Middle Fork / Main Salmon Combo

A World Class Idaho Expedition

Overview

Why choose when you can have it all?

The only thing that could make your trip on the Middle Fork Salmon any better is making it longer, and your trip doesn’t have to stop at the confluence! Continue down the Main Salmon River, the “River of No Return,” for five more days in beautiful central Idaho. This is an incredible 11-day trip covering over 180 miles of the Salmon River in the vast Frank Church Wilderness area. You will start your float in the thick spruce forests of the Middle Fork Salmon, descending from the high elevations all the way to the massive sand beaches and mountain desert landscape of the Main Salmon. It is not only a tour of the heart of Idaho, but a true exploration of the geology and history of this incredible watershed.

Trip Highlights

  • 11 days, 180 miles
  • Rare opportunity to do both of Idaho’s world-class multi day trips
  • Class II-III whitewater, perfect for families (late season)
  • Class III-IV big water, exciting, challenging trip for high adventure or for whitewater kayaking (early season)
  • Refreshing water for swimming and paddling inflatable kayaks
  • Huge sandy beaches for great games, comfortable camping and star-gazing
  • Rich history of Native Americans, homesteads of pioneers, miners and legends of the river
  • Many hot springs throughout the trip
  • Great hiking and wildlife
  • Excellent cutthroat trout fishing

The Middle Fork Salmon and Main Salmon combine to form a nearly 200-mile trip through the heart of Idaho and the Frank Church Wilderness. A trip through these two canyons takes you from the dense alpine forests at the headwaters of the Middle Fork, through the deep granite gorge of the Impassable Canyon, to the mountain desert of the Main Salmon. Exhilarating rapids and crystal-clear pools for fishing and swimming are around every corner. The plentiful hot springs of the Middle Fork followed by the beautiful beaches of the Main make for a trip that is hard to beat. Relax in the oar boat, grab a paddle in the paddle-boat, or captain your own inflatable kayak – you choose just how much excitement you want. A trip this long is not only a vacation but an exploration and adventure with your family and friends. Idaho, a state that has flown under the radar for many years, will surprise you with this journey through time and an immersive wilderness experience that will no doubt be life changing.

Why continue down the Main?
The Main Salmon is a rare outdoor adventure that pairs a perfect beach vacation with the solitude of a vast wilderness. The July water is the perfect temperature for swimming and lounging on the beach. Or, grab your hiking boots to explore historic homesteads and rocky canyon ridge tops. The “River of No Return” has an extremely rich history as an early supply route for wooden scows and pioneer river-runners, and is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 at 425 miles from source to the Snake River confluence. While our veteran guides have the unique opportunity to navigate many different rivers throughout the summer, the Main Salmon is the one they hold near and dear.

The Stats

Departure Month August, July, June
State / Region Central Idaho
Adventure Level High, Moderate
Price Range $2000 - $3000, $3000+
Activities Family Rafting, Hiking, Hot Springs, Inflatable Kayaking, Native American Sites, Pioneer History, Rafting, Whitewater Rafting, Wildlife

Reviews

Logistics

The Middle Fork/Main Salmon Combination trip begins in Stanley and ends in Riggins, Idaho. Most people will fly out of McCall, ID to Boise, Idaho for connecting flights.

Before the trip
Fly commercially into Boise, Idaho, then take McCall Air to Stanley, Idaho (before August) or Salmon, Idaho (after August).
Trips launching in August will fly directly to the river from Stanley.

McCall Air
Phone: 208.634.7137 or 800.992.6559
Website: www.mccallaviation.com
Email: [email protected]

Driving: If you choose to drive to Stanley, you can arrange to have your car shuttled from Stanley to Boise or to our take-out by River Shuttles.

River Shuttles
Phone: 800.831.4942
Website: www.rivershuttles.com
Email: [email protected]

Motel before the trip: We suggest you make your reservations at the Mountain Village Resort (800.843.5475) in Stanley (before August) or the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919) in Salmon (after August). The motel will pick you up at the Stanley or Salmon Airport by request. We will have a brief orientation at the hotel at 6 pm to answer last minute questions and hand out your dry bags, other gear, and Hydroflask mugs.

After the trip
We provide transportation to Boise from the end of the trip. We recommend staying at the Best Western Vista Inn near the airport (800.727.5006) or at the Owyhee Plaza downtown (800.233.4611). Some people also choose to stay in McCall for an evening and fly to Boise from McCall. June and July trips will have a van ride to McCall, then on to Boise arriving early evening. August trips have an option to end with a scenic flight from Mackay Bar to Boise arriving mid-day. Please contact the office for additional information regarding this option.

FAQs

Camp Life and Meals

Will we be at a new camp every day?

Yes, we do normally change campsites every day. This allows us to cover new scenery, rapids, and side adventures each day at a fun, comfortable pace.

Will there be a campfire every night?

Yes, we almost always have a campfire every evening and morning.

What clothes should I bring for camp?

