According to local guidelines, we have updated our operating schedule for 2020. Most departure dates will still be operated under our current COVID-19 Mitigation & Operations Plan. See what to expect here.
Middle Fork Salmon River 5 Day, 4 Nights
**PLEASE NOTE** 5-day trips are operated June 1 and 10 only
June 1 and June 10 are considered "advanced whitewater" with potential high water conditions. All guests must have previous rafting experience and in good physical condition.
Early season trip dates may require possible flight from Stanley, Idaho to secondary put-in location in the event of extreme high water: $140 per person
Middle Fork Salmon River 6 Day, 5 Nights
**PLEASE NOTE** 6-day trips are operated June 19 through August 31 only
June 19 is considered "advanced whitewater" with potential high water conditions. All guests must have previous rafting experience and in good physical condition.
Early and late season trip dates may require possible flight from Stanley, Idaho to secondary put-in location in the event of extreme high water: $140 per person
Middle Fork Salmon River Vacation Questions
A rafting vacation on the Salmon River often entails many questions. What type of boats are used? How does camping on the river work? What is the food like? What do I need to bring and what is supplied by the outfitter? You'll find answers to all these questions and many more in the categories below.
Physical & Dietary Requirements
What are the physical requirements for a Middle Fork trip?
Please consider carefully any medical or health condition that would endanger yourself, or others on the trip, or diminish the enjoyment of an adventure vacation such as this. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remote distances from a hospital, and physical challenges of a rafting adventure. It is critical that you are in reasonable health and physical fitness at the time of departure so that our staff can focus their attention equally on all trip participants. If you are taking any medications, we should be made aware of these and what these medications are treating. If you have any questions or concerns please talk with us and we can help you consider your options.
Fit into our Type 5 Life Jacket (maximum chest size is 52”and minimum weight is 50 pounds) required by the National Park Service.
Each guest wears a lifejacket and they are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, it can still be a threatening situation because the waters are turbulent. The lifejackets we supply are certified by the United States Coast Guard and are approved for use by our managing agencies (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management & Utah State Parks & Recreation). They are classified as “Type V Whitewater” jackets, and they come in two basic sizes “Youth” and “Adult Universal.”
Youth lifejackets fit those weighing between 50 and 90 pounds (23-41kg). An Adult Universal Jacket is rated “for persons weighing more than 90 pounds (41kg).” They are highly adjustable and fit a range of chest sizes from 30 - 52 inches (76-132 cm). Body shape can also affect the proper fit of the jacket. If you are unsure, call and speak with us. If unsure, we’ll mail you one of our jackets and you can try it on.
Securely grip ropes provided for handholds while running the rapids.
Gripping the ropes on the raft is the only way to ensure you stay on board. Factors such as where you sit in the raft in relation to where the waves crash can be a factor, but whitewater rafting can give an unpredictable ride.
Falling off a boat into the river, or having your boat capsize is one of the inherent risks associated with whitewater rafting. If this happens, you will need the ability to self-rescue by swimming to the boat or to shore. If you end up on shore, you will need to traverse a rocky shoreline to rejoin the boat which cannot maneuver upstream.
For those participants who have heart conditions or who are very overweight, falling into the river also presents the possibility of a “cold-water immersion heart attack.” This is caused when the person swimming cannot calm his/her breathing within a reasonable amount of time (generally 60 seconds).
Traverse and navigate uneven terrain over sand and rocks on hikes and in camp.
Getting on and off the boats can be very challenging. We park the boats against a variety of terrain such as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Climbing onto a larger, motorized raft (J-Rig) requires a 2-3 foot high ascent. The boat is sometimes moving up and down and side to side when tied up in faster current. Boats may also be slippery and they have uneven surfaces. The front of the raft is turned up allowing it to climb waves. Because we have to park the rafts with the front against the shore, it makes a taller barrier to climb over when boarding or deboarding the raft.
As we travel down river, we make occasional stops to lead “side hikes” which can be either very short and relatively easy, or much longer, covering significant distances and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and often steep surfaces. These beautiful hikes lead to sparkling streams, pristine pools, green fern glens and ancient American Indian ruins. Though all the hikes are not mandatory, when the rafts are tied up in swift current, all guests must get off the rafts and move up the shore a distance. Guests cannot be left on the rafts due to safety concerns. Reasonable mobility is important. If you have questions about your limitations, please call.
