Floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Updated September 29, 2016


The office at Boundary Creek is closed for the season. Boaters launching from there must stop at Indian Creek during office hours (8 am-4:30 pm, 7 days a week beginning 10/2) to obtain their permit and camp assignments. Boaters cannot continue downstream until they obtain their float permit. Indian Creek will be staffed until noon on October 10. This is no water at the Boundary Creek Campground, the Launch, or at Dagger Falls Campground, but there is water at Indian Creek until it closes on the 10th.

 If  you are not launching from Boundary Creek or Indian Creek, the permit holder will need to contact the office AT LEAST 3 work days before the launch date to obtain their float permit before floating the river.

Reservations for 2017 pre/post season launches can be reserved beginning at 8 am Mountain time on October 1st through the Recreation.gov website or by calling 1-877-444-6777. For more details, visit the Four Rivers web page then scroll down until you see the Pre/Post Season Reservations section; step-by-step instructions are detailed in "How to reserve a pre/post season launch date".

Chinook Salmon are spawning. Lost Oak is closed because of a nearby redd, just off the left bank. Multiple redds have been located along the Middle Fork; check the list and map here, and also the maps posted at the boat ramps and avoid disturbing these sites. When you see the red flagging tape, move as far away as safety allows from the side with the flagging until you see the green flagging. When floating between the red and green flagging (200 feet), group up and float quietly and quickly through the flagged section. Do not approach the redds; if salmon are on it, they may be spooked away, wasting precious energy.

Fall Overview of the Middle Fork 2011

Fire danger is still High, so keep an eye on your fires, which must be built in a fire pan and all ashes must be packed out. Be careful of spillage (a fire blanket under your fire pan is recommended) and douse the area where your fire pan was used before leaving camp. There were three human-caused fires in the river corridor this year, one which burned through Hospital Bar camp, which is now closed; please be careful!

Bears along the Middle Fork: A bounty of bears have been spotted along the river corridor , including some mama bears with cubs. Remember to store all food items immediately so as not to attract bears, bees and other hungry critters to your camp. Please notify the Salmon Fish & Game office if a bear visits your camp.

Boat Ramp: load lightly; lower slowly. The river patrol replaced several of the damaged ramp boards at Boundary Creek with new ones in May. The new boards could create more friction too, so go slow and light. The checkers oiled the boards to prevent splintering, which makes the ramp slick, especially when wet; use caution.

Hazards should be expected at any time, especially with fluctuating river flows and weather; not all hazards are reported or listed. Always use caution and anticipate ever-changing conditions. Watch for the trees on the rock island below Joe Bump Camp, above Thimbleberry Camp. Also be careful when floating through the burned area around Hospital Bar; lots of roll-out was observed on river right.

When water levels are low, boaters should avoid floating the tributaries, including Marsh Creek, to avoid dragging through or stepping on redds. Section 9(a)(1) of the ESA prohibits taking of endangered species without a permit or exemption.  Any action that harasses, wounds, or kills an individual of a listed species or harms a species by altering habitat in a way that significantly impairs its essential behavioral patterns is a taking (50 CFR 222.102).   Civil penalties can be up to $25,000 per violation, and criminal penalties can include fines up to $50,000 and/or a year in prison per violation.  Oarring or dragging a watercraft of any sort over a redd can damage it and kill the eggs and could be subject to penalties under the ESA.

Marsh Creek boater reports

 Search for 2016 launch dates at www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777 to check availability. 

Middle Fork Salmon River August 2013 Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of central Idaho. Each year, 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Located in the heart of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the Middle Fork is administered under a permit system to protect it from excessive human impacts. Part of that protection asks you, the user, to learn and practice Leave No Trace principles.    Depending on water flow levels, the Middle Fork provides a relatively moderate to fast-paced whitewater floating experience, requiring moderate to high skill levels. In 1968, the Middle Fork was one of the original eight rivers designated in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. It is classified as a Wild River and consists of a half-mile wide corridor running from its origin at the confluence of Marsh and Bear Valley creeks to its confluence with the main Salmon River.

Permits Required

A permit is required year-round to be on the waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The permitted stretch begins at Dagger Falls and ends at its confluence with the Salmon. Only seven permits a day are allowed. Only one permit per person per year is allowed during the lottery control season (May 28-Sept 3). For more information about permit allocations, read the Permits and Reservations section.

Reserving a Permit for a Launch Date

The National Recreation Reservation Service is processing all river lottery applications, reservations, cancellations and payments. To look for available dates, visit their website at www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.

Lottery applications must be submitted online at www.recreation.gov and are accepted annually Dec. 1-Jan.31 (midnight Eastern time). For information about submitting an application, launch date calendars, demand and lottery statistics, visit the Four Rivers Lottery page first.

 Boater Information Topics for the Middle Fork Salmon

* Check In, Boat Screening, River Camps and Permitting Procedures

Trip Requirements                                  *   Chinook in the Middle Fork

Description of Launch Sites                   *   River & Wilderness Ethics

Required Equipment Details & Tips       *   Equipment Restrictions

Recreation Fee Guidelines                     *   River Safety & Gear

Cancellations and No-Shows                 *   General Information

Rapids and River Levels                        *  Storms, Debris  & Fire Effects

Invasive Species & the Middle Fork     *  Middle Fork Salmon River Use

New River Camps                                *  Preventing Illness Before It Starts

* Emergency Contact Information and Incident Reporting Form

             *  Boater Information (RiverTracks) - April 18, 2016 update

Sharing the River with Chinook Salmon – Avoiding Impacts While Floating

If you find a problem on the river pages, such as old information, broken links, or missing pages, please email us at middlefork@fs.fed.us. Suggestions for content are also welcome.

 Invasive Species Fund Stickers required

Idaho State Boating Law requires that all vessels display the Invasive Species Fund sticker to legally launch and operate on Idaho waters. Inflatable, non-motorized vessels less than 10 feet long are exempt. Go to www.invasivespecies.idaho.gov for more information; to purchase your sticker(s), visit https://idpr.idaho.gov/Renewal/Default.aspx or call 1-800-247-6332 for more purchase options. Vendors.

Maps and Season Passes

Maps and Season Passes need to be purchased ahead of time; these items are not sold at the launch sites. You can order maps online from the National Forest Store at http://nationalforeststore.com/ or use the order form links to the right.

Shuttle and Flight Services, Equipment Rentals, and other business information is available from the local Chambers of Commerce:

If you find a problem, such as old information, broken links, or missing pages, please email the url with a description of the issue to middlefork@fs.fed.us. Suggestions for content are also welcome.

Contact Information

Middle Fork Ranger District
311 N. US 93 Highway
Challis, ID  83226
(208) 879-4101 Fax: (208) 879-4198
Email: middlefork@fs.fed.us

Monday - Friday 8:00 - 4:30
Closed Weekends and Holidays