For Right-Brained People
Map of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

There is so much to do on a Middle Fork of the Salmon trip that you may need to go more than once, and a lot of people do; (and, because it is a free-flowing river with dramatic changes in flow between June and August, those who do return feel like it is a different place). Where do we begin? The whitewater is amazing, not just in difficulty but also in consistency: the whole river is like a continuous, frolicking riffle interrupted by a couple of noteworthy pulse-quickeners every day; an uncommon arrangement thanks to some unique geology, (the river flows due north). The water itself is stunning; “gin-clear” is the expression a lot of people use but it seems inadequate. Let’s just say you can see fish swimming around at the bottom of 20 foot deep pools. Lots of fish, in fact, which is why the Middle Fork is world-renowned for its fly-fishing; beginner or expert you will be spoiled. The scenery has something for everyone; dense forests to start, dramatic cliffs to end, photogenic views all along. Then there are enchanting side streams, fascinating Native American rock art, abandoned homesteads, easy trails and a spectacular waterfall on day 5 that almost tops all the other attractions. And hotsprings! In one day you can run a legitimate Class IV rapid, visit 800 year old pictographs, hike up a pristine side stream, soak in a hotsprings, see a bighorn sheep and catch an 18-inch cutthroat trout on a dry fly; (and some people have done the last three at the same time).

More about the Middle Fork Salmon

The Middle Fork of the Salmon is the classic mountain river and is widely considered America’s best wild river trip. For 97 pristine miles in the heart of the Idaho backcountry, the river cuts through a canyon of remarkable history, beauty, and solitude, providing the setting for one of the finest wilderness whitewater vacations available.

The Middle Fork is diverse and unpredictable. The upper reach, (which we only run on May, June and July trips), is intricate and intimate, as the creek-like stream cascades over rocky ledges and winds through an evergreen forest. The middle section, (where we begin our August and September trips), is more open and arid with longer vistas of expansive hillsides and isolated stands of giant pines. The lower stretch is awe-inspiring as the river cuts through the impressive rock walls of Impassible Canyon. All along the way, the river provides plenty of excitement with rapids that range from short abrupt drops to long, technical boulderfields. Velvet Falls, Powerhouse, Haystack, Redside, Rubber and Hancock are a few of the river’s better known rapids.

But whitewater is only one of the Middle Fork’s special attractions. The canyon boasts an abundance of natural phenomena as well as occasional reminders of the area’s interesting human history. We will stand beneath shimmering waterfalls, soak in miraculous hotsprings, and swim in water too clear to believe. We will also marvel at the pictographs of the Sheepeater Indians, as well as smile at the legends and leftovers of the Middle Fork’s early pioneers. There will be time to hike, explore, fish, relax, and thoroughly enjoy this unique region.

My husband and I recently returned from an ARTA trip on the Middle Fork. We were with two children and five grandchildren. The trip was a 50th wedding anniversary present from our children. We had a wonderful time. It was perfectly organized. The guides were knowledgeable about the history, flora, fauna and geology of the area. They were aware of us at all times; life jackets buckled, helmets on properly, swimming safely. Their skill in navigating the river and rapids was extraordinary. I never felt a moment of fear. On top of all this, they were great cooks, always cheerful and entertaining. Their perfect organization was almost unbelievable. I will always recommend ARTA to anyone. Thanks for a marvelous experience. I obviously can’t stop talking about it!

Juliet Guerlin