Middle Fork Salmon [MF1] [MF2]


For individual outfitter launch dates, visit Middle Fork Outfitters Association. The Middle Fork of the Salmon flows through the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness, the largest forest wilderness in the lower 48 states. The Middle Fork is the historical origin of Wilderness white water rafting trips (most last five nights and six days) and the most popular long river trip in Idaho, and deservedly so - it combines a beautiful Wilderness setting with 100 frequent rapids over 100 miles, hot springs, reserved forest campsites, limited access and party size, and no jet boats allowed. In 1968, the Middle Fork was protected as a Wild River becoming part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The Middle Fork begins as a small stream in the cool, wet mountainous country on the northwestern flank of the Sawtooth Range near Stanley, Idaho. As the river descends through three vegetation zones dropping 3,000 feet in elevation, its environment changes from fir-covered mountainside to granite sheer-walled canyon. The rapids are frequent and exciting.

The trip customarily starts at Boundary Creek boat lunch, just below Dagger Falls. At high water, the first 22 miles, to Pistol Creek Rapid, are very fast and the rapids follow one another in quick succession.

The alpine section offers continuous rapids with Velvet Falls and Pistol Creek rated class IV. Velvet Falls, 5.5 miles from the put-in, is a short, steep drop into a river-wide reversal. It is difficult to locate until you are right on top of it. There is a large boulder on the left side of the river at the top of the drop. The customary sneak route is to pull in behind the boulder and skirt the reversal on the left. Pistol Creek is on a tight S-bend 22 miles from the put-in. The rapid can be scouted from high above on the right.

Flows stabilize on this Wilderness river by late summer as mountain snows melt and it becomes necessary to fly into Indian Creek Guard Station and launch float trips. Indian Creek airfield is 25 miles below Boundary Creek.

Kayakers with intermediate-level skills and a good roll should have no difficulty on any part of the river at any water level.

Unique features of the Middle Fork are its reserved campsites and numerous hot springs, particularly those located at Sheepeater (mile 13) Sunflower (mile 33) and Loon Creek (mile 49). Reservations for these small group family river trip vacations can be made one year in advance. Outfitter launch dates are exactly the same each year so advance planning is easy. Only three outfitters launch per day and repeat only once every eight days so the Middle Fork float trips are never crowded. Outfitter customers become loyal friends and return frequently for summer vacations. Middle Fork of the Salmon River outfitters set the standard in the world for river trip vacation service and customer care. Call directly for help in planning your Middle Fork river trip vacation.

River Stats




Trip Length

187 mi.


Spring and summer


USGS Realtime Streamflow