Middle Fork Salmon Kayaking

The Quintessential Idaho Whitewater Experience


Springtime on the Middle Fork of the Salmon is an excellent time for experienced kayakers to see this legendary Idaho canyon, and discover why this section is sought after by paddlers across the country. May and June’s runoff brings high flows to the Middle Fork with exciting wave-trains, more continuous water, serious seams and hydraulics, big-water rapids, several nice surfing holes with eddy service, and countless waves to catch on the fly. The Middle Fork is credited for having 100 rapids in 100 miles, most of which are class III, and some high-action class IV. At lower and medium flows later on in the season, the paddling is still fun, opening up the canyon for more playboating and a slower, more technical style of paddling for those that want to experience this iconic river at a more mellow pace. Along with the epic whitewater, the Middle Fork Salmon’s scenery will leave you equally giddy, with breathtaking mountain views, striking granite canyons, towering pine groves, and early season wildflowers and greenery. This is a bucket list trip for kayakers everywhere.

  • Trip Highlights
  • 6 days, 100 miles of pristine water
  • River character: (High water) big water/ hydraulics; wave trains; continuous; challenging pool-drop
  • River character: (Mid flows-low water) Playboating; pool-drop; more technical/ boulder-drop
  • Class III-IV classic Idaho whitewater
  • Exciting whitewater every day
  • Close to other Idaho kayaking day-trip classics such as the Payette, Lochsa, South Fork Salmon, and Selway
  • Raft-support allows for logistic simplicity
  • Allows for family and friends to ride on rafts
  • WRO has wide range of rental kayaks available
  • Amazing side creeks and canyons
  • Several relaxing hot springs
  • Great hiking to stunning vistas and waterfalls
  • Rich geologic and human history

If you are an advanced paddler and feel comfortable running continuous class III with some solid class IV whitewater, this is a great trip for you. Springtime on the Middle Fork is not a trip for beginner kayakers! We have great options for more intermediate paddling, including when the Middle Fork is at medium or lower flows. (See WRO’s skill requirements overview.)

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 trip is consistently rated as one of the most coveted multi-day permits for paddlers everywhere, and there is definitely a reason for that. This crystal clear mountain 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. From the beginnings at Boundary Creek, there are more than 20 miles of continuous, challenging, full-on whitewater that will leave most people gripped as you lose almost 1000 feet in gradient as you make your way to Pistol Creek. With big hydraulic stern squirt seams, splat rocks, large boofs, and massive surf waves galore between the rapids, there will definitely be no shortage of entertainment on this trip.

The Middle Fork Salmon River corridor hosts more than just pristine waters and rapids. Bighorn sheep, deer, elk, black bear, wolves, mountain lions, playful river otters, westslope cutthroat, and eagles make their home along and in 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.

Why Raft Support?
When self-support kayaking, you often have to be a minimalist. When traveling with raft support, you are able to bring all your heart desires, and probably more! Our rafts carry all of your personal things (costumes and dry shoes anyone?), and other items that self-support boating does not allow for such as coolers for gourmet food prepared for you (no more ramen and MREs!), beer, extensive safety supplies, a full-sized firepan with a daily fire, latrine facilities, logistics taken care of, etc. Without the bulky weight of your gear in your kayak, it allows for quicker, more responsive (and fun!) paddling, and also opens up possibilities for more low-volume styles of boats for those looking to spice up the class IV.

If running this type of river without ever seeing it makes you nervous, or you are traveling alone, having a safety kayaker/ kayak guide is a great way to travel. Traveling with one of our knowledgeable safety kayakers is a great way to gain confidence and expertise through this technical run. Lastly, this type of trip also allows for you to bring non-kayaker family and friends to also be able to enjoy a perfect river vacation for everyone involved.

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The Stats

Departure Month May, June, July
State / Region
Adventure Level Moderate, High
Price Range $2000 - $3000
Activities Hard Shell Kayaking



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.

WRO Kayak Rentals

WRO has a wide range of playboats, half-slices, and river runner/ creek boats to reserve for the week in a variety of sizes. WRO does not provide paddle, skirts, helmets, PFD’s, or personal dry gear. For more information, contact Seth, [email protected](Reservation website coming soon.)

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.


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.


Kayaking/ Miscellaneous

We generally ask that if people sign up for a trip as a kayaker that they plan to paddle the entire trip. This is mainly because we base our number of rafts, guides, and gear distribution off of planning on having people in their kayaks. That being said, we can absolutely make accommodations for individuals in certain situations, (Not wanting to run a particular rapid, medical situations, etc.)
All and all, this is your trip and we are here to ensure you have the best trip possible.

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