Middle Fork 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. 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.

Flying: 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 – 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 ($125 per vehicle; arrange at pre-trip meeting; bring spare keys) 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 limited; please make reservations well in advance. The most convenient and largest accommodations are at  The Mountain Village Lodge, (208/774-3661) which is a short walk from River 1. Other lodging includes the Sawtooth 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:

  • 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
  • All taxes and government access fees
  • Waterproof bags, lifejackets, and other specialized river touring equipment for the trip
  • Friendly, entertaining and professional guide service

What you are responsible for:

  • Meals and lodging before and after your trip
  • Personal clothing and other miscellaneous items (see equipment list)
  • Sleeping bags and tents (these items can be rented from ARTA – see equipment list)
  • Soda, wine, alcoholic beverages (see below)
  • Guides gratuities (see below)


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).

Additional Information:

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

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 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 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 or 2 paddle rafts 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.

Meals and drinks: Our meals are well-balanced and consist of fresh, high-quality meats, fruits, vegetables, and breads. Our guides double as camp chefs and the menu includes a wide variety of dishes. Lunches are served riverside and vary from deli spreads to salads to wraps. Dinners and breakfasts are hearty and healthy and often include a tasty Dutch Oven baked treat. If you have any specific dietary requirements or are celebrating a special event during the trip, please let us know in advance. If you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own, (beer and soda in cans; wine in boxes or bags. Hard liquor in glass bottles is fine).

Camping: Camping will be at beautiful riverside beaches or flat benches along the river with spectacular views of the canyon. Our guides will set up a central area with chairs, a snack and beverage area, and a complete kitchen. You will pick out a spot nearby to pitch your tent or lay out your sleeping bag (our guides are happy to help). Camp activities vary from hiking and exploring the area, to relaxing along the river with a good book, to playing “Koob” or other river games. If you enjoy helping out in camp, you are welcome to pitch in as much as you want. A portable toilet will be set up away from camp. “The Groover”, a sturdy metal box with a comfortable toilet seat and minimal odor, and a hand-wash station will be set up in an isolated (and usually beautiful) location; going to the bathroom in the wilderness is surprisingly pleasant.

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.

Wildlife: We will be traveling through the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and visiting the home of a variety of wild animals. On the Middle Fork it is common to see otters, deer, and bighorn sheep as well as osprey, eagles, and other birds. Occasionally we’ll see elk and bears but they are generally shy and stay in the higher elevations during the summer.

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 the Stanley Fly Shop in Stanley, 208-721-7151, which is open 7 days a week. You can find more information about fishing here.

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.

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 8% and 15% of your trip cost. You can get more information through ASI Travel Insurance Services (please select American River Touring Association from the drop down menu).

Gratuities: If you truly enjoy your trip, tipping is a great way to show your appreciation. Tipping is optional and personal, but since a lot of people ask, a customary amount is between 10 and 15 percent of the trip cost. Tips can be given to the Lead Guide who will share them with the entire crew. And the entire crew will appreciate them and put them to good use. (And thank you.)

More information:

A pdf of these trip details (along with more information about what to expect on your trip) can be found and downloaded here.

If you still have questions, please feel free to call us (209-962-7873) or e-mail us (arta@arta.org). We love to talk about our trips!