Pro Tip: Paddle the Middle Fork of the Salmon
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is any outdoor enthusiast’s dream. The terrain is comprised of a variety of lush, evergreen forests and dry, wide-open land with unique rock formations. Located in Idaho’s 2.3 million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, it is not surprisingly home to a wide variety of mammal species, including big horn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, grey wolves, and wolverines, as well as many species of birds, fish, and other wildlife.
Now imagine, in the middle of all of this wild beauty, a river flowing through the forest with nearly continuous class III whitewater rapids, picturesque fishing spots, and beautiful, sandy beaches to camp upon. Beautiful side trails for hiking to viewpoints and to waterfalls are tucked into the river canyon. And, to top it all off, alongside this river, there are natural mineral hot springs to soak in after a day of paddling. Sounds like paradise to me!
I have been dreaming of paddling the Middle Fork ever since I heard of it a few years ago. My boyfriend’s father, a lifetime boater, told me about his favorite river that he had ever paddled— this great river full of fun rapids, surrounded by amazing, green scenery in Idaho. I tucked it into the back of my mind, but living in South Carolina, I didn’t imagine I’d have the opportunity to go, at least any time soon. Flash forward 5 years, I’m living in the Pacific Northwest, have much more river experience than I did then, and it seems more possible. I applied for one of the coveted permits this winter, but sadly did not earn one. Only one in 25 people who apply for private permits win one in the lottery system.
Pro Tip: apply for a permit between December 1 and January 31 for trips the following summer (March 28 - September 8) with a non-refundable $6 application fee. You also need a permit if you are planning a trip outside of these dates.
Any month you can get a permit would be great, but June trips typically have higher water and bigger rapids. Late July and August trips have more technical rapids in the beginning of the run, but are just as exciting. The end of the summer trips are also great for families and those in inflatable or hardshell kayaks, and the fishing is better with the water being a little lower.