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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

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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.

Season:

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.

Permits:

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 January, 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 Recreation.gov.

Flying Into the Middle Fork:


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Unloading gear at Indian Creek Guard Station: Photo copyright Todd Hoffman 2023


If flows at Boundary Creek are too low, another option is to fly your crew and gear into Indian Creek guard station. Indian Creek is located roughly 25 miles below Boundary Creek. It is generally required to fly in the day before your launch. The airstrip sits around 100 vertical feet above the river, which can make for a lot of work getting gear from the airstrip to the water. While there is a primitive log slide for getting boats down, other gear like dry boxes and coolers must be lugged down by hand. There is plenty of camping on the beach at Indian Creek.

Key Places:


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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:

Camps on the Middle Fork are pre-assigned the day before your launch in a round robin process. The camp assignement meetings is held each day at 4:30 PM. In the process, groups randomly draw "choosing order" numbers out of a hat. The group with #1 goes first in choosing a camp for the first night, followed by each group in sequential order. For the next night's camp, group 2 chooses first, and group 1 moves to last place, etc. The process repeats until all nights camps are assigned. Bear in mind that even if you get to draw first, your preferred choice may not be available, so be prepared with several options for each night. You can also request layover camps in this process when its your turn to choose.

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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