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
- Idaho's Dept. of Fish and Game has installed the fish trap in Marsh Creek for 2021.
- Float permits are required year-round to be on the waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, with a limit of seven launches per day.
- Applications for lottery control season launch dates (May 28-September 3) are accepted annually December 1 through January 31.
- Notice to Lottery Applicants: Due to closures and impacts that occurred during the Boundary Fire, eligible 2021 control season reservation holders were given the option to defer their permit launch date to 2022. There were also a few permit holders who were not able to travel to the United States due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. These deferments (rollovers) reduced the number of launches that will be allocated in the 2022 lottery; two dates do not have any launches available. Calendar slots identifying the number of non-commercial (PVT) launches are available on the Four Rivers Lottery web page. Please review the number of available launches and hydrographs before submitting your application.
- Pre-season and post-season launch dates for next year’s float season can be reserved annually starting at 8 AM Mountain Time on October 1. These launches are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Recreation.gov.
- Permits to float this river are very popular, and dates are quickly reserved. We recommend you book online to avoid delays. Reservation Tip: Log in to your account or create a new account before dates are released (see Important Dates for reservation release dates/times). If a date does not show on the calendar, all launches have been reserved for that date. Note: The Recreation.gov Call Center does not have access to additional reservations or launch dates beyond what is visible on the website.
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:
- I understand 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 (no alternates) and will cancel if unable to use;
- I will become the responsible person for this group and will provide a complete passenger list;
- I will 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 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 recreation fee 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
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