What is a typical day on the river?
Start your trip on Day 1 at 7:30 with a 2-hour bus ride to the put in at Boundary Creek. At an elevation of 6000 feet, the air will be crisp and cool. If you are running the Middle Fork in either high or low water run-off, the first 25 miles of the river will be impassable, so a beautiful, scenic flight into Indian Creek will be your transportation to the river. After a safety orientation, everyone chooses a raft to get started. For the first few miles of the Middle Fork, the rapids are steep, narrow and come in quick succession, rafting can be technical. Around noon, you will stop for lunch. While your guides prepare lunch, you can take a hike, swim, fish or look for Bald Eagles. After lunch, the river continues to be challenging. You will pull into camp around 4:00, grab your dry bag, find the tent site of your liking and clean up for the evening while the guides prepare your dinner. For the next 4 - 5 days, you will wake up around 7:00am to the smell of freshly brewed coffee with breakfast to follow around 7:30. After breakfast, you will help to take down the campsite and pack your dry bags to load on the cargo raft. Once all packed for the river, around 9:30, the group gets on their way for another new adventure. Each day on the Middle Fork, you will experience plenty of rapids and dramatic scenery, learn about early pioneers in the area, take side hikes to see Native American rock art left by original settlers of the area, and stop at natural hot springs along the river.
How much time is spent on the raft?
With all the history, natural hot springs and scenic side-hikes along the Middle Fork, you will want to experience all that the canyon has to offer, as well as on the river, rafting. You can plan on an average of 1 - 2 hours at a time on the rafts.
What about rapids and water levels?
The rapids on the Middle Fork range in scale from class II to IV. Rapids are rated on technical difficulty as well as water volume and size of water. Water levels will be at their highest from mid-May to mid-June depending on winter snowpack. At the beginning of a Middle Fork rafting adventure, you will find shallow, technical rapids and as your trip lengthens, there will be many large side tributaries that feed into the Middle Fork. Here you will begin to see deeper and bigger water.
What type of raft can I expect?
In addition to the unique Sweep Boat that carries all of the cargo on the river while you are rafting, there are 2 other kinds of rafts. You can choose to raft in a 16’ oar boat (guide only rows with two large oars) or 14’ paddle rafts (4 -6 guests have a paddle and share in the paddling experience with the guide).
What is the water temperature on the river?
Temperatures will vary based on the seasonal snowpack. Through mid-June you can expect spring-like temperatures with icy water conditions. From mid-June to mid-July, the weather is usually warm and dry and water temperature is bearable for short swims. Mid-July to September, the weather is generally hot and dry with a possibility of afternoon thunderstorms. On sunny days, water temperatures are right for swimming to cool off from the hot air temperatures.
What about swimming?
The first couple of days on the Middle Fork will have shallow, clear and rocky water and not good for swimming. Once you have dropped in elevation and the river has deepened, you may find good spots to swim, cliff jump and just take a break from the heat of the day (later in the season).
What bathroom facilities are available during my trip?
Because our trips operate in remote, backcountry settings, there are no permanent bathroom facilities. We use portable toilets that we haul with us. We’ve prepared a video describing toilet facilities on the river. Click on the link, watch the video and then call us if you have more questions.
The portable toilets described in the video are available shortly after we set up camp each afternoon until we leave camp the next morning. During the day while on the rafts, the guides will make frequent stops at which you can go to the bathroom. Liquid waste goes in the water by wading into the river or going for a swim.
What do I do about feminine hygiene during the trip?
If you expect to be menstruating during your trip, we recommend the use of tampons rather than pads. During the day, you will constantly be getting wet, so pads are not ideal. If you choose to use pads, we recommend wearing a good pair of waterproof rain pants.
A good strategy is to bring several sandwich-sized zip-lock bags pre-packed with individual tampons. The same bag can then be used for disposal after use. Toilet facilities will always be available while in camp and the guides will stop as often as is necessary during the day to accommodate your needs. We will always provide a means for discreet disposal of feminine hygiene items. It is best that you bring your own supplies, but we also carry a supply of feminine hygiene products.
