The Frank Church-River of No Return is a wilderness of steep, rugged mountains, deep canyons, and wild, whitewater rivers. The United States Congress designated the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in 1980 and it now encompasses a total of 2,366,757 acres.
Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of Central Idaho. Each year, approximately 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Middle Fork is a 104-mile free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church--River of No Return Wilderness, originating 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, at the confluence of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks.
It was one of the original eight rivers in the nation designated as Wild and Scenic on October 2, 1968. The river moves through a variety of climates and land types; from alpine forest to high mountain desert to sheer, rock-walled canyon, the third deepest in North America.
The Middle Fork is administered under a permit system to provide a quality wilderness experience and to protect the river corridor from excessive human impacts. Part of that protection asks you, the user, to learn and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Because of its remote location, man's presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today.
Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches and Forest Service stations are evidence of man's intrusion. The Middle Fork is now an internationally recognized whitewater/wilderness float trip, known for its scenic beauty and crystal clear whitewater. It is a non-motorized floating experience with many technical rapids. These class III and IV+ rapids offer boating excitement for both families and experienced adventurers.
Hiking away from the river offers a taste of the wilderness experience and visitors may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of how past inhabitants lived.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is usually not floated during the winter due to harsh conditions, low water levels and access difficulties. The river freezes over and ice and snow bridges are to be expected on the river and its tributaries during this time.
In the spring, road access to the Middle Fork is usually limited by snowdrifts and trees across the road. Depending on the amount of snow, spring weather and temperatures, the road to Boundary Creek may not open until sometime in mid-June. High water levels are also a concern once the runoff begins.
Cape Horn Winter Rental is located in Cape Horn Meadows approximately 16 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, situated in a stand of lodgepole pines at an elevation of 6,660 feet. On clear days, the guard station's front porch affords breathtaking views of the rugged Sawtooth Mountain Range to the south. The Cape Horn area offers unlimited cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling opportunities in the surrounding meadows, and telemark skiing is available on the slopes behind the station.
The guard station is open for reservations at Recreation.gov from December 15 through March 15.