Required Equipment Details and Tips for Middle Fork boaters


 To launch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, you must carry specific equipment; these are a condition of the permit.

A Forest Service employee will need to see the following items before they are loaded into your boat(s):

  1. Confirmation Email
  2. Government Issued Photo Identification of the Permit Holder*
  3. Porta Potty
  4. Metal Fire Pan (min. 144 w/3-inch sides)
  5. Ash Container (prefer metal)
  6. Mesh Strainer (fine enough to filter coffee grounds)
  7. Shovel
  8. Bucket
  9. State of Idaho Invasive Species Sticker

*If anyone in your party is using a Season Pass and/or Senior or Access Pass (formerly Golden Age or Golden Access passports), they will need to present the pass and a photo ID when your group checks in.

Click here if you want a copy of the Required Equipment Checklist to print.

Kayaker clip art  Craft limit: August 15-September 15 launches are limited to 12 total craft per permit. This is a critical time for spawning Chinook Salmon.  

Fire Pan and Ash Containers

All boating parties on the Middle Fork Salmon River are required to carry fire pans and a sealable metal or heavy-duty plastic container for ashes. This requirement is in place whether a group intends to have a fire or not.

Bottle or liquid gas stoves may be used but must be accompanied by a fire pan and ash container. The Middle Fork is a high elevation river with snow possible any month of the year.

Grill clip art A fire pan can be any metal container with 3-inch sides or more, and large enough to prevent your fire and ashes from spilling onto the ground. It is a good idea to use some type of grill with legs to set cooking utensils on. Barbecue grills make good cooking surfaces.Unmodified garbage can lids are NOT acceptable.

Driftwood is often plentiful; please gather only what you will use while in the camp and avoid creating large piles of driftwood. You are only allowed to use dead wood that is on the ground for your fires; do not strip branches from trees. We recommend that you carry a supply of charcoal for your fire pan, just in case the camps have been cleaned of wood or fire restrictions go into effect. During periods of extreme wildfire danger, open fires may be restricted to charcoal only in your fire pans, or complete closure to open fires.

For an ash container, you must have a metal or hard-plastic container with a sealable lid, such as an ammo-can, five gallon paint can or a heavy-duty plastic bucket. Plastic bags or dry bags are not acceptable.

Recommendations for using your fire pan:

  1. Before the fire is built, elevate pan off the ground three to four inches by using small rocks; this will prevent the scorching of vegetation or leaving a hot spot in the sand for someone to step on.
  2. Place a 1/2 inch layer of sand or dirt on the bottom of the pan. This prevents pan burnout and lengthens the life of your fire pan.
  3. Use small wood for your morning fire. Let your fire burn down as completely as possible.
  4. Scoop ashes into ash container, pour and stir a small amount of water into ashes to dampen. This procedure will cool down any hot ashes that are left. Pouring water into fire pan causes the pan to warp.
  5. When you rebuild your fire, place the dampened ashes into your fire pan in place of the sand or dirt. Repeating this procedure every day continually burns the old ashes to a fine powder.
  6. Do not burn plastics or metal; these are likely to produce toxic fumes and are in violation of Idaho State Law.

Fire Blankets (not required but highly recommended)

Fire blankets are recommended to use under the required fire pan as a tool to help you pack out all your ashes and leave-no-trace. The fire blanket is a heat resistant cloth that is placed on the ground under the fire pan and is meant to catch the embers and charred wood that inevitably escapes to the ground. The blanket makes it easier to meet the requirement of packing out all your ashes and leaving a clean camp for the next visitor.


Human Waste Carry-out Equipment (Porta-Potty)

All boating parties on the Middle Fork Salmon River are required to carry porta-potties with sufficient capacity to carry out all human and pet feces for their group.

Potty clip artCommercial units are widely available and may be rented or purchased. Another way of transporting solid waste is to use airtight ammo cans (rocket boxes). 

Toilet systems that use disposable bags are only acceptable for self-contained kayak groups, or for use as a day potty. These compact dry toilet systems (waste alleviation and gelling, aka WAG bags) are not SCAT machine compatible and will only be acceptable for the Kayaker Human Waste Carry-out Requirements on the Main and Middle Fork Salmon Rivers if they meet EPA Group II waste standards and their waste bags can be disposed of in landfills. These systems must be accompanied by a waterproof hard-shell container to hold the used waste bags.

