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!
Permit & Season Information
This permit authorizes the permit holder to float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
A permit is required year-round to be on the waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and only seven permits a day are allowed. During the lottery control season (May 28-Sept 3), only one permit per person is allowed. The permitted stretch begins at Dagger Falls and ends at the river’s confluence with the Salmon. Your launch date is the first day that your boats should hit any section of the river.
Big Creek floaters must obtain a Tributary Permit from the Krassel Ranger District but they are not required to obtain a Middle Fork of the Salmon launch reservation and permit if they will go all the way out in one day (no overnight stays). Because chinook salmon spawn in Big Creek, tributary permits are only allowed from June 1 through July 31. Contact the Krassel District to obtain a tributary permit.
Need to Know
When applying for or reserving a launch date on this river, I certify that:
- I understand that this is only a reservation and that I must obtain a signed hard-copy permit before launching;
- I understand that this launch date is not transferable and will cancel if unable to use;
- I will become the responsible person for this group and will provide a complete passenger list;
- I must be present and accompany the group at all times while on the river;
- I am/will be at least 18 years old by 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 my reservation or lottery award may be revoked if I have submitted duplicate applications or am being penalized;
- I understand that I am limited to one permit during the lottery control season and may only hold one launch reservation during this season;
- I recognize that this reservation/application is for a private (non-commercial) float permit unless authorized as a commercial operator on this river.
Group size determines trip length during the Lottery Control Season (May 28-September3):
- 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)
Outside the Lottery Control Season, the maximum group size is 24 and the maximum trip length is 8 days.
- 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 the following:
- Camp in the assigned camps listed on the permit. All group members must camp together. Although assigned to boating parties, this does not imply exclusive use; you may need to share with other Forest users.
- Carry and use the following required equipment:
- Portable toilet – make sure you have carrying capacity for your group size and trip length.
- Fire pan - required even if you do not plan to build a fire.
- Ash container – use this to carry out all campfire ashes and charcoal.
- Mesh strainer – use this to strain food particles from your dish- and gray-water.
- Shovel and bucket— to help extinguish fires.
- Ensure all boats are clean, drained, and dry with appropriate Idaho Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) stickers. All watercraft must be inspected prior to going into the river.
- Pick up all garbage including foil, plastic bottles, cans, cigarette butts, and micro-trash, and carry them out of the river area to a provided dump site and recycling station.
- Do not use soap, not even biodegradable soap, in any stream, river, lake or hot springs. These are harmful to the environment.
- Carry and display permit upon request of any Forest Officer.
- Leave all archeological artifacts and natural features intact. (Take home only pictures and memories.)
- Observe all local, state and Federal laws and regulations.
- Public nudity is prohibited.
- 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) is not allowed within wilderness. Drones (UAS) 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.
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 information can be found here.
- The launch date and the permit holder’s name cannot be changed, but other details can be changed prior to the permit issuance.
- The permit is non-transferable. If you cannot go on your reserved launch date, you must cancel it.
Cancellation Policy – 21 days
- If you cannot make the trip, cancel your reservation at Recreation.gov. Cancel as soon as possible, but no less than 21 days prior to your launch date. Failure to do so will trigger a Late Cancellation Penalty, which restricts you from holding a permit on this river for three years.
- Exceptions: When water levels exceed 5.0 feet, if the road to Boundary Creek is not open, or if your launch is within the 21 days when you reserve it, the reservation can be cancelled with less than 21 days' notice without a late penalty, but must be cancelled to avoid a No-Show penalty.
- Recreation fees will be refunded to your credit card within a few days.
- The $6.00 reservation fee is non-refundable.
- Additional Cancellation Information
311 N US Highway 93 Challis ID 83226
Office Hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Mountain Time, M-F * Email: firstname.lastname@example.org