Additional tips that have come from previous guests:
- Bring a sarong that can be used for additional privacy. It also helps when changing clothes.
- Wear a two-piece swimsuit such as a tankini with swimsuit bottoms covered by shorts. This is most comfortable for wearing lifejackets, sitting on boats and going to the bathroom.
- Bring hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and non-applicator tampons.
Can I be contacted while on the river?
It is not possible to be reached while on the river. You can leave the Western River office phone number (800-453-7450) or ROW Adventures office phone number (800-451-6034) with your family. A message can be waiting for you as soon as you are off of the river.
Can I contact others while on the river?
There is no cell service while on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. This river trip is also your opportunity to unplug, leave the rest of the world behind and enjoy your surroundings.
What if there is a medical situation on the river?
Should there be a medical situation on the river, the guides will have access to Satellite phones to call for help. All guides are certified in first aid and river rescue. Many guides are certified a Wilderness First Responders or Emergency Medical Technicians. All guides carry a satellite phone along with a GPS on trips lasting three or more days. Satellite phones are used to contact emergency transport, including helicopters. Depending on the situation, weather and location evacuation can take from as little a couple of hours to 24 hours in extreme cases.
Are there any guidelines about camera use on the river?
We do have several guidelines and suggestions for camera use while on your trip. You are free to film and shoot photos during our trips, however, we ask that you consult with your guide before doing so. We have some guidelines you will be asked to follow. These include:
- Shooting from an appropriate location - Wearing a camera in certain locations could endanger yourself or others around you. If you guide feels that your use of a camera may put you or another guest in danger, you may be asked to put the camera away or move to a safer location for filming.
- No pole mounts or extension devices on rafts - Cameras cannot be mounted to poles or other extension devices while on rafts as this may endanger you or other guests.
- Shut down cameras in emergency situations - For the privacy of those involved and your own personal safety, you will be expected to shut your camera down if first aid is being rendered or in an emergency situation. We need all guests to remain alert and undistracted from filming or taking pictures in such situations.
- Anticipate battery or card change necessities - If you see your card getting full or battery getting low, change them ahead of time during an appropriate moment. Rafts or vehicles cannot be stopped to change batteries or memory cards.
- Cameras may be damaged or lost - We cannot guarantee the safety of your camera. It may become wet, sandy, lost in the river, dropped on a hike, etc.
- Respect the privacy of others - If someone does not want to be filmed or photographed, please respect their privacy.
If you’re wondering what type of camera is most suitable for the river, here are a few thoughts.
Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Cameras - These cameras are perfect for everyday use and have become very affordable with most at $100 to $300. They’re rugged and waterproof, but also elegant and trim like any other digital camera.
GoPro and Similar Cameras - Together with their durable waterproof cases, these cameras can take some nice shots while on and off the water. Generally, the wide angle zoom cannot be adjusted so this should be taken into consideration. We ask that you plan to mount these cameras only with the head strap or helmet mount options (bring your own helmet). You will not be allowed to mount the cameras anywhere on the rafts during travel on the river.
Larger SLR Cameras - It is possible to bring a larger SLR camera, but be sure to have something sturdy to protect it. We recommend a hard-shell Pelican Case if you’re planning to bring a more expensive camera. Space is limited on the boats, so we try to keep additional camera equipment minimal.
Aquapac - This is a good solution if you aren’t in the market for a brand new camera, but just want to protect the one you have. It is a flexible waterproof housing to fit a number of camera types -- including video cameras. You do need to make sure the plastic housing stays clean as you’re shooting through it, but a lot of our guests find this to be a nice solution.
See it at Red Rock Outfitters
Batteries and Cards - While your are in remote areas during your trip, there will not be any location to charge your batteries or devices. Consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards and don't forget to charge your extra batteries before you get to the river.
Small Float - You might consider attaching your camera to a small float that may save your camera if you happen to drop it in the river. GoPro sells a small, attachable float that fits on the back of the camera housing that many of our guests find useful.