Floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Updated May 30, 2020


As we work through an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation, health and safety is our priority.  We are committed to continuing support of our communities and fulfilling our mission as we work together to minimize the impacts and spread of COVID-19. 

The Salmon-Challis National Forest is using a virtual process to issue permits for reserved float launches for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and the wild Salmon River. To facilitate the virtual permit process, the trip leader needs to submit information 7-14 days prior to their launch date.

Permit holders need to stay abreast of Idaho Governor Brad Little’s plan to re-open the state and determine how the State’s order and guidelines for each stage of reopening applies to their launch date.

Permits may be issued if the trip leader can certify the group’s willingness and ability to meet and follow the health and safety guidelines for health, social distancing, cleaning, and travel as outlined by the State of Idaho and comply with any closure orders issued by the Forest. Before the permit is issued, the permit holder must sign an Addendum to the float permit, which documents their agreement to these orders.

Instructions to request your reserved float permit have been emailed to permit holders; however, the permit issuing process may evolve as the state transitions to stages three and four or if conditions change. Currently, camp requests (send three choices per night) can be submitted 7-14 days prior to the launch date; employees will use submitted lists to assign camps 6 days prior to launch. A Forest Service employee will contact the trip leader approx. 5 days prior to launch to review the terms and conditions of the permit, including the Addendum, and will also discuss what's expected during the appropriate stage of reopening. An outline of the Wilderness Ethics Talk for the Middle Fork of the Salmon will be provided to the trip leader, who will share this information with all trip participants.

Trip leaders are advised to bring their food and equipment from home to minimize local interactions and to reduce supply impacts on small communities. Self-sufficiency will be a critical component of trip planning; water is not available.

The SCAT machine at Newland Ranch is closed, but the waste station will have the hopper available, as well as a hose and water for rinsing porta-potties, and dumpsters for garbage.

Local managers are continually monitoring and assessing the situation and will adapt as needed to changing conditions.

Please continue to visit this page for updates. Pictographs


Fish Trap Installed in Marsh Creek

Fish Trap in Marsh Creek, March 2020 The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has installed the fish trap in Marsh Creek for the remainder of the season. The trap is located approximately 1.5 miles downstream from the creek access at the bridge, just off Highway 21.

The fish trap is a screw trap of significant size, and there is an anchor cable across the creek and guy wires attached to the fish trap. The Fish and Game has installed signs to help warn boaters about this fish trap. The trap was installed in late March as part of an ongoing 20-year study of juvenile migratory fish moving downstream in Marsh Creek.


Maps, season passes and invasive species stickers must be purchased ahead of time; these items will not be available at the launches. Use these links for ordering information; allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.


Only four Chinook Salmon redds were identified in 2019 between Boundary Creek and the confluence. Use this map to identify their locations so you can help us protect these nests by avoiding them until they emerge in mid-June. Please note that there were several redds in Marsh Creek; watch your step.


Visit the Four Rivers Lottery for statistics and for more information about each river (Selway, Middle Fork Salmon, Salmon and Snake), visit Whitewater Rafting Four Western Rivers.


Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of central Idaho. Each year, approx. 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 section 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-September 3). Reservations for pre/post season launch dates open annually on October 1 at 8 AM MT. All reservations must be made through Recreation.gov, either online or by calling 1-877-444-6777. For more information about permit allocations, read the Permits and Reservations section.

All river lottery applications, reservations, cancellations and payments are processed through Recreation.gov. Lottery applications must be submitted online at www.recreation.gov and are accepted annually Dec. 1-Jan. 31 (midnight Mountain 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                      *  Must-Watch Video for all participants

Boundary Creek Ramp Etiquette             * River Camp List

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

Chinook in the Middle Fork                  *  Preventing Illness Before It Starts

* Emergency Contact Information and Incident Reporting Form

* Sharing the River with Chinook Salmon – Avoiding Impacts While Floating


All trip participants must watch the following video.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River, home of the Shoshone-Bannock Tuka-Deka produced in 2016 by Charity Parks and featuring Diana Yupe.

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 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 Idaho's Invasive Species web page for vendor locations, to purchase your sticker(s) online, to locate inspection stations, and for additional information. You can also call 1-800-247-6332 for assistance and 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. Forest and River maps are $14 each; click the Map Order Form for more information. The Season Pass Order Form can be mailed or faxed; do not email the completed form as it will contain your personal and credit card information.

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

Chinook Salmon spawn throughout the river and its tributaries in the fall. Information can be found on our Chinook information page. Boaters should avoid grounding boats or wading in areas where redds have been identified. Avoid floating the tributaries when water levels are low, as it is extremely difficult to avoid dragging through or stepping on redds. Marsh Creek usually has a significant number of redds, and Big Creek is only open to floating during the months of June and July.

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.

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