1990 Trip at 2.6'

1998 Trip at 5.1'

Middle Fork of the Salmon River

River Data

Avg Peak FlowOptimum FlowMinimum FlowBoating SeasonAverage Yearly DischargeAcre Ft/Yr
6000 CFS in June2.5 to 5 feet on the Middle Fork Lodge gauge CFSSpring & Summer

Run Data

Levels of Desc TimeRatingLengthPermit
2.61 feet on our July '90 trip (Middle Fork Lodge Gauge)
5.1 feet on our June '98 trip(Middle Fork Lodge Gauge)
7 days2.6' Class III+
5.1' Class IV
99.6 miles Required and based on a lottery from the $5.00 application fee.

Drop in Feet per Mile
26 ft/miAverage - 5630' to 3020'

Put-in At the Boundary Creek Campground (800 miles from Denver). 20 miles west of Stanley, turn right and go 11 miles to the Boundary Creek campground turnoff. Another 14 miles leads to the campground.
Take-out At Cache Bar on the Main Salmon.

Boating Information

One Hundred miles of paddling in a beautiful and remote wilderness setting with lots of hot springs and wonderful camps. This is why this is my favorite multi-day river trip.

General Information

When we first ran this river in 1990, to apply for a permit we just sent $5.00 to the Middle Fork Ranger District.
Now, this is all done on-line with the National Forest Service Web site. This is also a good place to get up to the minute information on the river and access to the put-in, etc.

This trip goes through the heart of the largest wilderness area in the continental United States, the 2.3 million acre Frank Church - River of no return wilderness. No motorized equiptment is allowed.

Geologic Overview

This run goes through the heart of the Idaho Batholith which consists of Mesozoic plutonic rocks (mostly granite).

1990 Trip

This trip is normally done in 5-6 days. We took 7 days with a non-paddling layover day in the middle. The Forest Service seems to discourage layover days. I think that they are a great way to relax and stretch those sore paddling muscles.

  • 2 catarafts
  • 1 raft
  • 1 inflatable kayak
  • 5 open canoes
  • 4 kayaks
  • 1 C-1 (decked canoe)

    We met at Boundary Creek campground on Saturday night, to start the trip on Sunday.
    We had 15 people in our group:

    • Dave Cialone (permit holder)
    • Tom Burns & Elaine
    • Rick & Noel Andrews
    • Jeff Oxenford and Lee,
    • Liz, Jody Schuberlin & Tracy
    • Pat & Mike Jones & Kathy
    • Don Clark and myself

    Due to the Northerly location of the Middle Fork, it is light out until 10:00 PM.
    After hearing horror stories about shuttle companies that drive cars from the put-in to the take-out, we decided to use a shuttle company that used a bus to shuttle people from Stanley to the put-in (The River Rat Express). At the end of the trip, the bus then takes all the people and gear back to Stanley. This is the cheapest way to arrange the shuttle, and saves a lot of wear and tear on the cars.
    The total cost for the trip (not including transportation costs to Stanley) were (1990):
    $46.00 - Food per person
    $42.00 - 1/15th of the shuttle cost
    $88.00 - Total.

    water temperature

    At the put-in was 55 degrees F.
    It was 61 degrees above the main Salmon.

    Group Equipment and logistics


  • 2 - 12'x12' tarps
  • We had 4 water pumps to pump water every night.
  • Climbing rope and caribiners
  • 2 - steam table trays for use as fire pans & cover; BBQ grill and charcoal.
  • We each had a Large dry bag for clothes, sleeping bags and personal items
  • First aid kit

    We carried 4 water purification pumps to filter water every night to reduce the water we needed to carry.


  • 2 - 2 burner stoves & extra fuel
  • 2 - 4'x4' tables for cooking
  • Coolers with ice for the food for the first 3 days.
  • Coolers with dry ice for the food 4-7 days into the trip.
  • A cooking set with 2 - 6 quart pots.
  • 4 - drywall/pickle buckets for rinsing and carrying dry food.
  • Kitchen Gear: scour sponges, dish soap, ladels, spatulas, tongs, spices, paper towels, Clorox bleach, cutting board, knives, matches, dish gloves, pot holders, strainer.
  • 2 1/2 or 5 gallon water containers.
  • Mesh beer bags

    We did dishes by scraping plates into a trash bag, pre-rinsing in a bucket of river water, washing in hot soapy river water, and a final rinse in river water with 2 capfuls of Clorox bleach and drying with paper towels.

    We worked meals by having 8 food groups of 2 people each. Six groups were responsible for one dinner and the following breakfast, and the two remaining groups handled lunches for the entire trip. This results in the highest quality meal possible.


  • 2 - drywall/pickle buckets.

