Pro Tip: Planning A Middle Fork of the Salmon River Trip
Did you open an "congratulations you won a Middle Fork of the Salmon permit" email? If so, congrats. Here are some tips to help you plan you first, 2nd, or whatever number trip you are on.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon requires a permit for any floating downstream of Dagger Falls. You'll have to enter the lottery to get a permit to launch anytime between May 28 and September 3. Outside those dates, you can head to recreation.gov to pick up available permits.
Boundary Creek boat ramp is the classic put-in and the only option if you want to drive your boat in without running Marsh Creek. The road to Boundary is a long dirt road not maintained in the winter. If you are considering a spring trip, ask around and make sure the road is passable before heading to put-in.
Most river users arrive to put in the day before their trip start date. This gives you time to rig boats and slide them down the icoinic Boundary Creek boat ramp. You'll want to show up with a plan and keep your group's gear in one area so you don't get mixed up with other groups.
When it is time to use the ramp, make sure to have all hands on deck for that boat and move it down to the water as soon as possible. Once in the eddy, you'll want to keep your group close together as it will get quite crowded in the busy season. You'll likely tie some boats off the back of other boats. The Ranger only allows three boats to be touching the shore.
Once the water starts to drop, you have a couple of options. Get ready for a low water adventure. Below 2 feet, some groups choose to fly their trip into the river. While many backcountry airstrips on the Middle Fork, the one that most groups choose to fly into is Indian Creek.
Is the water level getting low, but you're not quite ready to fly your whole trip in? I recommend flying some gear into Indian Creek to keep your boats light for the first 25 miles. The section of the river from Boundary to Indian creek is considerably shallower than the rest of the trip, and it is so much easer with a light boat. I have seen too many groups with heavy boats still on the river trying to get to camp, while I'm at camp finishing up dinner dishes.
There are a few options for planes into the Middle Fork, and they probably are not as expensive as you think.
Cache Bar is the take-out for all trips. The boat ramp only has 3 lanes, and there are typically 7 trips taking out on any given day. The commerical outfitters have a tight turn around between trips, and are usually all at the boat ramp between 11-1:30 pm.
If you are on the river during the busy season, consider spending some more time in the Impassable Canyon and hitting the take-out after 2 pm once all the commercial outfitter are gone. Be patient and ready for work quick and fast when you have a lane at the boat ramp.
Campsites are assigned before launching your trip with the help of the ranger.
While all camps on the Middle Fork are great, it is smart to go into the camp selection meeting with a plan. It is great to pick camps for their side hike and views, but is important to also think about the river mileage between camps. If you have a 30 mile day just to get to a camp with a certain hike, you might not even be able to enjoy it.
You'll also want to consider your group size while selecting camps. If you are a small group, look into what small camps you'll want to stay at. The Ranger will probably not let you select all large group campsites if the river is busy.
Camp selection rules:
-You can't stay at more than one camp with hot spring access
-Only one night per trip below mile 78 during lottery control season
-Layover days are only allowed at certain camps, with ranger approval
The official Forest service camp list with miles and rules can be helpful in planning out prespective camps.
Make sure your group has all the equipment required by the Forest Service. The Ranger will inspect your trip to ensure you have it all before issuing your permit.
If your group is planning on doing a food shop on the way to the river, Saveway is the biggest grocery store in Salmon. You'll want to plan on shopping before you hit Stanley as the grocery selection is small and expensive there.
You can also save some time and get your food packed for you with Salmon River Food Packs.
The Chinook Salmon spawning season is in the late summer and the fall. If you your trip falls in that time frame you'll want to educate yourself before heading to the river.
Trash and recycling
Newland Ranch Dump Station is on the drive out from the river and has garbage dumpsters, aluminum recycling, and a Scat Machine for cleaning groovers. All of its services are free for river users. It is worth noting that the scat machine has often been out-of service in the past few years.
Happy trip planning!