100 Miles Of Solitude Looking to float your boat? On the Middle Fork of Idaho's Salmon, it's all downstream

June 27, 2004

You could put up with the two-year waiting list to run the
Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, or you could make the
wiser choice and hop on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River this
summer. The mighty Middle Fork is Idaho's premier stretch of
whitewater on the Salmon, the longest dam-free river in the
continental U.S.

Part of the 2.4-million acre Frank Church River of No Return
Wilderness, the Middle Fork sets the standard for the summer
river experience. The slalom ride starts with pockets of hot
springs, swoops through a changing landscape of alpine meadows to
dense sage hillsides and descends into the narrow granite gorge
of the Impassable Canyon.

After your put-in at Boundary Creek, the only way out of the
Middle Fork is to ride the 100-plus Class I-IV rapids the 100
miles down to Cashe Bar. There's no vehicle access, and no
motorized boats are allowed on the crystal-clear waters of the
Middle Fork, a plus for adventure seekers drawn to the solitude
of the river and for anglers fishing for Westslope cutthroat
trout. Less serious-minded sojourners can charter a $355 private
plane to bring beer in to the Flying Bee Ranch along the

PLANNING AHEAD Season runs from June through September for
whitewater aficionados. With 26 outfitters plying the Middle
Fork, check the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association for the
best deals (ioga.org). The Forest Service also issues private
permits for fishing and rafting for the peak season by lottery
(www.fs.fed.us/r4/sc/passes). To reach the Middle Fork, fly to
Boise and drive 130 miles northeast on Highway 21 to Stanley.

OTHER ACTIVITIES If you tire of roughing it in tents, stay at the
Middle Fork Lodge, a five-star retreat along the river accessible
only by single-engine plane. It offers horseback riding,
fly-fishing and hiking (877-468-6635, middleforklodge.com).

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE BLY/IDAHO STOCK IMAGES SALMON ROLL The Middle Fork boasts some of the West's mostinteresting surprises, including Pistol Creek Rapid. COLOR MAP MIDDLE FORK Stanley, Idaho