The Main Salmon River - Idaho
Idaho's rivers access some of the most pristine terrain in the country. They are home to abundant flora and fauna, an impressive network of hiking trails, and some of the country's best whitewater. No river displays all these characteristics quite like the Main Salmon. The Main Salmon is the longest undammed river in the U.S., and also boasts the second deepest canyon. The Main Salmon offers free-flowing Class III whitewater that's great for any age and experience level, big sandy beaches perfect for camping and playing, beautiful mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a natural hot spring are all hallmarks of the Main. Perhaps inappropriately dubbed the "River of No Return" by early river runners, the Salmon is in fact a river you'll want to return to again and again.
Trips are 4 days of exciting river rafting, wilderness camping, fine fishing, and visiting historic homesteads along the way. Our equipment is specially designed for wilderness whitewater rafting, and offers mild and wild boat choices (oar boats, paddle boats, inflatable kayaks and stand up paddling surf boards!). We also bring along an 18 foot Wooden Dory named Hen Wen and fishing drift boats on most departures. Our river guides are seasoned professionals, licensed by the state of Idaho and First Aid Certified. They are expert river runners, magnificent cooks, great storytellers, and knowledgeable, helpful outdoorsmen.
Join Middle Fork River Expeditions for a magical wilderness river vacation this summer!
- Meeting Place: Stagecoach Inn, Salmon, Idaho
- Meeting Time: 7:30 PM, the evening before your trip
- Return Place & Time: 12 noon arrival at Boise or Salmon by Cessna Airplane from the river
- River Rating: Class III
- River Miles: 56 river miles
- Put-In: Corn Creek
- Take-Out: Mackay Bar Ranch
- Age Limit: Minimum age is 5 (12 at high water)
- Trip Length: 4 days
Please arrive in Salmon, Idaho the night before the trip begins. We have a pre-trip orientation at the Stagecoach Inn (208-756-2919) at 7:30pm the evening before the trip begins. We will get acquainted, answer questions, and have a short orientation to show you how to pack the waterproof gear bags we provide for your personal gear. Please note flight from Boise to Salmon and lodging at the Stagecoach Inn is arranged on your own.
Upon launching our rafts at Corn Creek, 3200 feet above sea level, we journey into the pristine heart of the Frank Church Wilderness, each day brings new discoveries: exciting rapids like Salmon Falls, Big Mallard and Growler, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill's homestead and Jim Moore's place (maybe you'll find the fortune he buried in the hillside!), and the much anticipated Barth Hot Springs. Avid hikers may enjoy a challenging climb to Rabbit Point, where the beautiful views are well worth the effort of getting there. The fishing is excellent during these days, and on trips in July and August, warm air and water temperatures encourage frequent refreshing dips in the river. Evenings find us relaxing by the campfire, playing horseshoes and listening to the river and watching for shooting stars!
We float for 5-6 miles this morning and take a 11am flight by Cessna 5-9 seater airplanes from Mackay Bar Ranch to the Boise or Salmon Airport. We need at least 3 riders to get a seat rate for each destination. We should arrive by 12pm so schedule your flight after 3pm from Boise. If you drove to Salmon from Missoula we can fly you back to Salmon instead of Boise, just let us know. The cost for these flights are not included in the trip price.
Dates (same dates every year)
- June 19-23
- June 27- July 1
- July 5-9
- July 13-17
- July 21-25
- July 29-August 2
- August 6-10
- August 14-18
- August 22-26
- August 30- Sept 3
- Sept 7-11
- $1000 (Kids 5-11 are $800)
- $4.00 per day FS Recreation Enhancement Act fee
- 3% Forest Service Fee
- $235 flight from Mackay Bar to Boise, $210 from Mackay to Salmon
- Ground transportation from Salmon, Idaho, to the river and to Boise Airport or Salmon, Idaho after the trip
- Meals from lunch Day 1 to Breakfast Day 4.
- Expert leadership with seasoned professional river guides
- All camping equipment including 4-Man tents for 1-2 people & 2 dry bags, one for clothing and sleeping equipment and the other for smaller items to have access to during the day.