In camp, you will need to have the same mobility over uneven terrain, and be able to carry your personal bags to your campsite while doing so. Also, keep in mind that paths from your campsite to the toilet facilities would not be classified as “easy” to navigate at night.
We camp and eat lunch on sandy beaches and on areas where the ground is mostly dirt and rocks. You must also be capable of safely walking across slippery, rocky, and sandy areas as you climb on and off the boat and walk along the beach to your personally selected campsite each night.
Carry your own dry bag which will include your 20-pound duffle bag along with the sleeping bag and ground cover provided.
For most Idaho rafting trips, a gear boat will go ahead of the group and set up camp. On trips with fewer than 13 passengers, guests are required to carry their own waterproof bags with personal gear and the additional 15 pounds of camping gear to their individual campsite. This can be very difficult for some guests due to the uneven terrain, deep sand, and steep beaches.
A river trip is a participatory experience and requires each guest to be reasonably self-sufficient. Our guides will look after the safety and welfare of all the participants on the trip, but you are also responsible for your own safety! Our guides will provide you with the information and tools you need to participate; however, they already fill nearly every minute of their day performing their duties on behalf of the group. They will not be able to devote a lot of extra time to any one individual on the trip.
The nature of an outdoor adventure includes exposure to weather conditions such as heat, sun, wind or rain - sometimes in the extreme. With proper preparation procedures such as applying sunscreen, wearing the right clothing, etc., many of these factors of weather (even in the extreme) can be mitigated, and do not have to be a negative factor. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remoteness, and physical requirements of a rafting adventure.
Our trips are operated in the “backcountry.” At any given time, you will be a minimum of several hours away from medical help. Our guides are all trained in wilderness first aid and some have even higher levels of emergency response training (e.g., EMT), however, sometimes injuries or the aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions are severe enough to require evacuation from the trip. We carry satellite phones but they are not 100 percent reliable in all locations. An evacuation may present many challenges such as inclement weather, darkness, or delays based on when and where the evacuation is taking place.
What about hiking on the Middle Fork?
The Middle Fork River offers some of the best hiking opportunities of any river in the West. It only takes a short hike to get the feeling of this far removed wilderness. Some of this terrain is steep but leads to beautiful scenic views. You may find that some of your hikes on a Middle Fork trip will require scrambling or light climbing where you will need the use of your hands.
As we travel down river, we make occasional stops to lead “side hikes” which can be either very short and relatively easy, or much longer, covering significant distances and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and often steep surfaces. Though all the hikes are not mandatory, when the rafts are tied up in swift current, all guests must get off the rafts and move up the shore a distance. Guests cannot be left on the rafts due to safety concerns. Reasonable mobility is important. If you have questions about your limitations, please call.
Personal benefits of full (honest) health disclosure
We don’t want to be overly discouraging, but it is important for your safety and comfort that we be forthcoming about the specific challenges presented on a river trip. It is also vitally important that you disclose any and all physical, emotional, and mental conditions, limitations, or challenges you or your children may have. Likewise, it is important to be completely honest about the age and weight of children. Undisclosed medical or physical conditions might affect the safety and well-being of you and/or other participants on the trip. It is critical that you share this information with us in advance.We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety, or the suitability of a trip like this for you. For a participant who is not capable of meeting these criteria, a river trip, particularly a multi-day trip, can be unpleasant, dangerous, or even fatal. For those who meet these criteria, these trips are often the best experiences of their lives. The difference is in determining your suitability for a trip, then selecting the right trip for you, and arriving physically and mentally prepared to actively and joyfully participate in the experience.
We encourage you to carefully evaluate your overall physical, mental, and emotional condition in relation to these environmental challenges. If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
What's the best way to get physically fit for a rafting trip?
