Spring Meltdown

May 27, 2012

For most of early May, the temperatures were high and the snow was melting.  As a result, all the river gauges around Idaho were spiking and the rivers ran bank full.  Having spent a lot of the winter in the office, I knew it was time to get out and enjoy the melting snow.  We rounded up a few friends and headed for Stanley.  With the road into Boundary Creek still deep under snow, we put in on Marsh Creek to access the Middle Fork Salmon and the Frank Church Wilderness.  Marsh Creek is really fun in itself with some great whitewater excitement before you reach Boundary Creek or the Middle Fork Salmon proper.

Impassable Canyon Middle Fork Salmon

Beautiful day in the Impassable Canyon on the Middle Fork photo: Iris Conrad

Dagger Falls Middle Fork Salmon

Bill and I entering Dagger Falls photo: Iris Conrad

The first night we camped at Dagger Falls, just above Boundary Creek launch site.  Dagger Falls is the biggest rapid on the Middle Fork and a popular place to watch Salmon jumping as they migrate up river during summer months.  On this spring day, Dagger was full of water and was not an obstacle for fish, but for us in our raft and kayaks.  There is always the option of carrying all your equipment around the rapid and continuing on your way as a normal Middle Fork trip would, passing Boundary Creek just below Dagger.  After scouting it for awhile, I decided if my friend Bill Blackadar (who was already trying to talk me into running it), wanted to ride with me for a little extra punching power in the boat, we would go for it!  His girlfriend Erin waited around the corner in her kayak for safety in case things went south and we needed help below the rapid.  Iris took the camera and Bill and I made our way back to my 12’5″ foot Avon Explore waiting in the eddy above.  As soon as you pass under the bridge, there is no turning back!  Two friends, one small raft and one large rapid is a recipe for a good adrenaline rush.  Before you get into the real rapid, you have to negotiate the swirly waters of the tight entry gorge.  Hoping when you get through there, you are still where you wanted to be.  As I tapped my oar on the left cliff right above the drop, I knew we were right on the line we had discussed.  From there on, it’s just keeping the boat straight and taking the three punches from Dagger.  We rounded to corner in high spirits as we were both in the boat and it was black side down!  After we loaded a few bags that we had carried around, we floated passed the Boundary Creek launch site.  As you enter the fun waves at First Bend Rapid, it’s another great high water Middle Fork day…

Dagger Falls Middle Fork Salmon

Good excitement in the middle of Dagger! photo: Iris Conrad

Dagger Falls Middle Fork Salmon

We made it through the main drop of Dagger! photo: Iris Conrad

The Middle Fork Lodge Gauge was reading about 5’5″ feet throughout our weekend trip, which is a really fun high water level on the Middle Fork Salmon.  It was a great four day trip with cloudless skies and warm weather on our own private river.  We only saw two other people the entire trip, and they were on a self -support kayak trip.  We first ran into them at Dagger campground and after that we boated a fair amount of the river with our new friends.  So after they pretty much joined our group, I guess you could say we didn’t see anyone else on our 115 mile trip.  The hillsides were yellow with the arrowleaf balsamroot in full bloom!  Spring is such a beautiful time in Idaho.  To have four cloudless days in early May is unusual and very lucky!

Lower Wave Dagger Falls

The last big hit in Dagger Falls! photo: Iris Conrad

After a trip like this, it makes you even more excited for the commercial river season to begin.  Which if your me, this means many more river miles and much less computer time in the days ahead.  This puts a smile on my face!  For those of you joining us this summer, I look forward to sharing something very special to me with all of you…  and it’s not too late to still make plans for a trip this summer if you need a break from your “real world”.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot photo: Seth Tonsmeire

Check back for many more photos and river stories from the upcoming river season.
~Seth Tonsmeire