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View Full Version : Finally ... got to run the Middle Fork Salmon river.



J P
06-19-2009, 06:12 PM
First time for me. Still buzzín. Anyone else here run it?

Iíve been entering the permit lottery for years trying for the much coveted private permit. No luck. This winter when things were looking especially bleak, a friend with an outfitting business offered an ďat costĒ deal that was hard to pass up. He had openings in the spring schedule and wanted to keep the guides busy. Four of us signed on and I thought it was going to be a small group of maybe 6-8 but they ended up with 19 plus crew. Iím not really into these catered-to commercial trips but the price was right and Iíve really wanted to get on this river. No regrets, great trip, but too short at four days. It is past peak flow but still fairly big water now. Later when the water level drops theyíll do six day trips. Iíd like to take the 8 days allowed during the permit season.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Middle_Fork_of_the_Salmon_River
100 mile run and drops 3000 feet. Second deepest river canyon in the US. (I wonder how they measure canyon depth?) Lots of class III+ whitewater and some solid IVís. We had a fair amount of rain and as we dropped lower in the canyon the runoff was really pumping things up.

I had planned to bring a hardshell kayak and I have a mix of regret and relief that I didnít. Most of it looked like a lot of fun and some looked almost, well, challenging Ö terrifying. I guess my adrenaline requirements are dropping with age. Maybe, hopefully, getting smarter as the inverse. I had inquired to see if anyone else was going to be kayaking with us and they said no so I decided against bringing mine. Didnít want to be a PITA wanting to stop and scout stuff and there are safety issues. Turns out another fellow did bring a kayak but only paddled one day. He probably would have done more if someone else was with him so that was kind of a bummer for both us. Still, it was kind of nice just going along for the ride. I did do the paddle raft a couple days but thatís pretty mindless too.

No route decisions, no food planning or preparing, no dishes to do, no breaking camp, packing boats, no dealing with the groover Ö just had to remember where I set my beer and whether to go sit in a hotspring again. Tedious. The fisher people did have to fret over their flies but they enjoy that sort thing anyway. Quite the caddis and stonefly hatches going off.

Bob Myers
06-19-2009, 06:29 PM
I went on the middle fork in '92. It was a low water year, so we flew into Indian Creek from Salmon, ID. It was a private trip. I was just talking to our daughter about that trip this afternoon. We have a 20 year old grandson, who's a white water kayaker, and is trying to get on as a guide this summer. He's gone down the middle fork of the American, here in California, several times this month. I remember stopping at a couple of hot springs along the way. Unlike you we all pitched in on the work. When we hit our camp for the night, the first thing that came out was the booze to get us in the mood for cooking. I think I gained weight on that trip.

Phillip Allen
06-19-2009, 06:37 PM
I lived up in Idaho Falls one year...my shipmates were occasionally killing themselves in that river...

J P
06-19-2009, 06:42 PM
Unlike you we all pitched in on the work. When we hit our camp for the night, the first thing that came out was the booze to get us in the mood for cooking. I think I gained weight on that trip.

Bob, I really prefer that style of trip - pitching in on the work. We ate well. Too well.

I think I'll put in for mid July or later permits from now on and try to take the full 8 days allowed. So much to explore in that country.

J P
06-19-2009, 06:44 PM
Geez, sorry to hear that Phillip. It can certainly be dangerous. We had a little "carnage" that last day but everyone is OK. Scary though.

Phillip Allen
06-19-2009, 06:46 PM
Geez, sorry to hear that Phillip. It can certainly be dangerous. We had a little "carnage" that last day but everyone is OK. Scary though.


way back in 1970

Fitz
06-19-2009, 08:52 PM
Sorry, we can't believe it until we see pictures......:p

John Bell
06-19-2009, 11:12 PM
Got a private permit on my first try in the lottery. Did it in '92 I think... don't exactly remember now. If someone is looking for a good thing to put on their bucket list, the MFS would be a good one.

J P
06-20-2009, 01:09 AM
Sorry, we can't believe it until we see pictures......:p

Get'n there. Might be a day or three until I have time. After a quick look-see I'm not sure I have anything without water drops on the lens. I shot more video than stills and the two days I was paddling I didn't shoot much of anything at all. Shame, cause it's a spectacularly rugged, dynamic and colorful place. Lots of critters too. Another reason I'd like to do a slower trip. We did 40 miles one day.

David G
06-20-2009, 02:23 AM
Many years ago my wife & I went with some friends who worked for the Forest Service. They lived in Challis. We only went for a day, so didn't see the worst of it. But what we saw was stunningly beautiful, as well as exhilarating.


"If you live to be 100, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age" -- George Burns

Sailman58
06-21-2009, 04:58 PM
I did the trip back in the 70's. The Sierra club would buy out a commercial trip and offer it to their members at a good rate. I think the companies liked the idea because all the boatmen had to do was run the boats and cook. We all supplied our own gear and tentage. We also foraged for wood for the cook fire, but that could also be the case on a commercial trip.

Ron

openboater
06-21-2009, 05:09 PM
Congrats, you'll remember it forever.

I can't remember which branch of the Salmon my hero Doc Blackadar is buried on.

J P
06-21-2009, 06:20 PM
I did the trip back in the 70's. The Sierra club would buy out a commercial trip and offer it to their members at a good rate. I think the companies liked the idea because all the boatmen had to do was run the boats and cook. We all supplied our own gear and tentage. We also foraged for wood for the cook fire, but that could also be the case on a commercial trip.

Ron

I heard that the Forest Service might implement a ďuse is or lose itĒ policy with the outfittersí launch dates, i.e. if they donít launch a trip on one of their given dates they will lose it the following year. And forever I guess. Not good for the outfitters, BUT, if theyíre not booked up they can ďsellĒ those trips to a private group. Not sure how the details work but it would open up more opportunities for private boaters to get on. Unless the economy really tanks further, I canít imagine the prime season dates not booking. For the season fringes this arrangement could be a good thing.

One of the things that gave this trip some depth for me was that two of the guides, brothers, are the sons of some friends of mine who also used to guide. I remember when both boys were born and now they were these young men cartín me down this river. Good to see them taking on some pretty serious responsibilities and living so actively. One of them has worked in our shop a bit but just didnít seem Ďengagedí with things in that environment. Out there though he really seemed in his element. Good stuff. In Idaho you canít get guide certification until youíre 18 but all those guys started training way before that. Not a lot of time for goofing around, theyíre working from 6:00am to 11:00pm. Some of them work the hunting camps in the fall too, and while itís hard work, I think itís less hectic for them than the river trips and theyíre dealing with a lot less clients per trip.



Congrats, you'll remember it forever.

I can't remember which branch of the Salmon my hero Doc Blackadar is buried on.

South Fork of the Payette I think. I actually know some folks that boated with him.

The history and personalities on these rivers is fascinating.
Those early sweep boat operators had some brass ones.