Launch Sites and Tributaries on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Most launches on the Middle Fork are from Boundary Creek or Indian Creek. There are also several airstrips that provide launch sites, and boaters can also access the river via some of its major tributaries.

Boundary Creek

How and When Can I Access?

Boundary Creek is accessed by Forest Service Road #568 from Bruce Meadows. People typically come in via Forest Service Road #579 off of Highway 21, 23 miles west of Stanley, but there are many other ways to come in from the south and west. Access to Boundary Creek is road is rough and narrow. Your vehicle and/or trailer should be prepared for at least 25 miles (approx. 40 minutes) of single-lane dirt road.

Snowdrifts usually prevent access to Boundary Creek until late May or early June. Boundary Creek usually opens in late May or early June and is typically staffed until mid-September. By mid-September, water levels are very low, and the majority of the floaters launch from Indian Creek. Check in the spring and fall for updates on the status of the office. 

The boat ramp is accessible in the spring when snow has melted enough for the road to be passable by vehicle until snow closes the road again in the fall. 

The bottom boards are removed in the fall to prevent damage from the ice. They are replaced in the spring once the launch site opens.

Is there garbage service?

Garbage service is not available. Pack out what you pack in.

Is potable water available?

Potable water is available at the launch site and at both campgrounds. Check the Middle Fork of the Salmon (4 Rivers) page on where we will post updates if water is NOT available at any of these locations.

Boundary Creek Office and Launch Site

The office is located at the boat ramp. The office is staffed seven days a week during the summer.

The launch area is located directly below the campground – within walking distance. The launch is a large drive-through area with room to rig on both sides of the traffic lane. Restrooms, a covered gazebo, and a permit office are the only buildings in this area.

The boat ramp is located next to the office. It is a wooden structure which drops down the side of the bank to the river. A path leads down to the river on the northwest side of the office.

Boundary Creek Campground

This campground is primarily used by boaters preparing to launch on a river trip. It is a fee area of $10.00 per unit per night with 15 units, toilet facilities, and potable water.

There are 10 units which are first-come, first-served. There are 5 units that can be reserved for the dates between June 15 and August 15 at Reserved sites will be marked with a placard at the unit's site number.

Please consolidate your group into 1 or 2 campsites to make room for everyone. 

Dagger Falls Campground

This campground is located approximately 1.5 miles before Boundary Creek. It is used by boaters and other recreationists who want to avoid the crowds at Boundary Creek Campground. It is a fee area of $10.00 per unit per night with 8 units, toilet facilities, and potable water.

This campground is entirely first-come, first-served. There are no reservable sites. 

A viewing platform offers a fantastic opportunity to see chinook salmon jumping up the falls as they migrate upstream to spawn (numbers usually peak in late June or early July). There is a bridge above the falls that crosses the river and provides trail access.

Transfer Camp and Long-term Parking Area

These are located about a mile before Boundary Creek. This site consists of a long-term parking area; a toilet; and horse facilities that include a ramp, stalls, and a nearby stream. There are a few campsites above the parking lot in the trees. There is no water and there are no fees charged for using this site. This site is also a trailhead for the Middle Fork Trail.

Indian Creek

How and when can I access?

The Indian Creek Launch site is a fly-in location within the wilderness. Several flights are often required for large groups.

The office is usually staffed and becomes operational in early May and often stays open into October. Check for updates on the status of the office in the spring and fall. Boaters often use this launch site when water levels get too low or when the road to Boundary Creek is blocked by snow.

Is there garbage service?

Garbage service is not available. Pack out what you pack in.

Is water available?

Potable water is available. Check the Middle Fork of the Salmon (4 Rivers) page on where we will post updates if water is NOT available at any of these locations.

What facilities are available?

The launch area consists of a boat ramp, a composting toilet, and an administrative workstation that includes an office, a public water spigot, three private residences for employees, a barn, and several other administrative structures. The station is located on one side of the airstrip. The boat ramp, composting toilet and beach are on the opposite (river) side of the strip.

