Raft the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

100 miles -3294 ft gain  - Point-to-Point Trail

Added by Dusty Klein

Raft 100 miles of whitewater up the gut of Idaho's Frank Church Wilderness on the River of No Return. This raft trip is described as second-best to the Grand Canyon... and for good reason. Enjoy an entire week of world-class wildlife viewing, hot spring soaking, beach camping, whitewater rafting, and much more.

If you're looking for an all-around start-to-finish epic adventure, rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River arguably checks off more boxes than any other trip in the world.

This adventure of a lifetime can be enjoyed two different ways: privately and commercially. We've been lucky enough to draw private permits the last two seasons, but if you're not as fortunate or aren't buddies with any river guides, there are various outfitters in Idaho that will make your experience down the river an amazing one (just don’t expect to set up your own tent).

The put-in for the float is at Boundary Creek Campground outside of Stanley, Idaho. For you out-of-towners, flying into the Boise airport and driving the three hours up Hwy. 21 is your best bet.

There’s really no such thing as a bad camp spot on the Middle Fork. Each camp along the 100 mile stretch is different, but some feature sandy beaches, sweet hikes, and good fishing and swimming holes. Some camps even have hot springs in or near them. Geothermal pools are scattered all along the first 60% of the river. Some of our favorites are Trail Flat, Sunflower, Hospital Bar, and Big Loon.

The whitewater is mainly class II’s and III’s at lower water in the summer months, but there are a few hairy areas and class IV rapids that should be scouted before attempting. Pistol Creek, House of Rocks, and Cramer Creek among others are rapids that will get your heart pumping.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon lays within the most remote area of the lower 48. With this comes the obvious safety considerations, but also awesome wildlife viewing. During our week we saw a fox, big horn sheep, elk, deer, bald eagles, cutthroat and chinook salmon, and a rattlesnake. On our drive out we even saw a moose taking a drink from the river.

Other attractions during the week include cliff jumping, fishing, and exploring petroglyphs carved into rock by the Sheepeater Indians before the 1800’s. The Middle Fork guidebook by Matt Leidecker was our bible for the week and it goes into great detail about the history of tribes on the river and the geology of the area in addition to a mile-by-mile rundown of the float. This is the guidebook you want.

There’s nothing like a cold beer after packing up all of your gear at the Cache Bar take-out, so don’t forget to stop at Bertram’s in Salmon, Idaho for their ever-delicious Borah Brown.

I could talk forever about our trip and would love to answer any questions you may have about yours. For more general information about permits, rules, and news check out the Forest Service website here.

Idaho is too beautiful to litter or disrespect. Please pack out what you pack in and follow proper LNT policies when visiting the wilderness. Also, be aware of wildfires in the region and take proper precautions in your own camp to prevent them.

Happy rafting! 

Read More


Family Friendly
Hot Springs
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 


🥇Top Contributor

over 2 years ago

Trip of life time everytime

Trips don’t get anymore epic than the Middle Fork. It’s what keeps people returning year after year. Can’t wait to make another return trip here!!

Stay Nearby

Stanley, Idaho

Cape Horn Winter Rental

Overview Cape Horn Winter Rental is located in beautiful Elk Meadow, approximately 16 miles northwest of Stanley, in central Idaho. It sits at an elevation of 6,660 feet. Guests enjoy the area for ...

Cascade, Idaho

Elk Creek Cabins

Overview Elk Creek Cabins are open from November through April, offering a rustic retreat for winter sports enthusiasts. Guests must be prepared to snowmobile, snowshoe or ski at least 15 miles fro...

Lowman, Idaho

Bull Trout

Overview Bull Trout Campground is located on the shores of beautiful Bull Trout Lake at an elevation of 6,900 feet. The lake offers great fishing and canoeing opportunities. Many trails for hiking,...

Stanley, Idaho

Trap Creek Campground

Overview Trap Creek Campground is located in a beautiful valley at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountain Range in central Idaho. Recreation Trap Creek is situated in the Sawtooth National Recreation Ar...

Nearby Adventures

  • Backpack to Marten and Kelly Lakes

    The Sawtooth mountain range consists of hundreds, maybe thousands, of small, crystal clear lakes. Because of the sheer number of lakes, there are many destinations where the foot traffic is considerably low. Most weekend packers will stick to the ...

    10 miles

  • Ski or Snowshoe the Park Creek Trails

    Over Galena Summit, approximately 75 miles north of Ketchum, Park Creek is supported by Sawtooth Ski Club and the City of Stanley, Idaho. One of two groomed Nordic trail systems in the Stanley Basin, Park Creek has some of the best terrain and con...

    10 miles 130 ft gain

  • Hike from Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls

    Bridalveil Falls [Video] The hike to the falls begins near Stanley Lake in a clearly marked trailhead parking lot (GPS coordinates below).  From the parking lot there is a short walk up a dirt road where the trail breaks off at a sign for Bridalve...

    7.9 miles 570 ft gain

  • Paddle on Stanley Lake

    Stanley Lake is an Idaho alpine lake located at the base of the magnificent Sawtooth Mountains in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The lake is about 7 miles from the historic town of Stanley, Idaho and just over an hour from popular Sun Vall...

  • Visit Idaho

    Idaho is a picturesque state filled with beautiful scenery and warm, wonderful people. It's an ideal destination for family travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, or those just looking for a relaxing getaway.

    Learn More