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Rowing Your Own Raft on the Middle Fork

We enjoy having “row-your-owns” along our Middle Fork of the Salmon River trips but have had some challenges in the past that have affected the safety and quality of our trips. Below are some frequently asked questions to be sure that rowing your own boat is the right thing for you and everyone on the trip.

Can I row my own raft on a Northwest Rafting Company Middle Fork trip?


Our goal is for all of our guests to have the most enjoyable trip possible on the Middle Fork. That means managing the needs and safety of the entire group. In order to row your own boat, you must have adequate river skills and also have the ability to work seamlessly within the group dynamic.

What is it like to row down the Middle Fork?

The Middle Fork has a steady current for the entire 100 miles, and boatman are continuously avoiding obstacles. There are tons of class III rapids and at some flows, challenging class IV rapids. It is a physically demanding river for rowers. You rarely get to kick your feet up and relax when you’re rowing on the Middle Fork.

Rowing the Middle Fork of the Salmon through the Impassable Canyon
Rowing the Middle Fork of the Salmon through the Impassable Canyon

You will be expected to navigate the rapids safely and keep up with the pace of the group which covers between 15-25 miles per day. We will sometimes scout some big rapids, but you should feel very comfortable reading water and following the line of the guided boat in front of you.

What if I am unsure if I can row the entire river?

NWRC Rowing SchoolYou’ll need to hire one of our guides as a rowing instructor. This guide will be with you the entire trip to give you information about the rapids, rowing tips, and can take-over if you are unable to keep up with the group. A rowing instructor is typically an extra $3800 charge.

We are very proud of our whitewater rowing schools and the professionalism and knowledge of our instructors. It is common for students from our rowing schools to row a boat along one of our trips under the watchful eyes of a rowing instructor.

How do I get my boat to put-in?

You are responsible for getting your boat to the river. Ideally your rigged raft arrives at put-in the day before launch. The guides will help you get your boat down the ramp.

Put-in for the Middle Fork of the Salmon at Boundary Creek
Put-in for the Middle Fork of the Salmon at Boundary Creek

If river conditions require us to launch from Indian Creek you will need to cover the expense of flying your raft to Indian Creek. Unfortunately you are not able to join us on the “deadhead” from Boundary Creek to Indian Creek.

You should set up a car shuttle so that your vehicle is at the Cache Bar take-out.

What gear do I need?

You should be equipped with all necessary gear to take care of yourself and your boat while on the river. Essential items include spare oars, a repair kit, a first aid kit, a throw bag, and a pump.

Can I have passengers?


Only guides licensed by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board can carry passengers on outfitted trips.

What are the expectations for me on the river?

You are expected to follow all the instructions from guides. The guides will communicate with you on the river and expect you to follow their instructions. It is essential for the safety of group that you are able to fully control your boat and maintain proper spacing and boat order. You should understand basic river commands and have experience running class III and IV rapids. You should have some river rescue training or experience. You should understand that you are a guest under the supervision of the guides who are responsible for the safety and well being of the group.

The Middle Fork is 100 miles of fun!
The Middle Fork is 100 miles of fun!

What are the expectations in camp? Do I have to help out in the kitchen?


You’ll have to repeatedly beg us to help out in the kitchen – you’re on vacation! Once you’re in camp put your feet up, go for a hike, sit in a hot spring, play cards, take a nap, or go fishing. In short, enjoy the river life!

What if I have an equipment failure or am unable to row for any reason?

You should have the materials and skills to perform routine boat repairs. If you are unable to row for any reason then your boat and equipment will be flown out from the nearest airstrip at your expense.

Can I leave camp early and go at my own pace during the day?

No. You must stay with the group and follow the boat in front of you.

Oar Boats on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Oar Boats on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

What should I do to prepare for rowing my own boat down the Middle Fork?

Get out and row as much as possible before the trip! Also, purchase a Middle Fork guide book and familiarize yourself with the river and the major rapids. You may also want to consider rowing the Rogue River first or joining one of our whitewater rowing schools.