Can we camp at Indian Creek if we fly in a day prior to our launch?

Most groups fly in the night before their launch and set up camp on the beach. Please do not block the ramp or other boaters’ access to the beach. This beach is very busy during the summer, so when you set up camp take only the minimum amount of space needed, and allow space for other boaters. If you desire more privacy, set up camp below the runway on a bar downstream from the ramp. 

When the Indian Creek Airstrip is very busy, extreme caution is advised around the airstrip. Camping is prohibited within 75 feet of the sides of the airstrip and 500 feet from each end. Your flight service will drop your gear off at or near the ramp to facilitate your launch.

Special Considerations for Indian Creek

Unlike Boundary Creek, the Indian Creek launch site is within the boundaries of the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness, and certain rules apply at Indian Creek that do not apply at Boundary Creek.

Battery- or generator-operated pumps to inflate your boats are prohibited. You must use either a hand or foot operated pump.

When using the composting toilet, do not dispose of any plastics, glass, metal, or sanitary napkins/tampons in the toilets. These do not compost and must be manually removed.


Thomas Creek Airstrip, Lower Loon Airstrip, and Bernard Airstrip are some other ways to access the river. The airstrips are located at mile 35, 50, and 68, respectively, and are primarily used for river access when the road to Boundary Creek is closed by snow or when water levels are low. Contact the private flight services to get more information.


Bear Valley, Marsh, Camas, Loon, and Big Creeks are tributaries to the Middle Fork and are usually only navigable during higher water. Marsh Creek is sometimes used to access the Middle Fork before the road opens in the spring, since it can be accessed just off Highway 21. These creeks are ever-changing and swift runs. They should only be used if you have small craft and excellent boating skills. USE EXTREME CAUTION! They frequently have debris and log jams, and, if the water is too high, you may not be able to get under the pack bridges.

Tributaries are key spawning habitat, so boaters must be mindful of redds. Boaters should avoid floating the tributaries, including Marsh Creek, during low flows 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. Oaring or dragging a watercraft of any sort over a redd can damage/kill the eggs and could be subject to penalties under the ESA.

Marsh Creek

Skilled, experienced boaters sometimes use Marsh Creek to access the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, typically when the road to the Boundary Creek launch site is still blocked by snow and they wish to avoid flying into a wilderness airstrip.

Marsh Creek is a very challenging way to access the Middle Fork, especially during high water. From Highway 21, it is approximately 15 river miles to Dagger Falls and Boundary Creek. The creek is fast, steep, technical, and prone to natural hazards such as fallen trees across the channel, snow bridges, and log jams. There are very few eddies for boaters and many blind corners.

Large fires that have occurred in the area increase the risk of hazards in the stream, such as downed trees spanning the creek, as well as avalanche and debris slides. These may be the result of weather and/or seismological events.

If accessing the river via Marsh Creek, be sure to update your entry point in your float reservation.

Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game installs a fish trap in Marsh Creek annually. The trap is located approximately 1.5 miles downstream from the creek access at the bridge, just off Highway 21. The trap is installed each year in March as part of an ongoing 20-year study of juvenile migratory fish moving downstream in Marsh Creek. This is a large, screw-style fish trap. There is an anchor cable across the creek and guy wires attached to stabilize it in the stream for best performance. The Fish and Game installs signs to help warn boaters about this fish trap.

Selecting a Launch Date if Launching from Marsh Creek

Permits are required to be on the waters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, starting at Dagger Falls - not on Marsh Creek. When selecting the launch date for your Middle Fork of the Salmon reservation, use the first day you will start on the permitted section, below Dagger Falls, not when you plan on launching from Marsh Creek.

Big Creek

Big Creek floaters are required to obtain a Tributary Permit, but they are not required to obtain a Middle Fork permit if they will go all the way out in one day. Follow this link for tributary permit information.