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Guide to planning a Middle Fork River trip....without an outfitter


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The Middle Fork is one of the most beautiful, diverse, challenging, and famous river destinations.  People travel from all around the world to experience the spectacular Impassable Canyon and wet their lines in pursuit of native cutthroat trout.  Depending on the water level, it can be a raging whitewater hurdle or a technical dodge.

One of the most important, and sometime unnoticed, roles of a Middle Fork river guide is to respect and protect the incredible river resource.  When you arrive at your camps they appear untrammeled, and you will encounter many delicate cultural and ecological specimens.  The pristine nature of the Middle Fork is no accident, and it is important that if you are passing through the Middle Fork canyon without an outfitter you educate yourself on the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Leave No Trace Policy!

Here is some basic information to help you prepare for a private trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River without an outfitter like Solitude River Trips:

LOCATION & NEAREST TOWNS

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River runs over 100 miles through the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.  This is one of the most rugged and remote areas in the contiguous United States.  The town of Stanley, ID is the closest jumping off point for people traveling to the Middle Fork.  Riverwear, River 1, and McCoy's Tackle are some stores in Stanley that are full of friendly people who have lots of information for boaters and fishermen/women.  At the end of your trip, the closest major town to the take out is Salmon, ID.

 

ACCESS

The two most common launch points are Boundary Creek/Dagger Falls Road (which is the only road access launch point for the Middle Fork), and Indian Creek (public airstrip at mile 22).  The elevation at Boundary Creek is ~5,800 ft.  The other two commonly used public landing strips along the Middle Fork are Thomas Creek (mile 33) and Bernard Cr. (mile 64).  Indian Creek is typically used in the spring when the Boundary Creek road is still snowed-in, or during extreme high/low flows.

 

SEASONS

The most popular time to float the Middle Fork is during late June  to early August.  The Highest flows are typically the first week in June, but flood stages can begin in May and last well into June on big snow pack years.  The road into Boundary Creek usually opens around this same time of the year.  You can call the Middle Fork Ranger District for road condition updates.  Typically by the last week in July, the water is getting “low”, and by the end of August, a flight into Indian Creek to launch your trip may be the advisable choice.  The Middle Fork is floatable through October, but ice becomes a potential danger in November.

To get a grasp on how to read the river gage (located at mile 32), click here: MY EXCELLENT RESOURCE PAGE FOR WATER LEVELS, FLOW PREDICTIONS, AND AVERAGE TEMPS ON THE MIDDLE FORK!!

 

PERMITS AND REGULATIONS

The Middle Fork is permitted and regulated by the Salmon Challis National Forest and the ID Fish and Game.  To make a reservation, you need to go through the rec.gov system.  Because there is significantly more demand than the regulated use capacity, you will need to enter into a lottery system on Rec.gov to be drawn for the date you want.  Make sure to have your reservation in the lottery before December.  Once you have your reservation confirmation, you need to get your permit at the guard station before launching for your trip.  Don’t miss you meeting the previous afternoon at 3:30 if you  when you select your assigned camps.

If you are fishing or hunting, make sure to observe all ID Fish and Game Regulations.  Will will need a license which you can buy in Stanley, ID at McCoy’s Tackle shop.

The Middle Fork is in a Wilderness Area, as well as a Wild and Scenic River corridor.  This means that it is regulated with a leave no trace policy.  The Forest Service representative at your launch point will give you a briefing on the Leave No Trace policy.  You will need a fire pan, groover, and a way to carry your trash with you.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

The best guide book for rowing the Middle Fork is Matt Leidecker’s “The Middle Fork of the Salmon River: A Comprehensive Guide”

Another excellent history book is Cort Conley’s “The Middle Fork: A Guide”

Salmon Challis National Forest's Wilderness User's Guide


September Foliage


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Another September full of incredible fly fishing on the Middle Fork has come and gone like a fleeting peek at an otter playing in the cold river current.

 

Sandwiched between the hedonistic heat of August and the inclement deluge of October, September is the magnificent window of opportunity for any fly fisherman/woman seeking solitude, comfortable relaxation, and really really fantastic fly fishing. 

  

 

The most spectacular change of colors in the Idaho wilderness is not the flaming yellow of the cottonwoods, nor the blazing red ninebark covering the rugged hillsides.  It happens in the river.  As the cutthroat trout embrace the relief of cold water with aggressive hysteria, their bodies respond with a display of jaw dropping coloration.  Their whole being is engulfed in the seasonal gorging and migration.

  

 

A huge part of our September trips is the sporting camaraderie only found in the wilderness!  Siblings, spouses, friends, guides, and our solitary selves re-identify in amazing ways on a 6 day fly fishing trip.

  

  

  

 

Enjoy these wonderful photos courtesy of Kat Smith Photography

 

 

A huge thanks to our fantastic guides and fantastic guests

for making this September such a successful and magical fishing season!!!

