Looking for the ultimate in wilderness whitewater experiences?
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River
is often considered the best of Idaho river rafting trips, through the heart of the River of No Return Wilderness Area. Challenging whitewater, isolated wilderness canyon, excellent fly fishing, hot springs, Indian pictographs, wildlife, combine to provide lifetime memories. The Middle Fork arises at nearly 6000 feet elevation in mountain meadows, drops 3000 feet into an ever-deepening canyon, without a road crossing in a hundred miles. This gradient produces challenging whitewater, with numerous Class IV rapids in normal river levels. With the loss of elevation the environment changes from lodgepole pine forest to ponderosa pine, to mixed timber and open grassy slopes and finally, in Impassable Canyon, dramatic sheer granite cliffs, rising to peaks six to seven thousand feet above the river. This is one of the deepest canyons in Idaho. Rafting is the only access to this part of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Power boats are not allowed on the Middle Fork.
Access to the Middle Fork is limited by Forest Service regulations, with a limit of 24 passengers per group. On early or late season trips groups, however, groups are smaller, and Aggipah can arrange charter trips then. Trips usually are six days, camping along the river bank each night, from June through September.For those who prefer to break up five nights of camping, we can arrange to spend a night or two at riverside lodges with showers and sheets. We see deer in the upper sections of the river, bighorn sheep in the lower end. There is very good catch-and-release trout fishing available while rafting Middle Fork Salmon, especially later in the season after the water drops. We can provide drift boats for these specifically interested in taking advantage of the Middle Fork’s unmatched trout fishing.
World-class whitewater, natural hot springs, dramatic canyon scenery, wildlife viewing:
There are several hot springs along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. We stop at some of them, and sometimes camp nearby. We see deer in the upper sections of the river, bighorn sheep in the lower. The trip begins at nearly 6000 feet elevation, so temperatures are cooler than the Main or Lower Salmon River. Rapids are technical and exciting. The day-to-day routine and wildlife viewing opportunities are generally comparable to the Main Salmon, though the Middle Fork’s scenery changes abruptly with the loss of elevation. Late June is especially dramatic as we drop into the flowering zone of various wildflowers, and then pass below that zone.
History brought to life on the Middle Fork:
As we stop at some of the numerous panels of pictographs, house pits, and hunting pits along the Middle Fork. The Middle Fork canyon and its tributaries was the home of a Shoshone Indian subgroup called the Sheepeaters, because of the importance of bighorn sheep in their diet. The last Indian war in the northwest, in the Salmon River country in 1879, resulted in their removal.
The Sheepeater War occurred very early in the exploration period of this wilderness area. Many site names stem from the campaign. There was much less gold along the Middle Fork than along the Main Salmon, so there was little subsistence mining here. The area was prospected, with little result. In the early 1900s, though, there were several attempts at raising livestock in the middle portion of the Middle Fork. Access was difficult, limited to horses in the early days. There were a few people tough enough to live along the Middle Fork, and we sometimes stop at remnants of their cabins. Rapids and difficult access to the upper portion of the river restricted boating essentially until after WWll, and even then boating was recreational; the Middle Fork of Salmon River never had the freighting of supplies like the Main Salmon River.