This will vary greatly depending on the time of year. Early summer in Idaho can be very cold and unpredictable. It is recommended to have plenty of fresh, warm, dry clothes to change into at camp. However, for mid-season trips, sun protection is often key, with quick-dry layers to swim in, and comfortable camp shoes and lightweight layers such as thin pants, skirts/ skorts, dresses, etc.

How big are the tents? Do we have to share a tent with someone else?

Most of our tents are high-quality three-person tents, but we only put two people in each tent. If there is an odd number in your group we will not make you share a tent with a stranger. We offer brands like Mountain Hardware, North Face, and Sierra Designs.

Will my tent be set up for me?

In the interest of a more genuine wilderness experience, we encourage people to pick their own sleeping sites and set up their tents (or sleep under the stars, weather permitting!). If you need assistance, we’re happy to help and always show you how the gear works.

What kind of food will we be eating?

Wonderful, gourmet backcountry cooking! We are consistently told by guests that we out-do their expectations when it comes to our food’s quality that we can accomplish in the wilderness. Breakfasts and suppers consist of culinary delights like wild Salmon and steak, many of which are cooked over open campfires and dutch ovens. Lunches are a combination of tasty salads, sandwiches, fruits, and assorted snacks. Healthy and nutritious options are always available, and meals always include fruits and vegetables (local when we can, including veggies from our own greenhouse and garden). For more information, check out our "Sample Menu" page and our "WRO Garden" page.

Can WRO accommodate dietary restrictions/ allergies?

WRO will happily do our best to accommodate any dietary restrictions at no additional cost. We have experience working with vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, nut allergies, etc. Please notify us of any dietary restrictions or allergies as early as possible so that we can adjust the menu accordingly. In certain cases, individuals may want to supplement meals and snacks with some items of their own.

Does WRO provide drinks/ snacks?

WRO provides ample snacks as well as plenty of drinking water, fruit juices, and coffee, tea, and cream in the morning. We do not provide soda or alcohol, with the exception of a fiesta night that we provide drinks. You are also welcome to bring your own alcohol (packed in unbreakable containers whenever possible, please).

How does personal hygiene work during the trip?

We need to keep soap out of the rivers (and the hot springs), so if you want to use soap and bathe on the trip, you need to do so above the high water mark. The guides can help carry and heat up some water if needed. Face and body wipes also work well for helping stay clean.

How does the bathroom system work on the trip?

In order to keep these places beautiful for years to come, all rivers are “pack it in, pack it out.” We bring fabulous portable toilets and handwashing stations that we place in a private location away from camp with the best bathroom view you will ever have.

On the River

How long will we be floating on the river each day?

Each trip is tailored to the desires of the guests, but generally we will be on the water a total of 5 or so hours each day (give or take a couple of hours), broken by a lunch stop and any other side adventures. We usually start floating when the sun hits the water each day and arrive in camp late afternoon. Each day will be different, with varying options for hiking, exploring, and great lunch stops. Your lead guide will give you an overview of the day each morning.

What will temperatures and weather be like? Will it be cold? Will it rain?

This depends greatly on the time of the year. Storms can also roll in unexpectedly, and it’s best to be prepared for anything. Rain is possible in this area, though the likelihood is less late summer. The water temperatures significantly warm up as the season goes on, with many people wearing only a dry top or shorty, or sometimes even just a sun shirt when they’re paddling in the late season heat. In July and August, temperatures can be up to 100 degrees some days, but luckily it is easy to cool off in a kayak. Be sure to check out the weather section of the packing list for specific seasonal information and average temperatures for your trip, as well as doing your own research a week prior to your trip, checking anticipated weather at Boundary Creek, ID or Indian Creek, ID (our put-in) as well as in Carey Creek, ID (close to our takeout).

What will I do with items I need accessible during the day or on the boat?

In addition to the large waterproof bag issued for packing clothing and camp items, everyone is also issued a smaller “day bag” to carry items you will need access to while on the river (sunscreen, camera, extra layer, etc.). Put anything you might need during the day in this day bag, as the larger bag will usually be inaccessible until we reach camp for the evening.

How will I keep my phone/camera/other valuable items safe from the elements?

We discourage bringing any unnecessary valuables on your trip. Phones can be placed in a Ziploc bag or water proof case and put in your day bag if you would like to have it accessible for taking pictures during the day. If you are bringing a large, expensive camera, we recommend you bring a hard waterproof case in which to store it and accessories.

What kind of boat will I be riding in?

We usually have a variety of boats so that everyone gets a chance to experience each type of river craft, water level permitting. During your registration, you will note your boat preferences so we can plan accordingly. Unless you have requested otherwise, we typically bring several oar boats, a paddle boat, and a few inflatable kayaks. We recommend trying out each boat and riding with each guide as they all have something different to offer.

If we say we want to paddle, are we committed to paddling the entire trip?

Generally no, as we usually have enough boats that guests can rotate and have the option to paddle when they wish.

Is it possible to rent a drysuit (spring trips)?

