Floating the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Updated March 7, 2019


Successful lottery applicants must confirm their awarded launch date by March 15.

Permits are required year-round to be on the waters of the Middle Fork from Dagger Falls to the confluence. Boaters launching this spring must contact the Middle Fork office to obtain their permit prior to launching. Once your reservation is updated, call 208-879-4101 at least 3 work days prior to the launch date to obtain your permit. Both launch site offices are closed for the season. The bottom boards have been removed from the Boundary Creek Boat Ramp.

For more about each of the Four Rivers (Selway, Middle Fork Salmon, Salmon and Snake), visit  the Whitewater Rafting Four Western Rivers page or the Four Rivers web page.

 Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary Logo, transparent 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 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-September 3). 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 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:

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