    We did the toilet by having a 5 gallon drywall bucket lined with plastic bags and a toilet seat. A coating of lime was dusted on, after each use, followed by a hand rinse in a second bucket filled with river water and 2 capfuls of Clorox bleach. At the end of the trip, we simply threw out the entire bucket.

  • 1998 Trip

    We noticed that there seems to be more ticks in June than in July.

    We had 5 catarafts and 8 kayaks on this trip.

  • Aire cataraft, paddled by Chris
  • Shredder mini-cat paddled by Mike & Steve
  • Jacks Plastic cataraft paddled by Midnight & Judy with Dave & Marty as passengers
  • Jacks Plastic cataraft paddled by Ron
  • Cataraft paddled by Bob
  • Jill, Craig, Tammy, Katy, Jim, Grahm, Jim C. and I in Kayaks

    We had excellent group chemistry on this trip and this makes all the difference. All the credit goes to our permit holder Jim C.
    17 people total, although we lost 2 on day 3 and another 4 on day 5.
    Here is a synopsis of the individuals on the trip that made this one of the best weeks of my life!

    • Ron wore a down parka and was sauna-crazy (with his own sauna tent). He was our GPS, walkie talkie, data gathering river authority.
    • Craig was our McGiver, always fixing things in camp, always interesting to talk to and the most energetic on the river.
    • Tammy was good company and supportive in camp, she was often cold and loved soaking in the hot springs.
    • Midnight was horseshoe crazy w/ balls and shoes a swinging. He went nuts super-gluing all his cuts shut so he could play guitar.
    • Bob was our "Dr Groover" and trip color commentator with an authoritative voice of reason during the trip.
    • Chris was our resident raft expert, always with a smile and a quip.
    • Jim C was laid back except when grabbed by occasional spurts of "Permit-holder fervor" which is needed. He was in story-telling mode the entire trip.
    • Jill was always cheerful and ready to help and a solid companion on the water.
    • Steve and Mike were always smiling and fishing and were great company at the late night campfire musings.
    • Jim G is always a good friend and great to have along and probably our strongest paddler.
    • Katy was always entertaining and split her duties between her kayak and raft rigging. She wanted her "drunk night" but could not finish the 1st beer.
    • Judy was the most energenic in camp with a quick wit.
    • Dave & Marty were both nice and I was sorry to see them leave early.
    • Grahm always had a positive comment and got the most improved boating award. Midnights comment, "For a guy that can hardly stand up, he can sure throw a shoe".

    Group Equipment and logistics


    • 3 Kelty Sun/rain shades with 3 poles.
    • 1 large Moss Shelter with 2 poles.
    • 1 expedition-grade Catodyne? Water filter
    • 1 large fire pan on sturdy legs with BBQ attachment
    • 2 large ammo cans to carry out the ashes
    • Extra raft and kayak paddles, first aid kits and six 5-gallon water jugs.
    • A good raft repair kit.
    • Caving rope and caribiners
    • We forgot our shovel, but the ranger did not check!
    • Everyone had their own personal chair, cup, utensils, plate and bowl.
    We were careful to pickup all the micro-trash. Also soap well above the water-line and pee well below the water-line. Jim C. started each day with a group safety talk before putting on the river. Basically an overview of the days rapids and planned lunch stops and scouting stops. This got everyone on the same page for the day.


    • One gallon zip-lock bags and a box of trash compactor bags for "stuff" and trash
    • 2 propane bottles (25 lb)
    • 2 2-burner stoves (primus and coleman) both of which broke
    • 1 lantern, which also broke
    • 4 roll-a-way tables
    • 3 large plastic (rectangular) dish-washing basins with scrub brushes, scour pads, dish soap and a strainer/filter for the water.
    • 1 galvanized pail with a bottle of bleach and sanitizing hand cleanser.
    • 2 cutting boards, chopping knives, serving spoons, griddle, spatulas, frying pans, salad bowls, large & small kettles, water pot, large coffee pot, tongs, paper towels, coffee filter, can opener, wok, Dutch oven, charcoal and lighter fluid.
    • 7 large coolers, all with 10 pound block ice that lasted the whole trip.
    We did food by having 7 separate food groups. Each group was responsible for a dinner, breakfast and lunch the following day. This group also did dishes, although most people washed their own personal dishes.


    • 2 large square plastic groovers with TP and hand wipes. We used paper bags for the used TP, which was burned daily.
    • 1 galvanized pail with a bottle of bleach and sanitizing hand cleanser (in addition to the one in the kitchen).
    We carried the 1 full and the other 1/4-full groover boxes to the Forest Service station, several miles up the road from the take-out. We strapped the bucket into the groover machine and it took 3 washings each ($100/ per wash) to clean a box. The machine ate our 2nd groover. Outside was a hose for a final rinse. Plastic dish gloves are very nice to have for this task.
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