Middle Fork of the Salmon

Journey through the River of No Return Wilderness

Overview

Crystal-clear water, soothing natural hot springs, dramatic gorges, and near perfect native Cutthroat habitat merge to create the premier whitewater rafting adventure of the West. Descend 3000 feet in elevation through 100 miles of unforgettable Class III-IV rapids and breathtaking scenery on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Join us for six fabulous days on some of America’s finest whitewater!

Go Wild, Idaho Style

  • 6 days, 100 miles of pristine water
  • Exciting whitewater every day
  • Amazing side creeks and canyons
  • Several relaxing hot springs
  • Great hiking to stunning vistas
  • Learn about pioneers & visit homesteads
  • Rich Native American history & pictographs
  • Superb Cutthroat trout fishing

In the heart of central Idaho’s 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness flows the Middle Fork of the Salmon. This river’s dynamic landscape begins in high, dense forests of Fir and Spruce, then passes by majestic Ponderosa Pines on grassy benches, and finally enters the impressive granite gorge of the Impassable Canyon. Oar boats, paddle-boats, and inflatable kayaks are available so you can choose your level of excitement on any given day.

The Middle Fork Salmon River corridor hosts more than just pristine waters and Westslope Cutthroat. Bighorn sheep, deer, elk, black bear, wolves, mountain lions, playful river otters and eagles make their home along the river. Explore cascading waterfalls, Native American pictographs, pioneer historic sites, and hermit hideouts before settling in around a roaring campfire and delicious Dutch oven dinners. Relax under the stars with our knowledgeable, kind and fun-loving guides as you soak in the stillness of a remote mountain wilderness.

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The Stats

Departure Month August, July, June, September
State / Region Central Idaho
Adventure Level High, Moderate, Relaxed
Price Range $1500 - $2000, $2000 - $3000, $3000+
Activities Family Rafting, Fishing, Hiking, Hot Springs, Inflatable Kayaking, Whitewater Rafting

Reviews

Logistics

See you here
June and July Middle Fork Salmon trips begin in Stanley and end in Salmon, Idaho. August trips begin and end in Salmon.

Before the trip
Fly commercially into Boise, Idaho, then take Gem Air into Stanley, Idaho. Make your reservations at the Mountain Village Lodge (800.843.5475) in Stanley. They will pick you up at the Stanley Airport. We will have an orientation at 6:00pm the evening before your trip begins at the Mountain Village Lodge. Regardless of date, when water levels drop to a certain level we will fly into Indian Creek instead of driving into Boundary Creek from Stanley. All August trips will fly into Indian Creek.

All August trips will start and end in Salmon. For August trips, we recommend staying at the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919) in Salmon or another nearby option the night before the trip. Orientation will be at the Stagecoach at 6 pm.
Trips launching in August will fly directly to the river from Salmon.

Flying:

Gem Air Flights
Round trips from Boise to Stanley or Salmon and Salmon back to Boise can be scheduled with Gem Air.
Phone: 208.756.7382
Website: https://www.gemairflights.com
Email: [email protected]

Driving: If you choose to drive to Stanley, you can arrange to have your car shuttled from Stanley to Salmon by River Shuttles or All River Shuttles.

River Shuttles
Phone: 800.831.8942
Website: https://www.rivershuttles.com
Email: [email protected]

All River Shuttles
Phone: 208.839.2308
Website: https://allriversshuttle.com/
Email: [email protected]

After the Trip
We provide transportation to Salmon from Cache Bar take out. It is about a two hour drive. You can either fly out of Salmon to Boise later that day or stay in Salmon and fly out the next morning. We recommend staying overnight in Salmon at the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919) in Salmon or if you decide to go to Boise the Best Western Vista (800.727.5006).

Sample Itinerary

Day before the trip:

Arrive in Stanley, Idaho (or Salmon, for August trips). We’ll get together in the evening at the Mountain Village Lodge (or Stagecoach Inn in Salmon) to hand out dry bags and go over any last minute details and answer questions.

Day 1:

We’ll depart around 8am and have a 2-hour drive to the Boundary Creek launch site. After a safety talk and orientation we’ll begin our journey. *lower water trips will launch from Indian Creek, 25 miles down river from Boundary Creek. Indian Creek is only accessible by plane.

Day 2-5:

We’ll be relaxing, running rapids, fishing, hiking to beautiful waterfalls, soaking in hot springs, exploring historic sites, and anything else you’d like to do! Our schedule is flexible so we can customize the trip to your interests.

Day 6:

We’ll arrive at our takeout at Cache Bar in the afternoon for lunch and have a roughly 2-hour drive to Salmon, Idaho. You can spend the night in Salmon and enjoy a farewell dinner that evening, or catch an evening flight with Gem Air to Boise.

FAQs

Camp Life & 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. On the Middle Fork Flathead we usually take one “layover” day where we stay at the same camp and spend the day fishing, hiking, or relaxing.

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?

Your river and/or hiking clothes can double as camp clothes, but you are welcome to bring something else if you would like, such as a cotton shirt, an athletic dress/skirt for women, or some fiesta-wear.

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.

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 about 10am each day and arrive in camp around 4 or 5pm. Each day will be different, with varying options for hiking, exploring, swimming, fishing, and great lunch stops.Your lead guide will give you an overview of the day each morning.

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.

Clothing Footwear & Gear

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 are no longer 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 are great 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. For spring trips, we provide wetsuits, underneath which you can wear long underwear. For cooler early-season days you can 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 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 when wet. Comfort is essential to having fun!

What size and type of sleeping pad does WRO provide?

We provide deluxe, self-inflating basecamp “Therm-a-rest” pads.These are very comfortable and fit very nicely in our gear bags.

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.

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.

Logistics

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in the town of departure the day before your trip is scheduled to begin.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 hydroflasks 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.

How, where, and when do we get our fishing licenses?

If you want to fish, a license purchased in the state your river trip is located in is mandatory. Most states have an option to purchase online before you arrive. Idaho and Montana also have the option to purchase a fishing license just for the time you are on the river.

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 or on the way to the river.

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. Most of the towns we begin and end our trips have no taxi options like Uber or Lyft, so if you don’t have a vehicle, staying in the recommended lodging is especially convenient.

Miscellaneous

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in the town of departure the day before your trip is scheduled to begin.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 hydroflasks 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.

How, where, and when do we get our fishing licenses?

If you want to fish, a license purchased in the state your river trip is located in is mandatory. Most states have an option to purchase online before you arrive. Idaho and Montana also have the option to purchase a fishing license just for the time you are on the river.

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 or on the way to the river.

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. Most of the towns we begin and end our trips have no taxi options like Uber or Lyft, so if you don’t have a vehicle, staying in the recommended lodging is especially convenient.

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