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 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 between Dagger Falls and the river's confluence with the Main Salmon. Booking a reservation here allows the individual to obtain a permit from the Forest Service to float this river. The launch date is the first day that watercraft should hit the permitted stretch of the river. 

The lottery control season extends from May 28 - September 3. 

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 float 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: There is a maximum of 12 watercraft per permit for August 15 through September 15 launches due to spawning Chinook salmon.  

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 do the following:  

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River runs through the Frank Church- -River of No Return Wilderness . All Wilderness areas have a number of regulations in place which are designed to protect the resource. Mechanical transport and motorized equipment are not allowed in Wilderness. This includes bicycles, carts, and boat motors. Hangliders are prohibited in order to preserve the aesthetic value of wilderness. The use of Drones (Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UAS) is not allowed within wilderness. Drones are considered to be aircraft and are both “motorized equipment” and “mechanical transport”. As such, these aircraft cannot take off from, land in, or be operated from, congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas. To learn more, see the USDA Forest Service’s Recreational Drone Tips , and visit Unmanned Aircraft Systems on the FAA’s site.

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

208-879-4101

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