Among whitewater rafting rivers, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho is a legend. The pure, clear, free-flowing river drops 3000 feet during its 105 mile Idaho rafting journey through Idaho's remote and spectacular Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.
Natural and untamed, Idaho's Middle Fork is protected by Congress as one of America’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers. It has shaped its course through a rugged and diverse landscape. There are no roads leading to its banks and little remains of man’s brief presence other than prehistoric pictographs and dilapidated log cabins. The whitewater rapids are fun for all ages and provide a certain excitement only Idaho's famous Middle Fork of the Salmon can!
We launch our boats into the Salmon River nearly 6,000 feet above sea level and immediately enter an enchanted forest of fir and spruce. The river is steep, shallow, and narrow and we careen through boulder-choked rapids. With each passing mile, side creeks tumble into the Middle Fork's clear sparkling water and deepen the flow around our boats. The whitewater rapids are frequent and challenging on the Middle Fork. Guides speak their names with reverence - Velvet Falls, Ram's Horn, the Chutes, Pistol Creek, Devil's Tooth, and House Rock to name a few on this Idaho rafting trip.
Dropping in elevation, the Middle Fork Salmon River widens and the spruce forest opens up to vistas of pine-studded mountains. Rafts drift quietly over deep pools of transparent water—home to native cutthroat and rainbow trout. Guides stop the group often to visit nearby Native American pictographs and pioneer homesteads. ROW guides are intimately familiar with this majestic canyon and use their interpretive knowledge to help draw the silent stories from these historic places.
Further downstream, the trip enters Impassable Canyon. Granite mountains of staggering dimensions slice out of the clear Middle Fork water and into the cobalt blue Idaho sky. We'll stop for hikes underneath Waterfall Creek and up to Veil Falls. Soaking in the many natural hot springs along the Middle Fork is a highlight for many of our guests.
As we near the end of our Idaho rafting journey, having dropped 3,000 feet in elevation and gained a lifetime of memories, it's hard not to envy the Native Americans and pioneers who spent their whole lives in the vast wilderness along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
ROW also offers raft-supported hiking tours of this magnificent country. Load up a day pack with supplies to get you through the day, then hike to camp where you're gear will be waiting, the tent will be set up and food will be cooking.
Honoring Native People and Lands
Recognizing the significance of our travels through Indigenous territory, we would like to recognize the communities whose lands we visit. It is our hope, in doing so, to honor their legacies, their lives, and their descendants. To learn more about territory acknowledgment and specific information about the Native communities of this region, please visit our Territory Acknowledgement page.
ROW Adventures Middle Fork Salmon trip was chosen as one of National Geographic Magazines "50 Tours of a Lifetime!" The editors say:
"The selection process was competitive and our editorial team worked long and hard to find...most authentic, most innovative, most immersive, best-guided, and most sustainable tours. Our theme this year was transformation. The outfitters we selected are experts at creating trips that have the power to change lives—the lives of the traveler as well as the residents of the destinations,” notes executive editor Norie Quintos. “The trip is usually just the beginning."
Since 2006 this is the fifth time that one of ROW Adventures' tours has been named to this exclusive list.
Images & Videos
We've run trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon since 1989 and based on our historical data, we know that on most years we have to start flying in to Indian Creek by July 30 because the water gets too low to float on the first 23 miles from Boundary Creek to Indian Creek. For that reason we change our trip logistics and meeting point starting with our July 30 trip from Stanley to Salmon. Our "Before You ROW" section explains these logistics. You can also read our blog on Middle Fork flows for more information.
Trips from June 1 - July 22: Arrive in Stanley
Arrive in Stanley by 7:00 pm MST to meet ROW’s team leader at the Mountain Village Inn for a one-hour orientation meeting. We'll answer any last-minute questions and provide waterproof bags for your gear. Dinner on your own. You could schedule some time at the hotel’s private hot spring (reserve when checking in).
Trips from July 30 - September: Arrive in Salmon
Arrive in Salmon by 7:00 pm MST to meet ROW's team leader at the Stagecoach Inn for a one-hour orientation meeting. We'll answer any last minute questions and waterproof bags for your gear. Dinner on your own.
Let the Rafting Begin
Meet your group at 7:30am. We'll take a two-hour bus ride to Boundary Creek and start our trip. At 6,000 feet elevation, the air is crisp and the forest thick with fir and spruce. At the river we'll go through a safety orientation while your personal gear is loaded onto our rafts. After orientation everyone chooses a raft (paddle or oar-powered) and climbs aboard. The first 15 miles of the Middle Fork are fast and rapids are steep, narrow and come in quick succession. During lunch we'll explain how we minimize our impact on the river with Leave No Trace camping ethics.
After lunch the river continues to be lively and challenging. Every few hundred yards a creek tumbles into the river increasing the flow. We travel between 10 and 15 miles the first day and arrive at camp around 4:00pm. Enjoy the free time for hiking, fishing, reading or just relaxing. Hors d’oeuvres are served around 6:00 and dinner around 7:30. After dinner a campfire is lit and the warmth invites all to share stories of the day, and life.
Whitewater, Pioneer Homesteads and Sunflower Flat Hotsprings
We awake around 7:00am and enjoy fresh-brewed coffee. Breakfast is served and you pack up your personal gear. The rafts are loaded and we depart from camp around 9:30 for an adventure-packed day of rapids, magnificent scenery and fun. We make it a point to visit one or two pioneer homesteads on these first few days. We'll likely stop to explore the old miner’s camp at Powerhouse Rapids. Today’s a good day to keep your eyes open for the nest of the American Dipper, a small gray bird that swims underwater and builds its nest above fast-flowing water.