- Sleeping bag, 2 pads (one 1" Ridgerest and one 1 ½" Therma-a rest), pillow & rain gear tops and bottoms.
- Wetsuits or various sizes for June and early July trips only.
- All commissary equipment for meals and camp.
- All rafting equipment, including oar boats, paddle raft, inflatable kayaks, drift and dory boats, and inflatable stand up paddling boards (when river levels permit).
What Isn't Included
- Flights to/from Salmon, Idaho
- Motel in Salmon for night before the trip
- Insurance (we strongly recommend you purchase Travelex trip insurance offered by Middle Fork River Expeditions, which includes trip cancellation insurance)
- Optional tipping to guides (10-15%+ of trip cost) depending on level of satisfaction.
- Deposit: $500.00 per person, required for confirmed reservation.
- Balance: Payable 90 days prior to launch date.
Deposits and final payments are refundable (less $150.00 service charge per person) if written notice is received 90 days prior to your departure date. With less than 90 days notice your monies are nonrefundable. If Middle Fork River Expeditions must cancel a trip due to water levels, weather conditions, wildfires or other circumstances, your payment will be forwarded to a future date and not refunded. Custom trips and groups of ten or more have a separate payment and cancellation policy.
Travel to Salmon, Idaho
This trip takes 5 days door to door. The easiest way to get to Salmon is to fly to Missoula and rent a car and drive 2 hours to Salmon the day before your trip begins. You need to arrive in Missoula by 3pm for the drive to Salmon for our 7:30pm pre-trip orientation at the Stagecoach Inn. On the last day of the trip, we will fly you back to Salmon ($200), arriving by 11:30am, so you can book your flights out of Missoula after 4pm.
There is also commercial air service to Boise, Idaho. You can then fly (1 hour) to Salmon, Idaho, where our trips begins. Flight Boise to Salmon: Sawtooth Flying Services- 800-798-6105 or 208-342-7888. The cost is ~$190 Boise/Salmon per person one way. You need to arrange this with them directly. On the last day of the trip, we will fly you back to Boise ($235), arriving by 11:30am, so you can book your flights out of Boise after 3pm.
Driving Option: You can also drive to Salmon (6 hours from Boise or 2 hours from Missoula) we can fly you back to Salmon from Mackay Bar Ranch ($200).
Lodging is needed before your trip. We recommend:
Pre trip lodging - the Stage Coach Inn, Salmon, Idaho (208-756-2919) the day before your trip.
Please call them directly after you decide on a trip date or call us for help.
Middle Fork River Expeditions attracts gifted guides for whom leading trips is their passion. Middle Fork River Expeditions guides positively elevate your experience by being educators, companions, and the best of friends. Most MFRE guides have 10 or more years experience on rivers and all are First Aid Certified and licensed by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.
Boats & Rapids
The Middle Salmon rapids are rated 1 to 3 on a scale of 1 to 6. You'll run these rapids with the aid of experienced, professional, licensed guides. Most guests ride in our oar powered self-bailing rafts. For the more adventurous we run a paddle boat, no experience required as your boatman steers at the stern while you and your newfound friends paddle. And when water levels permit (usually in July and August only) you can try out our single or 2 man inflatable kayaks. This year we are bringing along an inflatable stand up paddle board to try around camp and in some of the flatwater sections. We bring on some departures a wooden dory and also a fishing drift boat. We will rotate in/out of all boat types throughout the trip. Of course the Stand Up Paddle Board is optional!
River Requirements: Minimum age is 12 in June, and 5 in July and August. Please note, all participants must be able to swim, be in good physical shape and be able to self rescue.
HIking & Hot Springs
There is plenty of time and numerous opportunities to hike during your trip. Among the river's points of interest are the Golden Eagles nestled in the ledges above Little Squaw Creek; Barth Hot Springs where the early scow captains soaked their tired muscles; Campbells Ferry Pack Bridge; Jim Moore's Place an early day prospector and trader; Lemhi China Bar where from 1882 to 1884 oriental miners worked this bar extensively and Five Mile Bar the home of the river's most famous resident, "Buckskin Bill".
