Whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork Salmon, America's best wild river trip
ARTA River Trips - Image Art

link to trip details

Middle Fork of the Salmon River Trip Details

Where and when to meet:

We'll meet you at 8:00 pm the evening before the trip begins at the River 1 store in Stanley, Idaho (208/774-2270). Stanley is a small town and River 1 is 100 yards north of the Mountain Village Lodge and the junction of Highways 21 and 75. At the pre-trip meeting we will give you your waterproof bags, arrange shuttles, go over equipment and packing procedures and answer any last minute questions.

How to get there:

Your trip will begin and end in Stanley, Idaho (New logistics! We now include round trip transportation from Stanley to the river and back to Stanley). Return time to Stanley on the last day of your trip should be around 7:00 pm.

Driving: Stanley is located on Highway 21, 3 hours northeast of Boise. Vehicles will be left in Stanley during the trip.

Idaho MapFlying: Boise is the most convenient airport with commercial airline service. You can fly into Boise and either:

- Rent a car and drive to and from Stanley (3 hours each way) or

- Catch the daily van shuttle to Stanley (Caldwell Transportation - 800/727-9925 or 208/459-6612; advance reservations required; $200 per person round trip; departs Boise airport at 4:00 pm; return van departs Stanley at 7:00 am) or

- Arrange a charter flight from Boise to Stanley (Gem Air - 208/756-7382); advance reservations required; $180 per person each way; flexible schedule).

Other: We can drop you off in Salmon at the end of your trip. If you are on an extended road trip, you can have your car shuttled from Stanley to Salmon during the trip and not return to Stanley ($110 per vehicle; arrange at pre-trip meeting) or if you prefer to fly back to Boise from Salmon after the trip, you can arrange a flight with Gem Air ($180 per person; advance reservations required; flexible schedule).

If you have any questions or need more information or have a large group and want to consider van and bus charters, just give us a call.

Where to stay:

Lodging in Stanley is good at the Mountain Village Lodge, (208/774-3661) which is a short walk from River 1. The Lodge fills up quickly and we advise that you make reservations well in advance. Other lodging includes theSawtooth Hotel (208/721-2459) and the High Country Inn (208/774-7000). If you want to extend your stay in the Stanley area, check out Redfish Lake Lodge and Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch both of which are about 10 miles south of Stanley and offer a host of outdoor activities. Please reserve your pre- and post-trip accommodations well in advance.

What we provide:

  • Pre-trip meeting in Stanley, Idaho
  • Round trip ground transportation from Stanley to the river before the trip and from the river back to Stanley after the trip.
  • All meals from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A chair, cup, plate, and eating utensils for each guest
  • Waterproof bags
  • Lifejackets and helmets
  • Rafts (see below)
  • Professional guides, helpers and cooks

What you are responsible for:

Additional Information

Day 1: We will meet at the Mountain Village Lodge in the morning and be transported either to the launch site at Boundary Creek, (1½ - 2 hours, May and July trips), or to the airport in Stanley for the 30 minute flight to Indian Creek, (August and September trips). After a short safety and orientation briefing, we will launch around noon.
Days 2 - 5:  Although there is no such thing, a typical day on the Middle Fork starts with coffee and a hearty breakfast before we pack our bags and load on to the rafts. We will float an average of 15 - 18 miles, (5 - 6 hours), each day, stopping for a picnic lunch and perhaps to take a short hike, soak in a hotsprings, or explore an historical site. Camp will be made in the late afternoon with early evening available for hiking, fishing, swimming or relaxing.
Day 6: An early morning prepares us for some of the Middle Fork's biggest rapids as we finish the Impassible Canyon and float on to our take out at the confluence with the Main Salmon. Here we’ll say goodbye to the river and load the bus for the drive to Stanley. We’ll make a quick stop in North Fork to change, re-pack and say goodbye to the lead guide before continuing on to Stanley for a late evening arrival (7:00 pm).

Local Attractions: Within a day's drive of Salmon are Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as Sun Valley resort and numerous western guest ranches.

Types of boats: On the Middle Fork we offer three types of boats in which to ride:Oar raft

Oar rafts are 18 feet long, carry all of the overnight gear and up to 5 guests. They are rowed by a guide using oars attached to a metal frame. Guests ride in the front, hang on through the rapids and relax in the calm stretches.

paddle raftPaddle rafts are 14 feet long and carry between 4 and 6 paddlers who actively paddle through the rapids and down the river. Everyone has a paddle, sits on the outer tube of the raft and follows the commands of the paddle guide who sits in the rear.

Inflatable kayakInflatable kayaks are 10 - 12 feet long and are paddled by 1 or 2 people using double-bladed paddles. They are fairly stable, require no previousexperience and allow you to feel the thrill of independently paddling the river.

