Monday Aug 31st -The Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows 106 miles northeast through one of the deepest gorges in North America before joining the Main Salmon River. The Middle Fork was one of the original 8 rivers in the US designated as ‘Wild and Scenic’ in 1968. It originates about 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho at an elevation of 7,000 feet and drops over its course to 3,900 feet. It flows through a wilderness area that totals 2.5 million acres – the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness- which encompasses the entire Salmon River and its tributaries.
The Middle Fork is characterized by fun, splashy whitewater with 100 named rapids class II – IV (though the rapids that we would encounter would be smaller, but more technical, due to lower water levels). We were missing the first 35 miles of whitewater, and some of the earlier, large rapids. We would also be starting at a somewhat lower elevation, though still high enough to bring cooler – at times, very chilly – temperatures.
As we started out, we took in the beauty of the river and bluffs.
Fred and I were in the raft with David ‘Koni’ Konigsberg as our guide.
The water was wonderfully clear and cool (cold!).
At times, the water was so shallow that our raft barely scrapped over the rocks, occasionally getting stuck. No big deal, Koni just had to jump out and push!
We stopped for an early lunch then took a short hike up the hill to view rock paintings left by the native peoples that once lived here.
Archaeologists have identified over 120 archaeological sites, many with rock art. We would stop and explore several of these sites along the way.
It gives you a sense of oneness with the canyon and the river to imagine the people who lived here so many years ago.
On this rafting trip, we did not have the option of a paddle raft, but ROW had brought along 4 inflatable kayaks, or ‘duckies’, that we could try out. The guides mentioned that these first couple of days on the river would have smaller rapids and would be ideal for those who wanted to give the duckies a try.
Fred decided to try out one of the duckies.
And really got the hang of it, gliding through the first small rapids with no problem!
I wasn’t ready for the duckies, just yet, deciding to hang out on the raft and take pictures.
Our first night on the river we camped around mile 46 at Whitie Cox Camp.
Whitie Cox was a miner who died in a rock fall while prospecting in 1954. Cox was buried at this site, and was later given a military burial and headstone in recognition of his military service. Note- the headstone and all those who participated in the service had to be flown in and floated down the river. No roads connect to this site.
We quickly established a camp routine. We would arrive at a chosen campsite around 4:30 pm.These were all assigned ahead of time, no fighting over which group would stay where.
The guests were responsible for all of our personal gear – our day bag and our overnight dry bag which held our sleeping bag and clothes.
Tents were unloaded and we each picked out a suitable spot and pitched our own tents, though the guides were always there to help if needed.
The tents were very spacious – a 4 person tent for 2 people. We could lay out our sleeping pads and bags and have room for all of our ‘stuff’ beside us.
While we were busy setting up our tents and arranging our stuff, the guides were busy with food preparation. The efficiency of their kitchen routine was amazing to watch!
Each evening, drinks and snacks were set out for a social hour before dinner was served.
We looked forward to a glass of wine and a chance to relax after a day on the river.
After an amazing dinner – tonight we had salmon and tortellini and salad -
We sat and enjoyed a beautiful evening before tucking into our tent.