Middle Fork River Expeditions

MFRE partners with HRE

Middle Fork River Expeditions (MFRE) partners with Holiday River Expeditions (HRE) to be their exclusive Idaho Affiliate, offering river trips on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers.

Here is a link to the HRE Blog.   

It is an honor to work with Holiday River Expeditions.  I worked with HRE from 1993 to 1998.  And once a Holiday boatman it’s part of your DNA.

Moors and McCumber Music Trip Announced Sept 1-6, 2018!

Guess what?

Moors and McCumber Music Trip Announced Sept 1-6, 2018!

Go to: http://www.moorsandmccumber.com/rafting-trip/

James Moors and Kort McCumber grew up in different places and listening to different kinds of music – classical, rock, bluegrass, you name it. But when they met ten years ago they knew they’d found something golden. Since then, they’ve been cultivating their wide-ranging musical influences in songs that delve into love and life through haunting lyrics, soaring harmonies, and dazzling instrumental proficiency. As Grammy award-winning producer Lloyd Maines puts it, “These guys should be playing every major festival in the country. They bring it all to the stage and deliver it in a big way.”

An Interview with James Moors & Kort McCumber
October 2015

How and when did you two meet?  And why did you start performing together?
KM: We met in 2005 at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School. It’s an inspirational place that’s all about developing your songwriting.  People were swapping songs, and when it came around to James, he played one of his original songs.  It was amazing, so partway through, I joined in on bouzouki and harmony vocals.  Afterwards, we introduced ourselves, and not long after that, we decided to try performing together.

JM: We were both pursuing solo careers at the time. I invited Kort to join me for a few of my shows, and I joined him for some of his shows.  That evolved into booking more shows together, and it went so well, we decided to make the duo a priority.

KM: You can play with so many different people, but when you find somebody you really click with and your voices blend in that perfect way, you know the universe is telling you something. When we started performing together, people kept coming up after the show and saying, “I want the CD of what I just heard.” They didn’t want our solo stuff; they wanted records with both of us.  So we said, “Let’s make a record together and start booking as a duo. So we did.  In the fall of 2011, we did our first tour in Ireland together, and when we came home, we made our second record, Gravity.  At that point, we felt like this was something for real.

Has your collaboration changed over time?
JM:  Early on, we were playing in bars and other noisy places where people were only paying half attention to the music. That wasn’t what we wanted, so we decided to quit playing bars and focus on performing in places where it’s all about the music.

KM: Working together as a duo also really opened up songwriting and performing for both of us. We started writing songs together, and now most of our songs are co-written.  When we met, James sang lead and only played guitar, and now we both sing lead and harmony and play a bunch of instruments, including guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bouzouki, harmonica, and many more. That makes for a much more dynamic show than when we first started.

What makes your collaboration work?
KM: James is an amazing lyricist, melody writer, and lead singer. I love singing harmony and adding all the bells and whistles to the songs through arrangement and instrumentation. We both respect each other’s strengths and fight for what we think will make a great song.

JM: I think we have complementary strengths, and we’ve definitely learned a lot from each other. Kort’s perfect world is play a different instrument on every song. Mine is to sit down with a melody in my head and start writing the words. If I were still just doing my own thing, maybe my songs would sound more alike, and for sure there would be fewer instruments. He’s taught me a lot of different instruments, and I’ve gotten him into writing more lyrics. In addition to collaborating well as songwriters, our voices also harmonize really well.  Some people tell us they can’t tell which one is singing lead and which one is singing harmony.

KM: It’s like sibling harmony, which you rarely find outside of a family.

JM: I also realized something recently.  Years ago, I was organizing a music festival and one of the groups hadn’t shown up.  I was getting really stressed.  Five minutes before they were supposed to go on, these guys drove up, talking and laughing, and they didn’t look the least bit worried.  One guy took out his guitar and the other took out his mandolin, and they just went up on stage and started playing. No sound check or anything. It was like the conversation they’d been having was continuing on stage.  That is what it’s like for us now.  When we step on stage, the performance is an extension of who we are and what we’ve been talking about.

How do you practice when you live in different places?
JM: We are doing about 120 shows a year as a duo, which adds up to about 180 days total, including the travel, so we’re spending about half the year together.  That gives us a lot of time to work on new songs and arrangements.

KM: I think spending so much time writing and playing together is why we are so tight.  We are constantly trying new things, and it’s all about making the songs better. James will say, “Here’s something I just wrote, do you want to work on it?”  I might say, “Why not try it on ukulele or add a little cello?” That builds chemistry, and it makes us excited about the new songs as well as older songs.  Nothing sounds exactly the same from one time to the next. We revisit songs and arrangements all the time.

What’s your music about?
KM: Our songs are about love and loss, and about trying to navigate this crazy life. We also touch on what is going on in the world. The political climate.  War.  Hard times that face the common man.