Physical fitness on a rafting trip is probably the very best way to get the most out of your adventure. Hiking to hidden attractions away from the river's edge, shooting rapids with anticipation rather than anxiety, and possibly even swimming in the river are among the more active things where being more fit will enhance your whitewater rafting vacation. Feeling confident with your abilities is always a great feeling, but the rewards you'll get from physically preparing your body for a rafting trip will pay off in numerous ways, possibly adding years to your life. Now THAT'S living! So, how does one best prepare physically for a rafting adventure? Great question. We've made a list of simple exercises that can be combined together and are specifically applicable to a rafting adventure:
Strength: Gripping ropes (or paddles) is one universal constant for any rafting trip. Start squeezing stress balls or spring-loaded grip strengtheners. Keep these small items handy (pun-intended) while stopped at a red light, working at the desk, or while walking and talking. Legs are another key area to focus on - especially if you want to explore the side trips away from the river's edge. Start with walks around your neighborhood while gripping hand weights to strengthen grip simultaneously. You might as well do some curls with those hands weights while you're at it! Some hikes require some (or a lot of) stair-stepping activity. To really get your legs ready, consider squats, burpees, jump-rope or jumping jacks. All the little muscles in your feet that give you balance will come in very handy (or is that footy)? while walking on uneven terrain.
Lungs & Heart: Breathing heavy is a sure sign your heart rate is up. You probably know lots of ways to get your heart rate up, but one of the best ways to work your entire body (muscles AND heart and lungs) is an exercise with a stupid name, called "Burpees." (No, that's not what you get from consuming a 7-11 Slurpee too fast). You can do burpees at any pace you are ready for, but do it long enough to get breathing hard, then catch your breath and repeat for, say 5 minutes a day. Add in walking your dog, using hand-grip weights or anything else that also strengthens your grip to be more time efficient as you prepare.
Flexibility: Sitting in a raft is different from how we normally sit in a chair. Walking on uneven terrain is different than on a paved path. Flexibility may be more important than strength in helping prevent injuries. Consider that when you absolutely don't want to exercise, but you do have a minute to stretch. Always be stretching.
Balance & Mental Awareness: Of course knowing your own limits is vital for keeping yourself safer - and that responsibility can't be placed on anyone but you! While exercising and preparing for your rafting trip, pay attention to two things: (1) Your own sense of physical balance, and (2) how much harder you can push yourself that you initially may have thought. These two things will keep you safer, while also moving beyond self-imposed limitations and comfort zones. That's the definition of a great adventure!
Drink lotsa water: Get used to drinking a lot of water as you exercise more. In the hot sun, even simply sitting on a raft, you will sweat and burn more calories than you may have thought. Hydration is not an area to "push through" and "be tough" about! Drink water! Reward that hard working body!
Swimming skills are a plus! Swimming is a great way to prepare for a rafting trip too. You may (voluntarily or involuntarily) be doing some swimming on your rafting trip. Don't let that scare you. You've got a lifejacket (PFD) on at all times and may only need to do some strokes and kicks to get yourself back to the boat, or to shore.
Myth #9 on our 11 Myths of Whitewater Rafting page dispels the notion that you must be athletic to enjoy a rafting trip. Take a look there if you want to learn more about what to expect on rafting vacations.
If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
If I'm pregnant, can I still go rafting?
If you are pregnant, you will not be permitted to go rafting. Our trips take place in remote wilderness settings where access to advanced medical care can be hours away (possibly overnight), and conditions such as extreme heat and vigorous activity can exacerbate discomfort and any known or unknown conditions.
Please remember that you will not always be pregnant, but the river will always be here. We do not believe it is worth the risk, no matter how early you are in your pregnancy. We think moms are special and hope you understand.
If you think there is a chance that you may be pregnant after making your deposit you should take out cancellation insurance that would have coverage to cancel for any reason or plan to have someone take your place. We offer the name change option for you or anyone in your party for $50 per person.
Can I bring a CPAP machine on the river?
If you use a CPAP machine, please ensure that you can complete the trip if your CPAP machine fails or your batteries don’t last. Medical evacuation is only available for severe injury or an imminently life threatening condition. You must be able to safely complete the trip without a working device! Please contact our office to advise us if you will be bringing a cpap machine on your trip. 1-801-942-6669
Thank you for carefully considering additional challenges that traveling with a CPAP requires on a multi-day backcountry camping and rafting expedition. It is important to us that you choose wisely, and come well prepared to self-sufficiently manage this need while camping in the backcountry.
Reservations & Cancellations
What deposit is required?
An initial deposit of $500 per person on a 5-day trip and $600 per person on a 6-day trip is required to secure your space. Deposits may be made by check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express).
Can I hold space without a deposit?
