Middle Fork Salmon Rafting
Boundary Creek to Cache Bar
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is one of the best multi-day rafting and kayaking trips in the world. With hot springs, fun rapids, reliable flows, crystal clear water, excellent fishing, and superb camping, the 100 miles of river meets everybody’s needs. Top that off with the huge granite walls of Impassable Canyon, the Middle Fork Salmon is not surprisingly an original member of the Wild and Scenic River system. Free flowing through the Frank Church, River of No Return Wilderness Area, the river runs all summer. Those that want a high flow whitewater extravaganza usually try to land permits to raft and kayak in early to mid June. The low water in late August is preferred by anglers while most people prefer the time in between.
Commercial trips usually meet in Stanley, Idaho. When the water gets lower, outfitters fly guests into Indian Creek bypassing the first 20 miles of the river. The scenic flight into the Frank Church is an adventure in its own right. Some outfitters charge extra when they have to fly while others do not.
A unique aspect on the Middle Fork is the use of sweep boats. These craft have sweeps (large specially designed oars) on the front and back of the raft. Since the gradient is so consistent on the Middle Fork, these rafts don’t need to row downstream. Rather they let the current take them downstream. Most commercial outfitters send a sweep boat ahead of the trip to set up camp so that when the rest of the group arrives there is minimal work to be done.
Middle Fork Salmon Rafting and Kayaking Highlights
Mile 0: Put-in
Put-in at the Boundary Creek boat ramp. Typically groups arrive the afternoon prior to their launch to reserve campsites along the river and get their boats in the water so they are ready to go the next morning. The ramp can be busy, being efficient when using the ramp is appreciated by fellow rafting groups.
Mile 0.9: Gardell’s Hole (Murphs Hole)
At high water this is the first significant obstacle to miss. Flips here can lead to long swims. Typically boaters go left of the hole. It is an easy scout walking down the trail on river left from the Boundary Creek Put-in.
Mile 2.9: Sulfur Slide (III)
Mile 5.1: Velvet Falls (IV)
A huge hole at high water, Velvet Falls is usually run on the left side of the river. It is a beautiful and impressive whitewater feature. Below here is consistent busy water. Stopping to warm up at Trail Hot Spring (mile 7) or Sheepeater Hotsprings (mile 13) is worth while on a cold day.
Mile 18.5: Rapid River
Mile 21.8: Lake Creek Rapid (III)
Formed by a landside in 2006, Lake Creek Rapid has changed significantly over the last decade. While it is easier than it once was it is still taken seriously due to the potential for a long swim since Pistol Creek Rapid (IV) is just downstream. Boaters often scout both rapids at the same time from river right.
Mile 25: Indian Creek Guard Station and Airstrip
Mile 31.5: Marble Creek Rapid (III)
Marble Creek comes in on river left. Just upstream is Marble Creek Rapid a fun drop. There are many nice campsites in this area. Just downtream is the popular stop, Sunflower Hotsprings (mile 33). There is a pool and hot waterfall that lands next to the river.
Mile 34: Middle fork Salmon Lodge
Mile 50: Loon Creek
A major tributary, Loon Creek (video) has a nice Class IV-V packrafting/kayaking run. A 20 minute hike on a well developed trail up Loon Creek takes boaters to one of the nicest and most popular hot springs nestled next to the creek.
Mile 57: Grouse Creek Rapid (III-)
This S-bend rapid leads into the series of Tappan Rapids
Mile 58+59: The Tappan Rapids (II-IV)
Tappan I is a good warm-up for the biggest rapid of the series Tappan Falls. After Tappan Falls isTappan 2, Tappan 2.5 and Tappan 3.
Mile 60: Camas Creek
A nice shady spot for lunch with a potential hike up the side canyon. Camas Creek (video) has a Class V kayak/packraft run.
Mile 68: Haystack Rapid (III)
Below the Flying B the river runs through a busy boulder field. At high water there are big waves hence the name Haystack Rapid.
Mile 78: Big Creek and Entrance to Impassable Canyon
Another major tributary, Big Creek has a nice Class III-IV kayak run. The bridge here is one of the only places hikers can cross the river in the wilderness area.
Mile 80: Veil Falls
A short hike leads to an amazing waterfall and perfect place to relax in the afternoon.
Mile 82: Redside Rapid (III)
This rapid is worth a scout particularly with Weber Rapid (III) just downstream.
Mile 88: Cliffside Rapid (III)
As the water drops this rapid becomes more difficult. Many kayakers have swan in the big hydraulic along the wall at lower flows.
Mile 91: Rubber Rapid (III/IV)
Rubber is one of the most impressive rapids on the Middle Fork at high water.
Mile 96: Confluence of Middle Fork and Main Salmon
The volume of water increases significantly. Commercial companies sometimes take-out there guests here and then boat down to Cache Bar.
Mile 99: Cramer Rapid (IV)
This rapid is worth a scout at higher water. It has been changing over the last few years.
Mile 100: Cache Bar Take-out
This is a tight take-out with lots of boats. If you’re lucky, you have a permit for the Main Salmon and can float around the corner and raft for another week.