Your equipment will generally include:

  • Commercial porta-potty or ammo cans (the big ones commonly 18”x8”x14”). Sand and paint the inside of your potty for ease in emptying and washing. Coat with a non-stick spray or cooking oil before use. The number of people and the length of the trip determine the number of cans or tanks (a person generates approx. 1 lb. of waste per day). It usually takes one large ammo can to hold 70 to 80 person-days of waste, so for an 8-day, 10-person trip, you would need at least one ammo can for waste and one for equipment.
  • Toilet seat and toilet paper (no wipes!)
  • Deodorant chemical that is compatible with the SCAT machine
  • Hand-washing bucket, soap, and a garbage container (sack) for feminine hygiene items, wipes and other items that do notgo into the porta-potty (because they will plug up the SCAT machine).
  • Straps to secure the toilet to the SCAT machine for cleaning (usually two 3-foot straps for ammo cans, longer ones for bucket and some commercial types).

The "Wilderness Ethics Summary" link has a good overview about human waste and how to dispose of it on your trip. REMEMBER - NO WIPES in the porta-potty.

Urine should go into the river, or on the wet sand at the river’s edge. If someone uses a pee bucket, dump that into the current, not in the eddy or slack water.

Helpful hint: Before loading on the morning of your take-out, add some water to your porta-potty. The sloshing action of the boats and the vehicles helps loosen materials and makes the unit easier to clean at the SCAT machine.

The SCAT machine is installed at Newland Ranch one mile downriver from the North Fork Ranger Station. This machine dumps and sanitizes 20mm ammo cans, 5-gallon buckets, and high tech toilets, operating somewhat like a giant dishwasher.

Operation of the machine is free (paid by your recreation use fees), but you will need to supply the straps. An RV dump station port is also available for porta-potties that are not compatible with the SCAT machine.

Do not put anything in your potty that might clog the screen or the grinders! Sand, ashes, toilet or hand wipes, sticks, kitty litter and other foreign matter will plug the machine and create costly repairs and down time. If your porta-potty contains anything but toilet paper and human/pet waste, you cannot use the SCAT machine. Please notify the North Fork Ranger District if there are any problems or issues that need corrected at Newland Ranch.

Place all garbage in the dumpsters. An aluminum recycling station is available for your convenience. Proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House of Idaho for the benefit of sick or injured children.


Strainer, shovel and bucket

Strainer clip art Use your strainer to filter out all food particles from your dishwater and cans. Use the buckets to catch the liquid wastes, then toss the water over a broad area above the high water mark after doing dishes (the soap and bleach help with odors). Use any soap products, including toothpaste, well above the high water mark, even biodegradable soap. Liquids (leftover pop, coffee, etc.) should be diluted and put into the current. Grease and/or oily wastes should be burned or packed out.

Shovels that fold are acceptable. Buckets can be a large pot or container.


Kayakers and Gear Requirements

Kayaker clip artKayakers must carry all the required equipment; however, due to space limits, allowances are made for self-supporting trips. Here are some suggestions for meeting the equipment requirements.

Fire Pan/Ash Transport Requirements for Kayakers: 
All kayak groups and soloists must carry a fire pan and ash container. Fire pan must be fire resistant, provide a minimum fire surface area of 144 square inches, and have sides at least 2 inches higher than the base of the pan. Fire pan may be rigid, folding, collapsible, or of blanket style construction.

Suggestions for Fire Pans: Large baking pans, a couple of heavy duty disposable aluminum roasters with a fire blanket underneath, or homemade sheet metal pans. A fireproof blanket supported by collapsible/folding wire frame is one lightweight solution.

Ash container must be metal or hard plastic, have a waterproof seal, and provide 300 cubic inches of storage space. Gallon paint cans or Tupperware-type containers work well. A one-gallon can and a half-gallon can, together, would exceed 300 cubic inches.

The fire-building kayaker will need to pay special attention to reducing the volume of ash or charcoal that accumulates during a float trip. When a fire is deemed necessary, the fire should be small, using only small pieces of wood and/or other fuel that will burn completely. The fire should be tended and stirred frequently to encourage complete burn down. The ashes and charcoal from the first fire should be laid under each subsequent fire to finish the burn down process.

When using relatively small fire pans, there is increased likelihood that some of the fire may escape from the pan in the form of charcoal, partially burned wood, or ash. Carefully clean the fire pan area of all evidence of any fire.

Porta-Potty Requirements:

For kayakers, a Porta-Potty can be a plastic pail with a snap on lid (such as an  ice cream container). The lid must seal tightly in order to be approved. Dry Clorox or Pine-sol helps reduce odor. The container should have some type of vent to release methane gas build up. Biodegradable plastic bag systems will be allowed for self-support trips if they meet EPA Group II waste standards and can be disposed of in landfills.

Other equipment ideas: Strainer = cheesecloth; bucket = cooking pot; shovel = paddle.

Clipart of a bucket.