We can't really put together a map of Idaho's amazing waterways without including the Middle Fork of the Salmon. This is one of Idaho's premiere multi-day classics.
Ranked as one of the top 10 whitewater rivers in the world, the Middle Fork of the Salmon is designated as a "Wild and Scenic" river. Known for its fun Class III-IV rapids--100 in less than 100 miles--the Middle Fork is un-dammed and unspoiled as it passes through central Idaho's "Frank Church River-of-No Return" Wilderness, the largest federally protected wilderness in the lower 48.
While it may be one of the best multi-day raft trips in the country, it is also one of the finest play runs in the world. At 3.5 feet and above, the Middle Fork is full of soft, retentive holes and big dynamic surf waves. Don't bring anything but a playboat if you're running this freestyle thrill ride. You'll end every day in an exhausted stupor, having worn yourself out on the world-class play features.
The problem (if you actually consider these things a problem) is that the Middle Fork begins at 5,640-feet as a tight alpine stream and doesn't end for over 100 miles. In the spring, more than a few hardcore kayakers and canoeists run all of Marsh Creek, a Middle Fork tributary near Stanley, and the Middle Fork in a single day using creek boats. They may stay one night in the beautiful canyon. Unfortunately they don't get to do that much surfing.
For the most enjoyment on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, as a kayaker or canoeist, be sure and squirm your way onto a permitted trip. You may be able to help fill a commercial trip for a discounted rate as well. No matter how you convince someone to carry your gear, float with a playboat.
River runners also enjoy soaking in the natural hot springs along the way or hiking to awe inspiring places like Veil Falls. Several ranches and hunting lodges line the banks. Guides like to tell stories of Indian pictographs, old-time gold miners, the Sheepeater War, and the 1979 Mortar Creek fire. Catch-and-release fishing for cutthroat trout begins after spring runoff.
Contact the Middle Fork Ranger District, Box 750, Challis, ID 83226, 208-879-5204 for more information.
Information Provided by: State of Idaho
Written by: Joseph Carberry