We usually have 2 paddle rafts and no inflatable kayaks in May, June and July, and 1 paddle raft and 4 to 6 inflatable kayaks in August. Please note that we do not guarantee space in paddle rafts or inflatable kayaks. If there are more people who wish to ride in these boats than there are spaces, we will rotate so that everyone gets a chance to participate.

Fishing: The fishing along the Middle Fork is excellent, with an abundance of 12 - 16 inch cutthroat trout. This is a "catch and release" river, so only single, barbless hooks are allowed, and all fish must be released alive. Fishing is better after the water level drops in mid-July. Poles should be protected in sturdy cases and only a small amount of tackle is needed. Dry flies, (Caddis, Grasshoppers and Irresistibles), and small spinners, (Mepps, Panther Martins) work well. You do not need waders or nets. If you want to fish you must have a valid Idaho State Fishing License. Fishing gear, licenses, and good advice are available from McCoy's Tackle in Stanley, 208-774-3377, which is open 7 days a week. You can find more information about fishing here.

Meals: ARTA meals are well-balanced and consist of quality foods with fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. The guides double as camp chefs and the menu includes a wide variety of dishes. Lunches usually consist of hand-foods and are served picnic-style at riverside stops. Dinners and breakfasts are cooked over an open fire and often include tasty Dutch Oven baked treats. If you have special dietary requirements or are celebrating a special event during the trip, please let us know in advance.

Drinks: ARTA provides water, lemonade and punch during the day and hot coffee, tea and cocoa in the morning. If you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own in unbreakable containers, (beer and soda in cans, wine in bags/boxes or plastic bottles and liquor in plastic bottles). Due to weight and space restrictions, we ask that you limit the amount of canned drinks to a moderate amount (one or two six-packs per person).

Camping: During the course of the trip, everyone is encouraged to participate as much as they desire, whether that be on the river, collecting firewood, or helping out in the kitchen. We have found that the more involved you become with your trip, the more rewarding your trip becomes. Overnight camping will be at riverside beaches or flat benches above the river that afford spectacular views of the river and canyon; most have swimming and hiking options. There is usually a central kitchen and campfire area and trip members pick out spots in the surrounding area to pitch their tents or lay out their sleeping bags.

Toilet Facilities: We know it is on your mind, so let's talk about it. We have been doing this for a long time and we have developed some pretty good practices and equipment. The solution is what we affectionately call “The Groover”, a sturdy metal box with a toilet seat that takes care of all our waste. While it isn’t enjoyable to think about, using the Groover is actually surprisingly pleasant; minimal odor, comfortable seat and almost always a beautiful location. We have techniques to safeguard your privacy, so going to the bathroom in the wilderness isn’t something to worry about – you won’t be digging any holes or squatting.

Weather: The weather in the mountains of Idaho is difficult to predict; we have encountered snowstorms in August and heatwaves in May, so please read the equipment list and come well prepared for a variety of conditions. Rain, usually in the form of spectacular, afternoon thunderstorms, is common; good rain gear and a reliable tent are strongly advised. Generally, summer temperatures range between 65 to 75 degrees on the upper reaches of the river and up to 90 degrees in the lower canyon. Nighttime temperatures can dip into the 30's, particularly in June. Brief, spectacular thunderstorms are fairly common. The water temperature of the river is about 50 degrees early in the season and 60 degrees later on.

Suggested Reading: The Middle Fork, A Guide by Johnny Carrey and Cort Conley is an interesting book about the river and the history of the area. Long-time river guide and photographer Matt Leideker put together a very informative guide, The Middle Fork, a comprehensive guide, that is available through Northwest River Supplies. There are also a number of books and maps available at River 1 in Stanley.

Travel Insurance: Because life is full of surprises, we suggest you consider purchasing supplemental travel insurance for your trip. Trip cancellation, evacuation, baggage loss and other coverages are available for between 4% and 11% of your trip cost. You can get more information at www.travelinsure.com; please enter ARTA's Participating Organization Number (215296) at the top of the enrollment form.

Gratuities: We want you to feel like a guest in our home. But if you feel that your guides did an outstanding job, a post-trip gratuity is a flattering way to let them know. Tips should be based on your satisfaction, your financial means and your attitude about tipping. Tips typically range anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the trip cost, (with the occasional recommended book or coveted hat thrown in). It is customary within ARTA to give the tip to the Lead Guide who will distribute it equally amongst all of the staff. And thank you very much.

More information:

If there are any questions we haven't answered, please feel free to contact us. We really enjoy talking about our trips, so don't hesitate to call: 800-323-2782.