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Impassable Canyon from Elk Bar - Photo Copyright Todd Hoffman - 2023

Middle Fork of the Salmon River: Boundary Creek to Cache Bar


Photo Copyright Todd Hoffman 2023

Update - September 2023:

In late August of 2023 a major storm event hit the upper Middle Fork causing severe blowouts between Boundary Creek and Indian Creek. Debris flows significantly altered several rapids including Sulfur Slide, Ram's Horn and Velvet Falls. A massive river-wide log jam also formed just above Velvet Falls that completely blocks the river. Video: 2023 Middle Fork Blowouts

USGS Gauge - Middle Fork and Middle Fork Lodge:

Flow Information:

The gauge for the Middle Fork is located near the Middle Fork Lodge at river mile 35,a little over 1/3 of the way down the run. Flows around 1.6 feet are generally considered bear minimum to launch from Boundary Creek. Below 1.6, most people start flying into Indian Creek (located 25 miles below Boundary Creek). While it is possible to launch from Boundary at flows under 1.6, its an option that should not be considered by the faint of heart.

The average rafter might consider flows in the 2.5 to 3.5 feet range to be optimal, providing plenty of coverage and fun but foregiving rapids. As levels pass 5' the Middle Fork should only be considered by expert boaters with plenty of big water experience. Several rapids start flipping boats, and swims can be extremely long and dangerous. Flows in the 7 foot range are considered extreme.


Depending on conditions, people start running the Middle fork in early May, continuing into late September and October. Peak run off tends to occurs during the last week May, exceeding 10,000 CFS (7 feet). A few large spikes in flow are common during runoff. In most years, the road into Boundary Creek opens around the first week of June. Before the road opens, it is possible to launch on Marsh creek, and boat down to Boundary Creek, but this involves either running or portaging Dagger Falls, a major class V rapid. Note that as of 2023, Marsh Creek has been plagued by dangerous wood. Its an option that should only be considered by experts, and is best suited to kayaks.


The lottery control season on the Middle Fork runs from May 28 to September 3. Outside of this window, permits are issued on a first come, first served basis. Seven launches per day are allowed on the Middle Fork. On average four launches go to private groups and three to commercial groups. The lottery application period is open from December through Janurary, with results announced on February 14. For prime dates, drawing odds exceed 400 to 1, making the Middle Fork one of the hardest permits to draw in the United States. Permits are issued through


The put in is located at Boundary Creek.

Key Places:


Middle Fork Salmon

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Planning Tools:

Blackadar Boating: Shuttles and Equipment Gem Air: Air Charter Service - Salmon, Idaho Middle Fork Camps: Camp Assignment Process Middle Fork Camps: Most Recent List Stagecoah Inn Hotel - Salmon, Idaho USGS Gauge: Middle Fork at Middle Fork Lodge


Camps on the Middle Fork are pre-assigned the day before your launch in a round robin process. The round robin meeting is held at 4:30 each day. In the meeting, groups are randomly assigned an order. Group 1 will go first to request a camp for the first night and then each group chooses their campsite in order. Once all the first night’s camps are assigned, Group 2 will choose first for the second night, Group 1 moves to the last position, and groups all select their campsite in order. Once all the second night’s camps are assigned, Group 3 will choose first for the 3rd night, Group 2 moves to the last position, and so on.

For a more detailed explanation of the camp assignment process see this article from the US Forest Service. Capacity figures in the below list are for low water only. Also, the list may not contain the most current information on available camps. Click here for a downloadable list from the US Forest Service with the most up to date information on camps.

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