Seasons in the Frank Church Wilderness
My name is Sadie Grossbaum, and I am a guide for MFRE. I am currently care taking the Flying B Ranch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It is pretty incredible here in the winter. It hasn’t gotten above 20 degrees Fahrenheit in a few days, and the river is starting to freeze. Yesterday I found mountain lion and coyote tracks crossing an ice bridge that spanned the river below Aparejo Rapid. Watching the Middle Fork in winter has me thinking about all four of her seasons and how different and wonderful each one can be.
The Middle Fork and Main Salmon, the rivers at the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness, are found in central Idaho. Central Idaho is in the North West, meaning it gets four seasons a year. Three of those seasons you can experience on the river with MFRE. I would like to take a minute to talk about what the three different seasons have to offer.
You can’t run these rivers in the winter (see ice bridges I mentioned previously) so let’s start with Spring. MFRE’s first trip launches June 2nd and it is always a trip to be remembered. The Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers are free of dams so we boaters are at the mercy of the snow pack and the spring weather. Our early June trips tend to be high water, meaning big exciting, fast white water. Hot springs are best enjoyed after getting splashed by a huge wave! That is just the river, but the landscape is incredible too, everything is green, waterfalls are flowing and the whole river corridor is waking up with the coming of spring. The Arrow Leaf Balsam Root’s yellow flowers cover the green hillsides, the elusive Western Tanager bird darts around the bushes. Spring on the Salmon is my favorite time, and if you have done a trip in the summer or fall, you may want to consider and adventurous June trip.
Next comes the sunny days of Summer. The water warms up and swimming in the river is a treat. The heat of the day gives you the encouragement you need to rinse off under the crisp waterfalls coming out of the canyon walls. The white water is still world class, but not quite as epic as the floods of early June. The fishing starts to get good, and we break out the inflatable kayaks and paddle boards so you can pilot your own craft. You can’t beat summer in the Frank Church. My dad booked a trip this year and I recommended a July trip because it is a classic river trip experience. Picture putting a camp chair in the river so you can keep your feet in the water and watch the river roll by as you enjoy the last sun of the day.
As the days start to get shorter, we float into our fall trips. I must say, September on the river is a magical time. The water drops and the nine-bark bushes on the hill sides start to turn red. The mornings and evening are a bit cooler, and the fishing gets even better. We start to see more wild game down by the river and hear the clucking of chukar in the rocks. With the low water, the boating gets technical – weaving between rocks that a few months ago were multiple feet underwater. In the fall you get to see the bones of the river, it’s another great time to be out here.
Any time of the year out here is magical, but what I am trying to speak to is how dynamic and changing the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers are. Heraclitus said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” These rivers change as the seasons do, and each season highlights and shows different characteristics of the place. I hope this discussion of the different seasons in the Frank Church can give you a different perspective on a trip out have done or are thinking of doing. I’ll be keeping my toes warm and watching the ice float down the river, enjoying the winter and looking forward to the spring floods.
I hope to see you in the Frank any season. Sadieanne Grossbaum
The Frank in the Winter, all the white!
The Frank in the Spring, all the green!