Raft the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Boundary Creek Campground and Raft Launch

Raft 100 miles of whitewater up the gut of Idaho's Frank Church Wilderness on the River of No Return. This raft trip is described as second-best to the Grand Canyon... and for good reason. Enjoy an entire week of world-class wildlife viewing, hot spring soaking, beach camping, whitewater rafting, and much more.

If you're looking for an all-around start-to-finish epic adventure, rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River arguably checks off more boxes than any other trip in the world.

This adventure of a lifetime can be enjoyed two different ways: privately and commercially. We've been lucky enough to draw private permits the last two seasons, but if you're not as fortunate or aren't buddies with any river guides, there are various outfitters in Idaho that will make your experience down the river an amazing one (just don’t expect to set up your own tent).

The put-in for the float is at Boundary Creek Campground outside of Stanley, Idaho. For you out-of-towners, flying into the Boise airport and driving the three hours up Hwy. 21 is your best bet.

There’s really no such thing as a bad camp spot on the Middle Fork. Each camp along the 100 mile stretch is different, but some feature sandy beaches, sweet hikes, and good fishing and swimming holes. Some camps even have hot springs in or near them. Geothermal pools are scattered all along the first 60% of the river. Some of our favorites are Trail Flat, Sunflower, Hospital Bar, and Big Loon.

The whitewater is mainly class II’s and III’s at lower water in the summer months, but there are a few hairy areas and class IV rapids that should be scouted before attempting. Pistol Creek, House of Rocks, and Cramer Creek among others are rapids that will get your heart pumping.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon lays within the most remote area of the lower 48. With this comes the obvious safety considerations, but also awesome wildlife viewing. During our week we saw a fox, big horn sheep, elk, deer, bald eagles, cutthroat and chinook salmon, and a rattlesnake. On our drive out we even saw a moose taking a drink from the river.

Other attractions during the week include cliff jumping, fishing, and exploring petroglyphs carved into rock by the Sheepeater Indians before the 1800’s. The Middle Fork guidebook by Matt Leidecker was our bible for the week and it goes into great detail about the history of tribes on the river and the geology of the area in addition to a mile-by-mile rundown of the float. This is the guidebook you want.

There’s nothing like a cold beer after packing up all of your gear at the Cache Bar take-out, so don’t forget to stop at Bertram’s in Salmon, Idaho for their ever-delicious Borah Brown.

I could talk forever about our trip and would love to answer any questions you may have about yours. For more general information about permits, rules, and news check out the Forest Service website here.

Idaho is too beautiful to litter or disrespect. Please pack out what you pack in and follow proper LNT policies when visiting the wilderness. Also, be aware of wildfires in the region and take proper precautions in your own camp to prevent them.

Happy rafting! 

Pack List

Be sure not to forget the following:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Warm clothes
  • Swim suit
  • Food for the week
  • Dry bags
  • Rafting gear and accessories
  • Water bottle and filter
  • Sandals
  • Camera
  • Life jacket
Show More
RT Distance 100 Miles
Elevation Gain -3294 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Rafting, Kayaking, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Beach
Family Friendly
Forest
Hot Springs
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Trip of life time everytime

Trips don’t get anymore epic than the Middle Fork. It’s what keeps people returning year after year. Can’t wait to make another return trip here!!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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