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MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON (4 Rivers), ID

part ofSalmon-Challis National Forest, US Forest Service
Photo: MIDDLE FORK OF THE SALMON

Overview

Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of Central Idaho. Each year, approximately 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Middle Fork is a 104-mile free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, originating 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, at the confluence of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks.

It was one of the original eight rivers in the nation designated as Wild and Scenic on October 2, 1968. The river moves through a variety of climates and land types; from alpine forest to high mountain desert to sheer, rock-walled canyon, the third deepest in North America.

The Middle Fork is administered under a permit system to protect it from excessive human impacts. Part of that protection asks you, the user, to learn and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Because of its remote location, man's presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today.

Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches and Forest Service stations are evidence of man's intrusion. The Middle Fork is now an internationally recognized whitewater/wilderness float trip, known for its scenic beauty and crystal clear whitewater. It is a non-motorized floating experience with many technical rapids. These class III and IV+ rapids offer boating excitement for both families and experienced adventurers.

Hiking from the river campsites offers a taste of the wilderness experience and visitors may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of how past inhabitants lived.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is usually not floated November 1 to March 31 due to winter conditions, low water levels and access difficulties. Ice and snow bridges are to be expected on the river and its tributaries during this time.

In the spring, road access to the Middle Fork is usually limited by snowdrifts and trees across the road. Depending on the amount of snow, spring weather and temperatures, the road to Boundary Creek may not open until sometime in early June. High water levels are also a concern once the runoff begins.

Know Before You Go

When applying for or reserving a launch date on this river, I certify that:

  • Upon securing this reservation, I recognize that this launch date is not transferable and that I will become the responsible person for this group, and that I am/will be at least 18 years old before the launch date;
  • I am not currently being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation on this river;
  • I will only submit one application for this river's lottery;
  • I understand that during the control season for this river, I am limited to one permit and may only hold one launch reservation during this period;
  • Unless authorized as a commercial operator on this river, this reservation/application is for a private (non-commercial) float permit.

Float Permit Availability Information:

Reservations for Pre and Post-season float permits (before May 28 and after Sept. 3) on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River (limit of 7 per day) become available annually on October 1st at 10:00 am Eastern time (8 am Mountain).

Lottery Applications for Middle Fork of the Salmon River Lottery Control Season launch reservations (May 28-Sept. 3) are accepted annually from December 1 until midnight Eastern time January 31.

Cancellations: Please continue to check this site for cancelled reservations. Cancelled launch dates are released at a random time within 24 hours of submission. After March 15th, the Middle Fork will not re-issue cancellations for launches occurring Aug. 15 through Sept. 15. Groups will also be limited to 12 craft per permit for these launch dates.

Water Levels, River Info, Lottery Statistics: Find hydrographs, statistics, calendars, river information, equipment requirements and regulations at: Four Rivers Lottery. Boaters should try to anticipate high and low water levels and access issues before submitting an application or reserving a launch date.

Rules and Regulations for Middle Fork of the Salmon
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is usually not floated November 1 - March 31 due to winter conditions, low water levels, and access difficulties. Ice and snow bridges are to be expected on the river and its tributaries.

In the Spring road access to the Middle Fork is usually limited by snowdrifts and trees across the road. Depending on the amount of snow and the spring weather and temperatures, the road to Boundary Creek may not open until sometime in early June. High water levels are also a concern once the runoff begins.

  • Permit Holder must be 18 years old by the launch date.
  • Permit Holder must be on the trip for entire duration of the float.
  • Required equipment:
    • Porta-potty
    • Fire pan
    • Ash Container
    • Mesh Strainer
    • Shovel
    • Bucket
  • Group Size and Trip Length:
    • During the Lottery Control Season, (May 28-September 3) group size determines trip length:
      • Non-Commercial Trips:
      • Group Size (21-24) - Maximum Trip Length : 6 Days (5 nights)
      • Group Size (11-20) - Maximum Trip Length : 7 Days (6 nights)
      • Group Size (1-10) - Maximum Trip Length : 8 Days (7 nights)
      • Commercial Trips:

      • Group Size (21-30) - Maximum Trip Length : 6 Days (5 nights)
      • Group Size (11-20) - Maximum Trip Length : 7 Days (6 nights)
      • Group Size (1-10) - Maximum Trip Length : 8 Days (7 nights)
    • Outside the Lottery Control Season the maximum group size is 24 and the maximum trip length is 8 days.
Idaho OHV Safety Message

Contact Information

Salmon Challis National Forest
Middle Fork Ranger District
HC 63 Box 1669
Challis, Idaho 83226-9304
208-879-4101
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