Whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork Salmon, America's best wild river trip
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Middle - Main Combination 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 in Stanley and end in McCall. Boise is the most convenient airport with commercial airline service.

Idaho MapIf you are flying into Boise, you can either rent a car, drive to Stanley and have your vehicle shuttled from Stanley to McCall during the trip (see car shuttle, below) or you can arrange for air taxi service from Boise to Stanley and from McCall back to Boise (see air taxi flights, below). 

If you are driving directly to Stanley, you can either have your vehicle shuttled to McCall (see car shuttle, below) or you can arrange an air taxi flight from McCall back to Stanley after your trip (see air taxi flights, below). Conversely, if it is easier for you to drive to McCall, you can do this in reverse.

AIR TAXI FLIGHTS: You will need to arrange a flight from Boise to Stanley for the day before your trip (we recommend departing Boise for Stanley no later than 5:00 pm) and from McCall to Boise after your trip. Due to potential delays we recommend that you DO NOT plan on flying out of Boise the evening the trip ends, but rather that you spend the night in McCall and fly to Boise in time for your flight the following morning, (after 10:00 am departure from Boise is best). McCall is a small, resort community with a lot of attractions and the weather is generally more flyer-friendly earlier in the day. The round trip flight package costs about $300 per person; contact Gem Air (208/756-7382) to make these arrangements.

CAR SHUTTLE: You will need to drive to Stanley and arrange an independent car shuttle through River Shuttles (800/831-8942). You can arrange the shuttle in advance or you can fill out a form at the pre-trip meeting. Your car will be left at the Mountain Village Lodge in Stanley and shuttled to the airport in McCall during the trip. The cost of the shuttle is about $250 per vehicle, plus a full tank of gas. If you are RENTING A VEHICLE AT THE BOISE AIRPORT, request an “Additional Driver’s Form” from the rental agency (Avis and Budget have been the easiest to work with in the past), fill it out and FAX it to River Shuttles at 208/756-4188. River Shuttles will fill in their part and FAX it to the rental agency before rental. This enables River Shuttles to drive the rental car.

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 before the trip 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 the Triangle C Ranch (208/774-2266) and McGowens's Cabins (208/774-2290). After the trip lodging is available in McCall at the Western Mountain Lodge, (208/634-6300), or Hotel McCall (good downtown location, 208/634-8105). For those returning to Boise the evening the trip concludes, accommodations are good at the Best Western Vista Inn (800/528-1234) which is by the airport. All accommodations should be reserved well in advance of the trip and are not included in the trip fee.

What we provide:

  • Pre-trip meeting in Stanley, Idaho
  • Transportation from Stanley to the river before the trip and from the river to Salmon 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

6 day itinerary: (early in the season we can run the full 185 miles in 6 days!)
Day 1: We will meet in Stanley early in the morning and be transported either to the launch site at Boundary Creek, (2 hours), or to the airport in Stanley for the 30 minute flight to Indian Creek (at extreme high water). After a thorough safety and orientation briefing, we will launch around noon. The upper river is very swift and we will tackle many challenging rapids right away. By the time we reach camp in the evening, you will be very tired.
Days 2 - 5: We will float an average of 30 - 40 miles, (5 - 6 hours), each day, stopping for a picnic lunch and perhaps to take a short hike to explore an interesting historical site or visit a hot springs. Major rapids on the Middle Fork include Pistol Creek, Marble, Tappan Falls, Cliffside, Rubber and Hancock. At some point, depending on our progress, we will exit the Middle Fork canyon and continue downstream on the Main Salmon. The Main Salmon flow is often three times as great as the Middle Fork and we will feel small. Major rapids on the Main include Split Rock, Big Mallard and Whiplash.
Day 6: After 185 miles and 3,700 feet in elevation drop, our trip will conclude at either Carey Creek or Spring Bar upstream from Riggins on the Main Salmon. We will have lunch, de-rig the rafts and make the two-hour drive to the airport in McCall.

12 day itinerary: (most of the summer it will take 12 days to cover the 185 miles)
Day 1: We will meet you in Stanley early in the morning and transport you either to the launch site at Boundary Creek, (2 hours, May - mid-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: 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 or explore an historical site. Camp will be made in the late afternoon with early evening available for hiking, fishing, or relaxing. Dinner is usually served late in the day.
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 the Main Salmon. After getting envious hugs from the departing Middle Fork guests, you'll float a bit further downriver to the newly renovated Salmon River Lodge where you will enjoy a shower and a great meal overlooking the river before heading to bed (in a bed!). Accommodations, dinner and breakfast are included in the trip price.
Day 7: The newly arriving Main Salmon guests will meet us across the river from the Lodge at the Corn Creek launch site and we'll head downriver.
Days 8 - 11: More time on the river at a slightly slower pace, (10 - 12 miles per day), with ample time to explore the many interesting historical sites of the Main Salmon canyon.
Day 12: Our re-entry into civilization includes a half day of rafting to our take-out point at Carey Creek, lunch and de-rigging, and a 2 hour drive to the airport in McCall.

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. McCall is a burgeoning resort town on a lake and is a fun (albeit touristy) place to extend your trip by day or two.

Types of boats: On our Middle-Main trips 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 oar and paddle rafts on the Middle Fork and then if the conditions allow (usually after July 1), we'll add inflatable kayaks for the Main Salmon portion. 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: Fishing on the Middle Fork is excellent; on the Main it is good. Both are "catch and release" rivers, so only single, barbless hooks are allowed and all fish must be released. Fishing is better after the water level drops in July. Poles should be protected in sturdy cases and only a small amount of tackle is needed. Dry flies and small spinners work best; 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, which is open 7 days a week, (208/774-3377). You can also read more about our recommendations 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). We can re-supply during the Main Salmon interchange - arrangements can be made on the river!

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. For the Main, River of No Return by Cort Conley gives a detailed, mile-by-mile description of the history of the river and canyon. The Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson, Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne McCunn and Merciless Eden by Doug Tims are stories of some of the Main’s more colorful characters and places. A good map and guide is available locally in Stanley or from blackcanyonguides.com. River 1 usually has these and other books and maps about the area.

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.