We'll have plenty of fun rapids as the river continues its quick descent. We’ll stop for a soak in Sunflower Flat Hot Springs where several pools above the river cascade over a rocky cliff to create nature’s perfect shower. We make camp around 4:00pm and enjoy hiking, fishing and relaxing. After dinner the night sky welcomes stargazers and, later on, the river lulls you to sleep.
Whitewater, Hiking, Native American Pictographs and Loon Creek Hot Springs
The river canyon opens now and we’ve dropped over 1,500 feet in elevation. Days and nights are warmer. The fir and spruce give way to ponderosa pines, sagebrush and riparian hardwoods. The sparkling-clear water carries us swiftly along as the river channel widens and narrows with the underlying geology. One of today's highlights is stopping to view pictographs of the Native American Tukudeka, or Sheepeaters, who lived in this canyon until the 1870’s.
The afternoon is casual as the current slows a bit. We'll learn about early pioneers like Charlie Norton, who had a run in with a bear as amazing as the saga of Jedediah Smith. By mid-afternoon we arrive at camp near Loon Creek, around 50 miles from our starting point. Tonight’s highlight is a hike to the Loon Creek hot springs and anglers may enjoy casting a line into Loon Creek. Summer evenings are long, with darkness arriving around 9:30pm in June and July. The night sky, crackling campfire and fresh mountain air will help you sleep like a baby.
Whitewater, Hospital Bar and Tappan Ranch
Another day of fun rapids and incredible Rocky Mountain scenery. We’ll likely see big horn sheep as we pass several mineral licks. Those fishing will continue to find bountiful trout and birdwatchers are likely to spot golden eagles and falcons. We pass our last hot spring at Hospital Bar, so named because early cattlemen let their stock rest and feed at this large flat and easy ford across the river. We'll also see Tappan Ranch, where Red and Daisey Paulsen-Tappen grew a bountiful garden and raised a family with self-sufficiency and $300 a year in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Continuing on we run the Tappan rapids. This is a great photo opportunity with plenty of splashes and thrills. The final miles to camp offer a chance to lean back and take in the monumental scenery of the River of No Return Wilderness.
Whitewater, Impassable Canyon, Waterfall Creek and Veil Falls
Today we run Haystack Rapid, the most dynamic rapid on the river. Side canyon “blow outs” have changed its course twice in the last few years. This is the official start of Impassable Canyon. Below Haystack rapids, the canyon narrows and deepens creating a series of action-packed rapids. A favorite stop is at Waterfall Creek, where a steep trail leads up to the Bighorn Crags. We walk beneath the falls and on hot days finish with a jump into the river. Shortly downstream the river cuts into the Idaho batholith – the largest monolithic chunk of granite in North America. The river has carved into the granite and created towering walls for neck-bending panoramas. Further downstream we stop to hike to the base of Veil Falls, a soul-stirring cavern replete with pictographs and magic. Today’s scenery is truly among the most astounding on earth.
From camp the silhouette of canyon walls against the wine-dark sky will captivate you as you reflect, celebrate and further connect with newfound friends on your last night on the Middle Fork.
Whitewater, Confluence with the Main Salmon, Take Out
As we push off from shore the river takes us past the former hideout of Earl Parrot, Hermit of Impassable Canyon. His story is as big as the canyon and adds just one more thread of wonder to your Middle Fork experience. As the sun breaks over the canyon rim, more big rapids greet us as we pass beneath vistas of staggering dimensions.
We stop to enjoy lunch on a glistening sand beach just a few miles above the Middle Fork's confluence with the Main Salmon. We proceed onto our takeout, carry personal gear to the waiting bus, and settle back for a two-hour ride to the town of Salmon and the Stagecoach Inn.
Return Home or Extend Your Stay
If you drove to Stanley and had your car shuttled, it is waiting for you at the hotel. If you are flying home, you'll board an air taxi for the one-hour flight back to Boise to connect home.
ROW is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider and employer under permit from Salmon, Payette, Boise and Challis National Forests. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-disciminatory basis. ROW Inc. is bonded and licensed by the State of Idaho Outfitters & Guides Licensing Board.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jun 01, 2022 to Jun 05, 2022 |
|Jun 10, 2022 to Jun 15, 2022 |
|Jun 19, 2022 to Jun 24, 2022 |
|Jun 28, 2022 to Jul 03, 2022 |
|Jul 06, 2022 to Jul 11, 2022 |
|Jul 14, 2022 to Jul 19, 2022 |
|Jul 22, 2022 to Jul 27, 2022 |
|Jul 30, 2022 to Aug 04, 2022 |
|Aug 07, 2022 to Aug 12, 2022 |
|Aug 15, 2022 to Aug 20, 2022 |
|Aug 23, 2022 to Aug 28, 2022 |
|Aug 31, 2022 to Sep 05, 2022 |
|Sep 09, 2022 to Sep 14, 2022 |
Middle Fork Rafting Trip Starting Location
- Trips from May through July 22 launch, begin in Stanley and end in Salmon, Idaho
- Trips from July 30 through September begin and end in Salmon, Idaho.
Private and Special Interest Middle Fork Trips
6-Day Fishing Trip
Departures: August 31, September 9
Adult Price: $3390
6-Day Private Fishing Trip
Private Trip Rate = $40,680; August 31, September 9 - Maximim group size of 12
5-Day Private Trip
Private Trip Rate = $55,440
6-Day Private Trip
Private Trip Rate = $58,590