We are happy to put a courtesy hold on seats for a 48-hour period of time, we do not require a deposit at this time. Based on the timing of the courtesy hold prior to the trip departure, we may be able to extend the hold time.
When is final payment due?
Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable. Payment may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card.
How can I make payments?
You may make partial payments by credit card or check providing the full balance is paid 90 days prior to your trip. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date. For payments over $10,000 and for large international payments, a check or wire transfer is preferred.
What is the cancellation and refund policy?
An initial deposit of either $500 (on a 5-day trip) or $600 (on a 6-day trip) per person is required to secure your space. This deposit is non-refundable. Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable.
Our cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western River Expeditions will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early whether voluntary or caused by other circumstances. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, non-refundable airline tickets, or illness. Western River Expeditions assumes no financial responsibility for personal injury, emergency evacuation, or personal equipment lost or damaged in any way.
Your trip operator, ROW Adventures, reserves the right, either prior to or after departure, in its good-faith discretion and in circumstances that warrant it, to change or re-price any tour, trip, or expedition. This includes the possibility of moving to different river or river segment due to extreme water conditions, forest fires, road closures and/or acts of God. If we are not able to provide a substitute trip, river, or altered itinerary and have to cancel the departure completely, you will be allowed you to use the full value of your non-refundable payments as a credit for a future trip. ROW Adventures reserves the right to cancel trips that are below the trip minimum (usually 6 persons). All trip members will be notified a minimum of 30 days before the trip departs and will receive a full refund.
Some of the most difficult situations occur when a guest needs to cancel a few days before a trip because of an injury, a family illness, or some other catastrophic event. In these situations, we generally do not have time to refill the space. Yet, we have already spent considerable time, money, and energy preparing for your trip: scheduling vehicles, flights, drivers, guides and equipment, purchasing food, etc. Because of our short season and very limited number of available seats, we cannot afford the financial loss that cancellations cause. Therefore, consider the investment you are making in your vacation and whether or not you could afford the loss if you did have to cancel.
What about tips and gratuities?
Your guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. Gratuities for guides are appropriate, greatly appreciated and at your discretion, as a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. A suggested guideline is 10 percent of the trip cost. The common practice is to give the gratuity to the trip leader on the last night. It will later be divided equally with the rest of the crew. Paying in cash is the most common form of payment though you can always bring along a check and make it out to the trip leader.
Are departures guaranteed?
There is a minimum requirement of 6 passengers to confirm any launch. Not all travel dates are guaranteed.
How far in advance should I make my reservation
We will be able to take reservations a year in advance of a trip departure (the season prior). You can check availability and make your reservation online or call anyone in our office for availability and reservations. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is a popular rafting destination with limited commercial rafting permits. It is always good to think ahead when booking a Middle Fork trip.
What if the date I want is sold out?
If the particular date and trip are not available, we are happy to put your name on our waitlist in the event we should have a cancellation for that trip and date. Western River offers many other rafting destinations and we are happy to discuss other trips that would work as an option.
Groups & Charters
What is the maximum number of guests on this trip?
The maximum permitted capacity for a Middle Fork rafting trip is 23 passengers.
How many guests per raft?
On a Middle Fork trip, you will have your choice of rafting in an oar boat or paddle raft. An oar boat can take 4 guests with a guide comfortably. A paddle raft has a maximum capacity of 6 passengers and 1 guide. An oar boat is larger than a paddle raft and only has the guide do the rowing. In a paddle raft, all 6 guests and the 1 guide will have paddles.
What about group discounts?
Book 22 friends and/or family and the organizer (23rd passenger) will go for free!
What is the easiest way to get my friends booked on the same trip?
Call the Western River Expeditions main office at 800-453-7450 and we will discuss trip availability and help to set up your group rafting reservation.
What if I’m traveling solo?
Any river trip is a great experience for solo travelers. Meet like-minded, adventurous, new friends! On a Middle Fork rafting trip, we book pre and post river trip lodging separately. If traveling solo, keep in mind that those nights would incur a single supplement fee.
Traveling with Children
What is the age limit for this trip and is it flexible?
The minimum age on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River trip is 12 years old during high water, which is usually through the month of June. July through August trips have a minimum age of 7 years old. When the water is high and swift, the minimum age is carefully considered. With certain risks that occur on a rafting adventure, it is an ability to self rescue and have a level of maturity that matters most. Age limits are not flexible.