JM: We are also both interested in history and geography and about the people we meet along the way.  All of that finds its way into our songs.

What kinds of music did you gravitate to when you were growing up?  How about now?
JM: The first songs I remember listening to on my parents’ stereo were “I Write the Songs” by Barry Manilow and “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell. Later, my brother and I would pretend we were musicians, air jamming to Pink Floyd and the Beatles.  My mom often had the top 40 station playing in the car, and luckily in those days it was Paul McCartney and Wings, Neil Diamond, and the Bee Gees. In high school, I discovered the local music scene in Minneapolis and started listening to The Replacements, The Flaming Oh’s, and the Suburbs. After college, I heard a live Shawn Colvin tape where I could really hear her in those songs, and that lit the fire for me to start writing about what I was feeling and going through in my life. Since then, I’ve been drawn to songwriters who write songs you can hear yourself living in, like Ron Sexsmith, Tom Waits, Neil Finn of Crowded House, and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.

KM: My musical upbringing was totally different. I grew up playing piano and cello and listening to classical music. Neither of my parents were into folk, rock and roll, blues, country, etc.  It wasn’t til later that I started listening to all of that. When I got to college, I got hooked on Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Police, Sting, U2. Then, when I turned 20, I bought an acoustic guitar and started teaching myself songs by Neil Young, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  When I started playing bar gigs in Gainesville, Florida, I listened to more folk music and singer/songwriters – people like Ellis Paul, John Hiatt, Shawn Colvin, Darrell Scott, Tim O’Brien. They helped me learn how to be a better lyricist. Now I listen to a lot of Stephen Stills, The Band, Levon Helm, Allmann Brothers, and Sting, and a lot of Irish traditional music also.

How would you describe your sound?
KM:  I guess you’d call it Americana or roots music. We incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues. More recently, we’ve also been influenced heavily by Irish music.

JM: We don’t have a song that’s 100 percent country. Or rock. Or bluegrass.  We are hitting on a lot of these things, but our records aren’t “one of each.”  All of these different influences that have shaped each of us are blended together.

What are some of your favorite times performing together?
JM: I really enjoy playing towns we’ve never played before; they just have a different energy. In terms of bigger shows, the Kerrville Folk Festival in May 2014 was a really special performance. How we got there is an interesting story.  There was a terrible flood in Colorado, and Kort had to evacuate. We got together and wrote a great song and played it for the director of Kerrville Folk Festival, and she asked us to perform on the main stage. We were both really on that night, and the crowd was right there with us.  Our Blue Rock show in Wimberley, TX in April 2015 was also a magical night. Then a

Another time, we were doing a fundraiser in Dallas and the person organizing it knew I loved the Jayhawks, so he invited the lead singer, Gary Louris, to play with us. The next day, we were swapping songs, and a couple of weeks later, I asked if he would produce our next CD. Who knew that would happen?

KM: If you allow yourself to be present in the world and stay ready, incredible things happen.

How do people respond when you play?
JM: I think people really respond to the fact that we are friends and having a great time on stage playing music together. We’ve heard from a lot of people how a song gave them chills, made them cry, laugh, smile. How a song made them think of a loved one who has passed, or who they miss.

KM: When we sell a bunch of CDs at a show, that tells us the crowd was really into it. I love it when we play a great concert and people say that it was the best show they’ve ever been to. That feels really good.

Why do you like going to Ireland so much?
KM: We feel at home there, and it’s not only because I have Irish blood in my veins. It’s also because they have such a deep appreciation for musicians and singers and writers. When you share a verse with someone over there, they say “please sing me another one, and let me share one with you.” Also, much of the music we gravitate toward has its roots in Irish melodies: rock and folk and bluegrass. What predates Americana?  Irish music.

JM: Lots of musicians say there’s no other place like Ireland for music, and it’s true.

KM: Some of our most memorable performances have been in Ireland. I will always remember playing at McGann’s pub in Doolin.  We were sitting under a poster of the incredible Liam Clancy, and it felt unreal. Another time, when we performed at the Courthouse Pub in Dingle, the owner closed the shutters and kept the place open after hours because nobody wanted to leave.  We loved it that people were having such a good time, they wanted to keep going.

What’s your next CD going to be like?
JM: Given how dynamic our live performances are, we thought it would be nice to have a live record, so we decided to record a show and see what happened.  In April 2015, we performed at the Blue Rock in Wimberley, Texas, with about 100 people in the audience. They were a great crowd. When we went back and listened to the recording, it was spot on.

KM: We were originally planning to pick only 10 tracks from that night, but everything sounded so good, we decided to use all 22 songs from the show. That will become our next CD, Live at the Blue Rock.

What’s on your wish list for the future?
KM: I think #1 would be playing at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest.  It’s a dear place to a lot of people I’ve met and worked with, including James.  We know we’re ready for it.  Telluride, Red Rocks, and Newport would be amazing too.