We provide wetsuits on spring trips, but we also have drysuits available to rent for added comfort. During the summer trips, you will likely just be wearing a swim wear and sun protection and won’t need or want a wetsuit or drysuit.

Clothing, Footwear, and Gear

Can I bring my own sleeping pad/bag/tent/other gear?

You are welcome to bring your own sleeping gear if you wish, but if you do, please bring your own complete sleep kit and let us know ahead of time. Our sleep kits consist of a Basecamp "Ther-ma-rest" pad, a 0-20 degree sleeping bag, a pack-able pillow, and a ground cloth. We can provide an empty dry bag to store your sleep kit in.

How big are the waterproof bags and how much stuff can they hold?

Everyone is issued a waterproof “day bag” to carry items you will need access to during the day while on the river. This day bag is 9 inches in diameter and 20 inches tall. Everyone is also issued a large waterproof bag for your personal gear and clothing. This bag should be plenty large enough for everything listed on our suggested packing list. We recommend limiting your personal gear to 35 pounds. You will be able to use your own dry bag if you would like, just let our office know.

What kind of footwear should I bring? What shoes will I wear in the boat?

For most trips you will need two pairs of shoes, one to wear in the boats and one to wear hiking and around camp. For spring trips, we recommend neoprene socks to wear on the river with your river shoes. By July, water temperatures become warmer and socks may no longer be necessary. Most people enjoy wearing water shoes or sturdy sandals with an ankle strap (popular options include Chacos, Tevas, and Keens). Old running sneakers can also work well as river shoes. Flip-flops can be nice for around camp but you need something that will stay on your feet while we are on the boats. For most trips, sneakers or a lightweight hiking boot will be fine for side hikes.

What clothing should I wear in the boat?

This will depend on the time of year, but usually Main Salmon trips are hot and sunny during the summer. For spring trips, we provide wetsuits, underneath which you can wear long underwear or swimwear. For cooler early-season days you can also wear long underwear, synthetic pants with rain pants over them, and a fleece or other warm layer with your raincoat on top. As temperatures warm up, we might just wear a pair of shorts over a bathing suit, or light pants and a sun shirt. Quick-dry synthetic clothing, layers, and sun protection are the most important things to keep in mind.

Why do you recommend synthetics instead of cotton?

While on the river you will get wet going through rapids (what fun would it be if you didn’t?!). Synthetic materials are lightweight and dry much quicker than cotton. They also keep you warmer if wet. Comfort is essential to having fun!

Logistics

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in Stanley (before August) or Salmon (after August) the day before your trip is scheduled to begin no later than 5:30 pm. There will be an evening orientation with WRO guides and guests, where we will go over trip details, answer last-minute questions, and hand out 16 oz Hydroflask mugs and waterproof bags to repack your gear into. You will head to the river the next morning (the official starting date of your trip).

Is there a place to store our non-river luggage while we’re on the river?

Yes, we will store your extra bags and make arrangements for them to be transported to meet you at the end of the trip. However, we do recommend that you leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Your wallet & cash should be placed in a Ziplock bag and taken with you on your trip.

Is there somewhere to purchase last-minute items before the trip?

Yes, there are usually outdoor stores located fairly close to all the hotels we recommend. On the way to the put-in, we will also stop at a small outdoors store that carries most last minute-items you may need.

Can I stay at a different hotel than your recommended options before the trip?

You are welcome to stay wherever you’d like as long as you are at 1) orientation the evening before your trip and 2) your trip’s designated pickup location ready for departure the morning your trip begins. We recommend the most convenient lodging, which is usually where orientation is held and where group transportation will pick up and drop off guests before and after the trip. Salmon does not have services like Uber and Lyft, so you will need to arrange transportation.

Miscellaneous

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in Stanley (before August) or Salmon (after August) the day before your trip is scheduled to begin no later than 5:30 pm. There will be an evening orientation with WRO guides and guests, where we will go over trip details, answer last-minute questions, and hand out 16 oz Hydroflask mugs and waterproof bags to repack your gear into. You will head to the river the next morning (the official starting date of your trip).

Is there a place to store our non-river luggage while we’re on the river?

Yes, we will store your extra bags and make arrangements for them to be transported to meet you at the end of the trip. However, we do recommend that you leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Your wallet & cash should be placed in a Ziplock bag and taken with you on your trip.

Is there somewhere to purchase last-minute items before the trip?

Yes, there are usually outdoor stores located fairly close to all the hotels we recommend. On the way to the put-in, we will also stop at a small outdoors store that carries most last minute-items you may need.

Can I stay at a different hotel than your recommended options before the trip?

You are welcome to stay wherever you’d like as long as you are at 1) orientation the evening before your trip and 2) your trip’s designated pickup location ready for departure the morning your trip begins. We recommend the most convenient lodging, which is usually where orientation is held and where group transportation will pick up and drop off guests before and after the trip. Salmon does not have services like Uber and Lyft, so you will need to arrange transportation.

Book Now