What if my kids are picky eaters?
You are welcome to bring along food items that your children prefer. Contact the office when making your reservation to go over specific food issues. There is a conscious effort to serve local foods on Middle Fork rafting trips. Hand selected fruits and vegetables are carefully packed for each trip along with meats and fresh dairy. Breakfast food offerings are eggs, pancakes, French Toast and cereals. Fruit juice is available at breakfast. Lunches generally include deli meats and peanut butter and jelly with cookies afterwards. Dinners will include appetizers, main dish and desserts, all cooked fresh.
Is this the best trip for younger children?
The Middle Fork rafting trip has a lot to offer for all ages. The best time for younger children to appreciate this river would be in July and early August. Water flows are slower and temperatures are much warmer. There are natural hot springs along the river to stop at and enjoy, amazing hikes to panoramic vistas and over 100 rapids of different levels. This river is unique in that it drops 3000 feet in elevation over a 100 mile stretch of river. You will also experience multiple climate changes. Make sure that your kids are ready for adventure and wilderness!
Preparing & Packing
What should I bring?
Each guest will be provided a trip specific packing list before the trip. Be prepared with layers to wear on the river and in camp. If you plan for cool days on the river, warm days on the river and time lounging in camp, you can let the canyon do the rest of the magic. All guests are given a large gear bag (16” in diameter and 33” tall) for their duffel bags and a day bag (9” in diameter and 20” tall) to use for smaller items like camera, sunscreen, necessary medications at the pre-trip orientation. Be prepared with your river clothes and personal hygiene items in a soft sided duffel bag approximately 12” x 13” x 24” in size. You will want to pack your gear bag the night prior to trip departure with your duffel bag so that you will be ready for the trip first thing in the morning.
Do I need a wetsuit or splash jacket?
On Middle Fork trips, wetsuits and booties are provided at no extra charge for trips departing June through July 6th. On all Middle Fork trips, you will want to come prepared with a splash jacket or rain gear (water can be chilly).
Can I bring my own life jacket or PFD?
Guests are not allowed to bring their own life jacket or PFD. Western River Expeditions is subject to regulations promulgated by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and State Parks. All three of these agencies require that guests of commercial outfitters wear Type V Whitewater life jackets. Personal life jackets are usually meant for lake sports and even Type III jackets, meant for kayaking or canoeing, are not acceptable for use by our guests.
Fortunately, the newer generations of Type V life jackets are very comfortable. They also have a lot more flotation than the typical personal jacket.
What about fishing on the river?
The Middle Fork of the Salmon provides outstanding fishing and is a world renowned destination for fishing. Salmon, steelhead, cutthroat, rainbow, and more are found here. The Forest Service regulates a strict catch-and-release for the Middle Fork. You will find that August and September offer better fishing, though any time of the season, you will find this a great place to fish from the shore or in an oar boat. Special guided fishing trips are organized around the end of August.
How should I be dressed the morning of my rafting trip?
You should be dressed ready to board the rafts. Wear what can get wet and dry quickly. You may want to wear a swimsuit with shorts and quick-dry shirt, have a sunhat with an under the chin strap or clip to your shirt, sunglasses with a retainer, footwear which can be worn on the raft and during the hikes, have your 2-piece rainsuit or splash jacket handy for your day bag.
What about sun protection?
Bring along plenty of sunscreen for any rafting trip. The air will be dryer in the West than you will find in many other climate zones. You will want to keep your skin hydrated and protected from the sun. Hats and sunglasses are very important items. A sarong or head buff can also protect you while in direct sun. Keeping your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also very important.
Am I able to charge my camera while on the river?
We are not able to supply battery backup or charging devices, you will want to bring along extra batteries or your own charging device.
How do I protect my belongings from getting wet?
Personal belongings for your multi-day rafting trip should be placed in a soft-sided duffle bag that will be stored away each day in a large, water tight, gear bag. This large gear bag is put on a sweep boat that will go ahead of your group each day and be waiting for you at camp. You will also have a smaller, day use dry bag to put items like sunscreen, camera, medications, lip balm, etc into. This bag will be with you each day on the raft.
What gear is provided with the trip?
All of the camping equipment is provided for a comfortable camping experience. You will be given a 2 man tent, ground cover, sleeping bags, flannel liner, pillow, Paco pads to sleep on, camp chairs, 1 gear bag and 1 day bag.