-Willi and Kat (and Brooke)

 

 

 


Greatest Guides Under the Summer Sun


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We hear it all - from the phenomenal food, to the unforgettable sunsets - but the most consistent praise we get, without fail, is for our guides.  Nobody can help raving about the amazing people who escort them down the beautiful Middle Fork of the Salmon River.  Guides are everything!  Without them we would be just another river company.  They are the blood in Solitude's veins, they are the reason why people come back.  So here's to Solitude's solid dudes!! Cheers fellas, and thank you from the bottom of our big ol' Solitude heart!! 

    

 

Here's what people are saying:

1. The guides were all good at learning and using the clients names.  2. Paddled with Barker...he was very good and knowledgeable.  3. Mike was very helpful volunteering to teach my grandson to fly fish.  4. Trip had a lot of rain but the guides and camp jacks did a great job of taking care of the clients. -John.V. D.

 

         

 

"​The guides were incredible.. helpful all day and working /cooking … morning and night. Looking back , I’m even more impressed with how well they work as a team.. getting everything done so efficiently… and in good spirits.  You run a great organization." -Kevin T

 

 

​"The guides were outstanding and I really appreciated that they were older." -Estie H

 

  

 

"For me, I fly fished all day every day and made memories I will never forget, but the most impressive part was the ability of the staff to make each day seem effortless.  From packing and moving gear, to answering questions, providing fishing insight, to making sure that perfect picture was taken, I could not have asked for more."  -Cole M

 

 

"Secondly the phenomenal service by your guides.   They took great care of my "city dweller" family without ever being dismissive, or disrespectful of our ignorance of camping/rafting/fishing.   They treated my daughters with extreme care (as a parent there's no greater service)." -Oskar V

 

    

  

  

 


Watercolor


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It's always astounding to witness the wilderness' boundless inspiration manifesting through creative travelers!  This July we were fortunate to host Char and her paint on the Middle Fork.

We set up an "art boat" for her, and her paintbrush was busier than DK's oars! 

    

 

Enjoy some of her colorful work:

    

         

 

 

Char in her element beside Camas Creek:

 

 


River Celebrations!


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We kicked off our 2015 season with a wonderful trip full of birthdays, anniversaries, kids, hiking, and lots of swimming (even in June!!)

 

Ellie and Scott compete in the family standing broadjump championship at "Stateland Right" campsite.

 

  

We all celebrate in different ways: Barry celebrates his 49th birthday with 49 pushups (and gets some others to join in too!), meanwhile Red and Shuron celebrate their 34th anniversary by relaxing at the "top end" of the Middle Fork.

 

    

During a quick hike across Sunflower Flat on the old Hood Ranch homestead, we found a magnanimous "bachelor group"  of Bighorn Sheep Rams.  Our riverside stroll worked up such an appetite that was soon quelled by hydrating fruits and other such decadences.

 

  

Exemplary fishing guide Roger Goth teaching the girls how to catch native westslope cutthroat trout (left), and a group of paddlers driving though Pistol Creek Rapid (right).

 

3 princesses enjoying the "Princess Boat"

 

 

 

 


Loon Creek


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These photos are from a recent fly fishing adventure into the headwaters of Loon Creek, the 2nd largest tributary of the Middle Fork.

     

The Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness essentially consists of three immense drainages: The Main Salmon River, The Middle Fork of the Salmon (largest tributary of the Salmon River), and Big Creek (largest tributary of the Middle Fork).  Each of these dominating watersheds has countless tributaries and feeder creeks.

As we float the Middle Fork we gain spectacular views from the bottom of the canyon, but the headwaters of the tributaries remain hidden from sight.  When we get an opportunity to hike just a small distance up from the bottom of the river canyon, we get a perspective of how vast and massive these trout fisheries really are.

       

Fly Fishing is a great excuse to learn about yourself, your friends, strangers, and new places.  Countless trails, scrambles, swims, and tight lines are just waiting out there...and all in the name of fly fishing!

   

Each tributary has its own distinct vibe which is defined by the particular section of Idaho Batholith which it has whittled over last 6 million years.  And each with its own human history as well.

     

    

 

Cheers and reflection:

  


Sandals and Shooting Stars


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Spring has flown by as the days lengthen, the rivers swell, and the mountains turn green.  Oenothera, shooting star, and lupine are popping up almost as fast as the tevas, keens, and chacos.  Soon Solitude’s guide community will be amassing from across the west for their seasonal pilgrimage to Idaho’s wilderness.  Snow cat drivers, teachers, ski patrollers, butchers, and nurses are coming out of their retreats for another long awaited season on the Middle Fork.

 

    

 Sandals and shooting stars: wildflowers and river guides return to Idaho

As I gear up, I can’t help thinking how great last season was.  Thanks again to all of our wonderful guests for making it such a success!  The two most important parts of a great river trip are great guides and great guests.  I am so grateful that Solitude has both of these, and we are looking forward to meeting new faces this summer as well as welcoming back some familiar ones!

Contact Details

Solitude River Trips
PO Box 6614
Ketchum, ID 83340
Orvis endorsed fly-fishing expedition

"Une magnifique expérience dans un milieu sauvage unique aux USA. Je la recommande vivement à tous les amoureux de la nature, du rafting (très belles descentes!), de la pêche à la mouche (belles truites saumonées aussi)" - Vanessa T, Paris