike to camp where you're gear will be waiting, tent will be set up and food will be cooking.
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Idaho, United States, North America
DAY 0 – Arrive in Stanley by 7:00pm MST to meet ROW’s team leader at the Mountain Village Inn for a one-hour orientation meeting. We'll answer any last-minute questions and provide waterproof bags for your gear. Dinner on your own. You could schedule some time at the hotel’s private hot spring (reserve when checking in).
DAY 1 – Meet your group at 7:30am. We'll take a two-hour bus ride to Boundary Creek and start our trip. At 6,000 feet elevation, the air is crisp and the forest thick with fir and spruce. At the river we'll go through a safety orientation while your personal gear is loaded onto our rafts. After orientation, everyone chooses a raft (paddle or oar-powered) and climbs aboard. The first 15 miles of the Middle Fork are fast and rapids are steep, narrow, come in quick succession. During lunch, we'll explain how we minimize our impact on the river with Leave No Trace camping ethics. After lunch the river continues to be lively and challenging. Every few hundred yards a creek tumbles into the river, increasing the flow. We travel between 10 and 15 miles the first day and arrive at camp around 4:00pm. Enjoy the free time for hiking, fishing, reading or just relaxing. Hors d’oeuvres are served around 6:00 and dinner around 7:30. After dinner, a campfire is lit and the warmth invites all to share stories of the day, and life.
DAY 2 – We awake around 7:00am and enjoy fresh-brewed coffee. Breakfast is served and you pack up your personal gear. The rafts are loaded and we depart from camp around 9:30 for an adventure-packed day of rapids, magnificent scenery and fun. We make it a point to visit one or two pioneer homesteads on these first few days. We'll likely stop to explore the old miner’s camp at Powerhouse Rapids. Today’s a good day to keep your eyes open for the nest of the American Dipper, a small gray bird that swims underwater and builds its nest above fast-flowing water.
We'll have plenty of fun rapids as the river continues its quick descent. We'll pull out the “Duckies,” our inflatable kayaks, for those seeking a more intimate experience with the river. We’ll stop for a soak in Sunflower Flat Hot Springs where several pools above the river cascade over a rocky cliff to create nature’s perfect shower. We make camp around 4:00pm and enjoy hiking, fishing and relaxing. After dinner the night sky welcomes stargazers and, later on, the river lulls you to sleep.
DAY 3 – The river canyon opens now and we’ve dropped over 1,500 feet in elevation. Days and nights are warmer. The fir and spruce give way to ponderosa pines, sagebrush and riparian hardwoods. The sparkling-clear water carries us swiftly along as the river channel widens and narrows with the underlying geology. One of today's highlights is stopping to view pictographs of the Native American Tukudeka, or Sheepeaters, who lived in this canyon until the 1870’s.
The afternoon is casual as the current slows a bit. We'll learn about early pioneers like Charlie Norton, who had a run in with a bear as amazing as the saga of Jedediah Smith. By mid-afternoon we arrive at camp near Loon Creek, around 50 miles from our starting point. Tonight’s highlight is a hike to the Loon Creek hot springs and fishers may enjoy casting a line into Loon Creek. Summer evenings are long, with darkness arriving around 9:30pm in June and July. The night sky, crackling campfire and fresh mountain air will help you sleep like a baby.
DAY 4 – Another day of fun rapids and incredible Rocky Mountain scenery. We’ll likely see big horn sheep as we pass several mineral licks. Those fishing will continue to find bountiful trout and birdwatchers are likely to spot golden eagles and falcons. We pass our last hot spring at Hospital Bar, so named because early cattlemen let their stock rest and feed at this large flat and easy ford across the river. We'll also see Tappan Ranch, where Red and Daisey Paulsen-Tappen grew a bountiful garden and raised a family with self-sufficiency and $300 a year in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Continuing on we run the Tappan rapids. This is a great photo opportunity with plenty of splashes and thrills. The final miles to camp offer a chance to lean back and take in the monumental scenery of the River of No Return Wilderness.
DAY 5 – Today we run Haystack Rapid, the most dynamic rapid on the river. Side canyon “blow outs” have changed its course twice in the last few years. This is the official start of Impassable Canyon. Below Haystack rapids, the canyon narrows and deepens creating a series of action-packed rapids. A favorite stop is at Waterfall Creek, where a steep trail leads up to the Bighorn Crags. We walk beneath the falls and on hot days finish with a jump into the river. Shortly downstream the river cuts into the Idaho batholith – the largest monolithic chunk of granite in North America. The river has carved into the granite and created towering walls for neck-bending panoramas. Further downstream we stop to hike to the base of Veil Falls, a soul-stirring cavern replete with pictographs and magic. Today’s scenery is truly among the most astounding on earth.
From camp the silhouette of canyon walls against the wine-dark sky will captivate you as you reflect, celebrate and further connect with newfound friends on your last night on the Middle Fork.
DAY 6 – As we push off from shore the river takes us past the former hideout of Earl Parrot, Hermit of Impassable Canyon. His story is as big as the canyon and adds just one more thread of wonder to your Middle Fork experience. As the sun breaks over the canyon rim, more big rapids greet us as we pass beneath vistas of staggering dimensions.
We stop to enjoy lunch on a glistening sand beach just a few miles above the Middle Fork's confluence with the Main Salmon. We proceed onto our takeout, carry personal gear to the waiting bus and settle back for a two-hour ride to the town of Salmon. Enjoy a hot shower and change of clothes then meet your guides for ROW’s hosted farewell dinner.
DAY 7 – If you drove to Stanley and had your car shuttled, it is waiting for you at the hotel. If you are flying home, you'll board an air taxi for the one-hour flight back to Boise to connect home.
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