Middle Fork of the Salmon River

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.

At a Glance

Current Conditions:
Operational Hours: Please call us at 208-756-5587 for additional information. 
Reservations: Permits are required year-round. To reserve a permit, or apply to the lottery drawing, visit www.recreation.gov .
Rentals & Guides: Visit the websites of area chambers of commerce.
Area Amenities: Boat ramp, Fee charged for some activities
Fees: Reservations are $6.00 per launch date and are non-refundable. There is also a recreation fee of $4.00 per person per day to float the river.
Permit Info: Only seven launch permits are allowed each day. To check for available launches, visit www.recreation.gov for your reservation. Required equipment must be carried; Leave No Trace camping practices.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Required equipment must be carried by boaters; a porta-potty, fire pan, ash container, strainer, shovel and bucket are requirements of the permit. Within the 1/4 mile wide river corridor, all waste (including human) and ashes must be packed out. Fires must be contained within a fire pan. This Wild & Scenic River is within the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. No mechanized or motorized equipment allowed.
Closest Towns: Stanley, Challis and Salmon, Idaho
Passes: Salmon River Season Passes are available from the North Fork and Middle Fork district offices. Idaho requires watercraft to have an aquatic invasive species sticker; visit Invasive Species Boat Stickers | Idaho Fish and Game to purchase.

General Information


Boundary Creek Launch Site: Turn off Highway 21 between mileposts 109 and 110. Travel dirt road to Bruce Meadows landing strip; turn north onto the Boundary Creek/Dagger Falls Road. Distance from Hwy 21: approx. 26 miles of dirt road. Closed seasonally by snow; this road is not plowed open.

Indian Creek Launch Site: No road access. Access by air at the Indian Creek Airstrip, a backcountry dirt landing strip.

General Notes:


River and Stream Fishing

Permit required?: Y


Fee charged for some activities:
Boat ramp: @Boundary, Indian, Cache Bar