JM: We would love to play for 100-500 people every night because we could reach more people per show. But honestly, it isn’t just one thing that we’re looking for. We get so much from any audience that wants to be present with us.  So whether it’s 20 people in a living room or 20,000 at a big festival, doing our thing for people who want to be there makes life worth living.

KM: We want to keep doing this for a very long time, and we want to be present and relish it while we’re doing it.  That’s what keeps us moving forward.


Middle Fork Salmon

Darrell Scott Jam on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River Aug 16-21, 2017

Darrell Scott Jam is on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River Aug 16-21, 2017, which is next week!  We had a last minute cancellation so there is one more space for a lucky person to join us!  Please contact us through our website at www.idahorivers.com and go to the “Contact Us” section of the website.  This is going to be a trip of a lifetime.  We hope to see you soon!

Go to http://www.darrellscott.com/event/darrell-scott-river-jam-salmon-river-idaho/ for more information.  

MFRE Named Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner!

Yes we did it again.  MFRE Named Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence!

Middle Fork River Expeditions has been in business for over 60 years and that is no coincidence. MFRE was chosen as one of the top 3 river outfitters in the world by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2008 and 2009. We focus on our guests experience to not just see the river from a distance, but to experience it intimately with the leadership of experienced guides. With over 70% of our guests as past clients or referrals from past river travellers we guarantee a world-class river adventure. Our mission is to allow river travellers the opportunity to unplug from modern society and reconnect to oneself, family, and friends through nature’s lens. This adventure allows you to have a digital detox from technology and reconnect to a more simple and fulfilling pace of life.   There is no Wi- Fi in the wilderness, but we promise you will find a much deeper connection.

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 paddle boards). Our river guides are seasoned professionals, licensed by the state of Idaho and First Aid and Swiftwater Rescue Certified. They are expert river runners, magnificent cooks, great storytellers, and knowledgeable, helpful outdoorsmen and friends.

Join Middle Fork River Expeditions for a magical wilderness river vacation this summer!

TripAdvisor 2016 Certificate of Excellence

Snowpack at 157% of Normal!

With Snowpack at 157% of Normal, expect some awesome whitewater rafting this summer on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and Main Stem of the Salmon Rivers.  The SWE or Snow Water Equivelant is the highest it has been since 1013 when they first began records.  A lot depends on how the snow melts fort the watershed, but the rivers usually hit peak flows around June 1.  We have a June 2 launch which will be a lot of fun on some high water!!  Come join us!

Erik Weihenmayer kayaks the Salmon River with MFRE

Come check it out and see his new book about kayaking the Grand Canyon a couple months after he kayaked with MFRE.

It was the most inspiring river trip I have ever been on in my entire rafting career.  He is an amazing man.  His family was along as well and we had the best time and the most fun. I will always remember my friend and co-guide Kelly McGrath mooning a jet boat on our last night while on the river and the jet boat turned around adn slid sprayed us with a huge wall of water that missed he prime rib dinner table by a foot.  We just missed a big disaster.  But Erik nailed every rapid on the trip.  He had the help of 3 other kayakers, one in front adn 2 behind.  The one in front would pick the line and the two in front would talk to Erik with an ear piece of where to brace and paddle.  It was amazing to watch.  We ran safety below the rapids.


yours for rivers, James

PS. Erik Paddling below past Black Creek Rapid.

Gourmet River Food

Ah the food, something happens to your tastebuds in nature and everything tastes amazing. Dutch oven delights and riverside lunches are all part of the Middle Fork experience.
#dutchoven #middleforksalmon #whitewaterrafting#idaho

Come and Join Middle FOrk River Expeditions this summer!

Yours for rivers, MFRE

Riverside Cuisine

Riverside Cuisine

Dutch Oven Cooking

There is a skill to cooking with dutch ovens, and one needs to know the basics before becoming a pro with these dutch ovens.  The basic run down is you bake just like an oven, but place charcoal briquets on the top and bottom.  The usual amount depends on if it is aluminum or cast iron Dutch Oven, but usually 8-10 briquets on the bottom and 16-20 on top, depending on wind and air temp, will do the trick.

A good trick for making cakes is you place a soaked paper towel in Vegetable Oil on the bottom of the Dutch Oven.  Then place the cake mix in the DO, then put on the lid and wait til you smell the cake the second time, and then they are usually done.  Flip it out of the DO, let it cool and gently remove the paper towel and presto, you good to go.

Come join Middle Fork River Expeditions this summer and learn how to cook with Dutch Ovens.

We hope to see you on the river enjoying tasty DO meals every night.

Yours for rivers, Ellsworth

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Five Must-Ask Questions When Selecting an Outfitter for a Family Whitewater Rafting Trip

By Ciao Bambino!