What do I do with extra luggage?
Any extra luggage that does not need to go with you on the river will be transported to the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon, Idaho and will be waiting for you when you get off of the river.
What if I need to take medications?
We will want to make careful note on our rosters about any medical conditions. Please let us know when making your reservation if you will need to have your medications kept in a cool place. You can carry your medications in your smaller, day bag if you need access during the day, otherwise you can put them away in your duffel bag to have while in camp.
On the River
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.
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.
The Great Outdoors
What can I expect at camp?
A typical day on the river will get you into camp around 4:00 pm. On the Middle Fork trips with 13 or more guests, you will commonly have a "Sweep Boat" or cargo raft that takes all tents, drybags and kitchen gear ahead on the river each day. An extra guide will set up camp each day before guests arrive after a day of rafting. Upon arrival into camp, you will find your dry bag on shore and you can pick a tent location and freshen up from your day on the river. (Note: In rare circumstances there may be a trip with less than 13 guests. In this case, a cargo raft may not be run. On these smaller trips, guests and gear travel together down the river. Guides are still happy to set up your tent if you like, or you may enjoy doing it yourself.) This is the time when you can play games, hike, fish or just relax. As the sun goes down, the night sky will amaze you with the billions of stars. The following morning, you will awaken to the smell of coffee and the sounds of your hard working guides preparing breakfast around 7:00 am. Once you have eaten and are ready for the day, everyone takes down their own tents and helps to pack up the rafts for another day of rafting. Departure on the water is around 9:30 am.
What are the sleeping arrangements during the trip?
Camping equipment for Middle Fork trips is provided, you only need to come prepared with your own personal belongings. Camping gear includes tents, self-inflating foam pads, sleeping bags, flannel liner, pillows and ground cover. Tents are roomy and will fit 2 guests with their dry bags. If you are a solo traveler, you will have your own tent. For most travelers, the option to sleep under the stars is the most desirable.
How do I bathe while on the river?
On many Idaho summer rafting trips, frequent swimming in the clear water leaves you feeling clean. For those guests who want to clean up, it is always done well above the river’s high water line. Bio-degradable soap does not go in the river. Solar showers will be available on most trips, the hot water is great for bathing.
What about bugs?
Mosquitoes are rare or nonexistent on a Middle Fork rafting trip. There are sometimes bees and flies and it's a good idea to bring some repellent. If you have a bee allergy be sure we know and bring your own medication. Snakes are also rare, especially during the heat of summer when they tend to come out only in the cool of night. They fear us more than we fear them and do a good job of staying out of sight.
What do I do with jewelry while on the river?
It is best to leave your jewelry behind. Rafting is an active vacation and jewelry often gets in the way. Earrings and necklaces can get caught on lifejackets. Rings can also cause injuries when you are holding on tightly to ropes.
Food & Beverage
What meals are provided with the trip?
The night prior to the trip departure will be dinner on your own. Breakfast on Day 1 is also on your own. Lunch and dinner on Day 1 will be provided on the river. Stanley, Idaho has restaurants and a grocery store to help you with your first 2 meals, dinner and breakfast. On river days, you will have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the river. Day 5 will have breakfast and lunch served on the river and a special farewell dinner is served in Salmon, Idaho.
What is the food like?
The quality of the food on an Idaho rafting trip reflects the quality of the wilderness environment of the river. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients, bountiful, healthy meals are prepared. Breakfasts will be balanced with fresh fruit juices, omelets, fruits and cereals. Lunches are a variety of sandwich Deli meats or chicken salad. Dinners include meals from fresh Alaskan Salmon to Prime Rib, side dishes, salads and delicious desserts cooked in Dutch ovens.
What beverages are supplied and what can I bring?
There will be juice, coffee, tea and cocoa each morning. During the day, there will be 2 complimentary sodas and beers per person, per day available and a limited supply of wine with dinner. You are welcome to bring along any additional drinks. No glass beer bottles please. Bottled wine is fine.
What about dietary restrictions or food allergies?
On multi-day river trips, our food service is limited by several factors:
We use a portable, camp-stove style, kitchen with a limited cooking surface and a limited supply of propane.
Our cold and dry food storage capacity is also limited because it all has to fit on the boats along with the camp gear and the guests.
