Middle Fork Of The Salmon (4 Rivers)

Salmon-Challis National Forest

Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of Central Idaho, where over 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River each year. The Middle Fork is a 104-miles of crystal-clear water that flows through the heart of the Frank Church--River of No Return Wilderness and is one of the original eight rivers in the nation designated as Wild and Scenic on October 2, 1968. 

The Middle Fork originates 20 miles northwest of Stanley, ID, at the intersection of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks, and is known world-wide for extraordinary whitewater float trips. A multitude of class III and IV rapids offer boating excitement and challenge as part of a non-motorized floating experience with many technical runs. These multi-day float trips offer a wide sampling of scenic beauty along the banks, including alpine forests, high mountain deserts and a sheer, rock-walled canyon—the third deepest in North America! 

Beyond rafting, the area offers natural hot springs, prime fly fishing (catch-and-release only), scenic wilderness hikes with glimpses of prehistoric paintings and abandoned settler cabins, dazzling night skies, and geologic evidence of the river’s continuing efforts to carve its way through the Idaho Batholith. 

The Middle Fork employs a permit system to protect the river and wilderness resources from excessive human impacts. As part of that protection plan, we ask you to learn and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics. Because of the remote location, man's presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today. In fact, there are a small number of trails, landing strips, private ranches and Forest Service stations that serve as evidence of man's intrusion. If you choose to hike from one of the river campsites, you may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of how past inhabitants lived!

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

A float permit is required year-round to be on the waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River; only seven permits a day are allowed. 

Booking a reservation allows the individual to obtain a permit to float this river.

The launch date is the first day that watercraft should hit any section of the river. The permitted stretch begins at Dagger Falls and ends at the river’s confluence with the Salmon.

During the lottery control season (May 28 through September 3), only one permit per person is allowed.

Cancelled reservations are made available to the public randomly within 24 hours. However, cancellations for launches for Aug. 15 through Sept. 15 are not released to help protect spawning Chinook salmon.

Big Creek floaters are required to obtain a Tributary Permit from the McCall District Office, but they are not required to obtain a Middle Fork permit if they will go all the way out in one day. Big Creek is only open to floating June 1 through July 31.

Need to Know

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

Group size determines trip length during the Lottery Control Season (May 28-September3): 

Outside the Lottery Control Season, the maximum group size is 24 and the maximum trip length is 8 days.   

Watercraft limit:  

Permit Terms and Conditions 

The safety of visitors and protection of this wonderful, natural resource are top priorities. As such, securing your permit comes with agreement from you and your guests to the following:  

Fee Policy

Reservation or Lottery Application Fee: $6.00. This fee is non-refundable.

Special Recreation Fee: All persons floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon will pay $4.00 per person per day, or have a valid Salmon Rivers Season Pass (local pass).  

The permit holder must submit complete and final payment of the entire group’s recreation fees prior to the reserved launch date. This must be done in their reservation within their Recreation.gov account using a credit card. Cash and check payments cannot be accepted at the launch site for river fees.

More recreation fee information can be found here

Cancellation Policy

Change Policy 

Cancellation Policy – 21 days 

Contact Information

Mailing Address

311 N US Highway 93 Challis ID 83226

Office Hours: 8 AM to 4:30 PM, Mountain Time, Monday-Friday * Email: middlefork@fs.fed.us

Phone Number


Photo Gallery