From its endless play waves, famous rapids, and crystal clear emerald waters, the Middle Fork of the Salmon is a must do on a river runner’s lifetime list of the best rivers in the world. People travel from all corners of the world to experience the splendor of the Middle Fork of the Salmon. This river is one of the greats. Known as the crown jewel of Idaho, the Middle Fork sits in the heart of the nearly 2.5 million acre Frank Church Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states. Near the Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho, Marsh Creek and Bear Valley Creek come together to form the Middle Fork. At this point, the river is playful and active. It runs small, swift, steep and shallow with creek-like characteristics. Over 100 tributaries feed the Middle Fork in its nearly 100-mile journey from the high country to its confluence with the mighty Main Salmon. In addition, there are more accessible natural hot springs along the banks of the Middle Fork than any other multi-day wilderness river in the United States.
It’s clear why this river was one of the first to be designated a National Wild and Scenic River. Granite gorges and sheer cliffs alternate with rolling sage-covered hills sprinkled with those natural hot springs. Its waters support a blue-ribbon fishery of native west slope cutthroat trout. In addition to viewing wild big game, you’ll see evidence of the few people who once dared to call this untamed area home, such as the Sheepeater Indians, a few hardy gold miners and one truly eccentric hermit. The last couple of days you will travel through the Impassable Canyon, so named by the US Calvary because the rugged terrain meant the only way through was down the rapids. Expect cascading waterfalls, small sandy beaches, huge rock caverns, and big drop-pool rapids, flanked by towering granite walls. Depending on winter snowpack levels, extreme high or low water levels can cause the Middle Fork put-in to change from Boundary Creek to Indian Creek at mile 25, which is accessible only by small plane.
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