Floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Updated May 26, 2016


Boundary Creek Guard Station is now open 7 days a week, 7 am to 5:30 pm. However, due to a problem with the spring, water is NOT available. Also, the road to Boundary Creek has lots of potholes and is very rough; there are still some trees to dodge.

Indian Creek Guard Station is open 7 days a week, 7 am to 5:30 pm; drinking water is available. However, the office will be closed Saturday and Sunday, but will reopen mid-morning on Monday, May 30th. Boaters launching below Indian Creek will need to contact the office AT LEAST 3 work days before the launch date to obtain their float permit before floating the river.

Hazards can be expected to change with fluctuating river flows; always use caution and anticipate ever-changing conditions. For those who do navigate down Marsh Creek, you must stop at Indian Creek to present the required equipment and get your permit. Also be sure your boats are clean, drained and dry before launching. Until you reach Indian Creek, camps will be first come, first served.

News from River Patrol: They stopped at Indian Creek last weekend to report a potentially hazardous strainer on the rock island above Thimbleberry Camp and below Joe Bump Camp; not visible soon enough to allow much reaction time; no good stopping point to scout at the 5.00+ ft river level. They feel at lower water it may cause more of a problem.  On their previous patrol, they launched from Indian Creek on May 6 at 5.76'; took off May 11 at 5.19'. They reported a large tree below Camas Creek and another below Airplane Rapid; both were hung up in the center of the channel. Rubber Rapid; highly recommend scouting this rapid.

Marsh Creek boater reports:

May 13: Boaters tried to make it down Marsh Creek with rafts, but did not make it. They were able to retrieve their gear and all were okay; trip cancelled.

May 9th: Kayakers with one raft made it down Marsh Creek. Their report: Major hazards were in the Dagger Falls area and above. Many logs are ready to move in the upper section (above Dagger); we paddled around them without issues. The portage eddy has wood and a river wide log is across the entrance to Dagger (photo below).

Dagger log, May 9, 2016

Kayakers with one raft launched on Marsh Creek Sunday, May 8, water level was 6.26 feet. They checked in at Indian Creek on the 11th and told them they had to portage the raft. They did not see the full length log across the river, but there are 2 logs that are 70% across the river and noted it is still complicated for crafts. They said below the "lake", there is an island and it has wood on it; the entrance to Dagger has a full-length log across it, and the eddy to portage Dagger has a ton of wood in it.

Four kayakers launched on May 6 at 5.76'; zero portages, but the two logs are still in play. They floated over the river-wide log, but there are a few more logs right below it. Also, there is an island past Bear Valley that has a hidden river-wide log in the left channel.

Kayakers launched May 3, no rafts, water level about 5 feet. They reported that the wood in the photos from April 15th was still in play, and more below. They portaged the 2nd combo of several logs that were river-wide, noting the water was very swift and would be a hard pull as levels go up. They encountered more wood above Bear Valley and below the earlier portage was an island; left channel was swift and blind; in the right channel were 2 pieces of wood, offsetting each other, but they were able to run it. They also reported that about 3 miles up from Dagger is an island; the left channel had river-wide trees spanning the channel. They also noted an avalanche debris pile of wood in the upper half, sitting in the water just waiting for higher flows to grab it. They got off the river Sunday, the 8th.

Rafters tried to run Marsh Creek on April 28th, but reported they hit a log, damaging their gear, and had to pack everything out. Another group of rafters hiked down on Sunday, May 1st, and met up with them. They reported 3 or 4 more logs below, so the second group turned around and decided not to launch. Here are a couple of pictures the groups sent us.

Marsh Creek trees

Top photo submitted by James Studiale.

Marsh Creek tree, May 1, 2016

The Marsh Creek fish trap was hit, probably by a big log, which broke the anchor trees on one side. Fish & Game personnel were able to move the submerged trap to the left side of the creek and have secured it there until the water levels diminish. It will likely remain anchored to the left side until late June.

The first Marsh Creek boaters launched on April 15, 2016. They have provided the following trip report and this photo. April 15 Marsh Creek Boater's Trip Report: There seems to be more woody debris currently in Marsh Creek ready to move downstream than in the past. Here is a photo of the second log at a MF gauge level of 4.25 feet. (Note: due to this information being dated, only the one log is displayed as conditions may have changed - see report above.) Tree 2 on Marsh Creek at 4.25 feet, 4/15/16  They also reported: At Dagger, a 10" diameter tree is blocking the trail leading uphill from the take-out. Ticks were plentiful at Trail Flat. A micro-burst recently hit the Sheepeater area; we counted 16 trees, mostly still green, across the MF Trail in that area, and a few down in the main campsite area.

Spring boaters are also asked to avoid the numerous redds that were built last fall. Maps are available for the mainstem of the Middle Fork as well as above Boundary Creek and in Marsh Creek, and were posted at Boundary Creek and Indian Creek last fall. To see a picture of a redd at Ramshorn, click here.

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.

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

Dagger Falls, February 2016 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.   Upper Middle Fork June 2015 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.

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