A whitewater rafting trip with kids is one of the best active family vacations around. These trips are available around the world, so you may not have to travel far to join one. A bigger issue is deciding which company to trust for the experience. I’m using the word “trust” intentionally here. Whitewater rafting trips involve real risk and selecting the right outfitter is serious business.

Add kids to the mix and the decision is more complicated. Not all outfitters are created equal when it comes to ensuring that a trip is kid-friendly. We had a phenomenal experience rafting down the Main Fork of the Salmon River with Middle Fork River Expeditions. Our fun, safety, and comfort was 100% due to the quality of our outfitter.

I asked James Ellsworth, the owner of Middle Fork River Expeditions and a longtime rafting expert, for his suggestions about the must-ask questions when families choose a whitewater river outfitter. Here’s what he had to say:

1. How long have you been in business and what is the average of the years your guides have been guiding?
You want to go with an outfitter who has a track record and moreover, a company that uses experienced guides. Middle Fork River Expeditions’ guide average is 15 years.

2. Do you have a kid-friendly menu?
There are no other options outside the food that is provided on a rafting trip so it’s important to have a selection of adult and kid-friendly fare. Too gourmet doesn’t work and too simple means the parents will be bored with the food.

3. Do your trips cater to families?
Catering to families means having kid-friendly supplies and a game bag for camp, as well as having guides who understand that kids need special attention. A mix of younger guides is great for teenagers and guides should be excited to organize everything from freeze tag, musical chairs, i.e. fun for kids during the time off the river.

4. Do you provide everything for the trip, including all camping gear?
Middle Fork River Expeditions has extremely nice equipment from the rafts, to the tents, to the sleeping bags. They provide everything which makes it easy for families to participate without a long list of additional expenses. If you do plan to use sleeping bags provided by an outfitter, make sure they are washed after every trip.

5. Are you’re your guides swiftwater rescue certified?
Adequately trained guides are a must. Visit Wilderness Rescue International for more information.

Get More Tips Around Family Adventure Vacations
The Smart Parents Guide to Family Adventure Vacations is an excellent source for information on how and why to take an adventure trip with kids. Some of these trips are active and some just involve heading to remote destinations. Either way, our guide provides a great foundation to get the planning process started.

Ciao Bambino! is a leading family travel brand and global family travel planning website featuring curated family-friendly hotel reviews and a comprehensive family travel blog offering tips, news, and narratives related to traveling with kids of all ages.


Idaho snowpack promises awesome whitewater in 2014

BOISE, Idaho — (March 6, 2014) — Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated streamflows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are ranging from 90-120 percent of normal, which should provide for a stellar, fun-filled whitewater river season in the summer of 2014, officials said Thursday.

“Our bookings are very strong this year and we feel lucky to have such a fabulous snowpack, especially compared to much of the West,” said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. “Folks planning to raft in Idaho this season shouldn’t wait much longer before signing up.”

Idaho’s snowpack levels are much stronger than levels well below 50 percent in California and Nevada, Grubb notes.

Idaho is known nationally as the “whitewater state” with more than 3,000 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids, the most of any state in the lower 48. Thousands will take week-long wilderness river vacations on the Salmon River, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River or Hells Canyon of the Snake with Idaho outfitters. Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie rivers with Idaho outfitters. Great water conditions will benefit jet boat trips as well on the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for a unique and unforgettable vacation, outfitters say.

A wet month in February featuring precipitation levels exceeding 200 percent of normal in the Boise and Snake river basins and 150 percent of normal in the Salmon and Payette River Basin is what boosted snowpack levels to what they are now, experts say.

“It’s all good news! It just keeps getting better every day,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We need the cool temperatures to continue in the mountains and normal precipitation levels to continue in the spring to maintain these forecasts.”

Main Salmon and Payette River outfitters are excited about the snowpack levels, too. “The Main Salmon River has an amazing snow pack this year so rafting season is going to be great: big water, beautiful sandy beaches and exciting rapids,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions. “The word is out. We have several full trips already and are looking forward to a fantastic summer. Now is the time to plan your family vacation.”

“The water outlook on the Payette River system looks solid at over 92 percent of normal,” said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. “There is still plenty of time to collect a bit more precipitation, which will put the icing on the cake. Both rafting and kayaking look great for the entire summer, with super whitewater levels on the South Fork through Labor Day and on the Main Payette through mid-September.”

Deep snowpacks in the Upper Snake Basin should provide enough flows for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide boatable flows through the white-knuckle Murtaugh section near Twin Falls this spring. That’s always a bonus for whitewater boaters.

The only downside this year are below-normal snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, which are 52 and 68 percent of normal right now. Those rivers may not get high enough for rafting this year, but should be doable by kayak.

For more information about booking an Idaho whitewater river trip, go to www.idahorivers.com or call 800-801-5146.

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