Because we operate in remote, rural locations, many items are simply not available.
Our guides, who are also the cooks, are so busy with all of the tasks involved with running a river trip, that they do not have excess time to prepare special food requests. They strive to maximize the time spent hiking, rafting and enjoying the canyon with less time spent preparing food.
Within these limitations, we’ve crafted a menu that is designed to be prepared quickly and efficiently and to appeal to a large variety of tastes. All of our meals are served “buffet or family style” with any custom, per person preparation being limited to things like “how would you like your steak cooked” or “do you prefer your eggs scrambled or over-easy?”
While we try to accommodate some special dietary needs, we are not always able. If you have a specific food allergy or sensitivity, please let us know. If you have dietary restrictions based on a lifestyle choice or religious practice, please let us know. If your food allergy is severe, we need to have a more in-depth conversation about what can and cannot be done.
Please understand that we may not be able to completely meet your needs. However, we have found that most people find what they need from within our established menu.
The policy we have developed to maximize the common welfare of all guests on a river trip, and to allow our guides to focus their time and attention on critical aspects of a trip is that:
Guests may bring supplemental items if they do not require special preparation by our guides, or use of our cooking facilities. We will always have an ample supply of snacks, fresh fruits, vegetables, and side items to choose from. While our storage space is limited, we have both cold and dry storage available on our boats for any supplemental products you may bring.
We cannot absolutely guarantee your safety if your food allergy is severe enough to cause anaphylaxis. You must bring an adequate supply of your own Epipens to meet your needs. Please understand that one injection of an epipen will only last 10-20 minutes and that an evacuation from the river may take hours.
Please let us know of any special dietary needs well in advance. Special food requests made within two weeks of the trip launch date may not be able to be accommodated.
Can I bring my own food and snacks?
We bring a variety of snacks on every trip. As a general rule, snacks will be served mid-morning and mid-afternoon while traveling down river. If you would like to bring some of your own snacks, small, pre-packaged items are best. We can provide cold or dry storage. If you have special dietary needs, bringing some of your own snacks that work well for you is a great idea.
Travel & Logistics
When is the best time to travel?
Because the Middle Fork has no dams, the water is highest when early-summer warmth melts the snow from the high mountain peaks. Winter snowpacks affect each season’s water levels. In general, the river peaks in mid-to-late June. Early June to early July is the time to come if you want high water thrills. Mid-July brings somewhat lower flows as the bulk of the snowmelt has already runoff and novice rafters may be more comfortable joining us at this time. The river gradually lowers as the summer passes, bringing incredible clarity to the crystal waters. Late August and September are wonderful times to be on the river because few people are around and the colors of the hills become more radiant. This is also the best time to fish the Middle Fork.
What weather should I expect?
You'll find a wide variety of weather during the season on the Middle Fork. The weather in the northwest is unpredictable and you will want to come prepared for cold/wet weather and hot/sunny weather – sometimes all in the same day! For up to date, current weather forecasts, go to our website: Middle Fork Salmon River Weather. Your trip will span miles of river, with many different elevations, this forecast from the nearest major weather station may not be indicative of the entire region where your trip will take place. Weather in the canyon may vary greatly from the surrounding cities.
How do I get there?
There are 2 options for meeting for the Middle Fork trip. You can fly into Boise and book a round trip air taxi with Sawtooth Flying Service to Stanley. The following day after your last day on the river, you will then fly out of Salmon, Idaho back to Boise. You can also drive to Stanley, Idaho the night before your river trip and have your vehicle shuttled to Salmon while you are on the river. Your vehicle will be waiting for you when you get to the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon.
What transportation is provided with the trip?
Transportation to the river on the day of your trip launch from Stanley, Idaho to Boundary Creek put in and transportation from the takeout at Cache Bar to Salmon, Idaho to the Stagecoach Inn is all included in the base price of your trip. Should there be high or low water at the put in at Boundary Creek, a flight is required to get to the launch site at Indian Creek, that is an additional fee, call the office at 800-453-7450 for pricing.
What accommodations are recommended before and after the trip?
You will meet at the Mountain Village Lodge in Stanley, Idaho the night prior to rafting for your orientation meeting. Accommodations will be made for you there and added to your reservation. After your river trip, all guests are taken to the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon, Idaho. Rooms are booked for you there as well and added to your reservation.