The Main Salmon has some great fishing opportunities. Fishing is for Cutthroat Trout, Rainbows and Small Mouth Bass. An Idaho State fishing license is required and may be purchased in Salmon, Idaho before the trip. Kids 14 and under can fish without a license. Spinners or Fly Rods work.
If you would like to do a fishing only trip just call and we can provide drift boats for easy access to the best holes on the river.
This is one of the best parts of the trip, to be lullabied to sleep by the sound of the river. We provide all camping gear for you, including sleeping bag, 2 pads, pillow, 4-man tent, rain gear tops and bottoms and all camp equipment. In the evening, we set up a camp and have chairs to relax in for meals. We bring along a wilderness porta-potty and place it in a private place with stunning views. We practice Leave No Trace camping ethics, so you are sure to learn a lot about this on the trip and be able to take some of these new skills home with you. The Main Salmon is a very pristine river and there is no bathing allowed in the river and must be done above the high water mark with biodegradable soap. We do bring along a couple of sun showers for you to use if you wish.
We provide healthy and delicious meals, accompanied with lots of salads, fresh fruits and vegetables. We also use as much organic produce/products as is available in central Idaho. Our goal is to have you eat healthy meals so that you feel good and refreshed during the day with lots of energy for fun in this remote wilderness setting. If you would like a copy of our menu please call us. Vegetarian's welcome and meat eaters alike! There are also always snacks available during the day.
MFRE carbon offsets all our river trips through the purchase of Green Tags, which accounts for transportation to/from the river, as well as how much charcoal we burn. We also recycle everything from the trips (glass, plastic, aluminum etc.), including food waste which is fed to pigs at a local farm and/or composted or used in worm bins. We also recently purchased a 60 gallon vegetable oil tank to burn used cooking oil from the Mountain Village Restaurant in Stanley in our Ford F350 Diesel truck used to transport our equipment to/from the river. We also follow Leave No Trace Ethics and purchase all guest households a yearly membership to Idaho Rivers United, a non-profit organization whose focus is Salmon Recovery on the Salmon River.
Idaho weather can be variable and vigorous. So come prepared with warm and cold weather clothing. There is no such thing as bad weather if you bring the right clothing. Synthetics are best for layering and keeping you warm in all weather conditions. Weather during the daytime is 75-95F and evenings 40-60F, depending on the weather. All June and Sept trips are typically cooler at night and you must bring warm gloves, ski hat and long underwear synthetic bottoms.
- Sleeping bag*
- Thermarest sleeping pad*
- Raingear (sturdy jacket and pants)*
- Towel & personal toiletry items
- Biodegradable soap
- Sunscreen lotion
- Sunglasses with retainer & sun hat
- Bathing suit
- Wool or polypro socks - 2 pair
- T-shirts – 2 (one cotton for evenings and one silk or lightweight wool for daytime- Icebreaker makes an excellent wool t-shirt)
- Long sleeved shirts – 2 (one cotton for evenings and one silk or lightweight wool for daytime)
- Long pants – 1 (one cotton for evenings)
- Shorts – 2 (one cotton for evenings and one synthetic for daytime)
- Underwear – assorted (cotton and silk)
- Jacket & fleece or wool sweater
- Shoes - one pair for camp & hiking
- Shoes - one pair for boat (tennis shoes or river sandals)
- Shoes- Flip Flops (optional- for drying out feet at camp)
- Fishing gear (rod in sturdy hard case)
- Fishing license (buy in Salmon)
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Water bottle with carabiner to attach to raft
- Ziplock bags - handy for small items (isolate wet articles from rest of gear)
- Olay face wipes or other brand for cleaning face (optional)
* We provide tents (4 man tents for 1-2 people), a sleeping kit (sleeping bag, 2 pads and a pillow) and rain gear (tops and bottoms) for all participants.
Forms & Itineraries (PDF)
Contact Us Today!
Photo & Video Galleries