South Fork of the Salmon River

by Zachary Collier

This last week we joined an exploratory trip down Idaho's South Fork of the Salmon River. This is a little known tributary to the Salmon River near the more famous Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The South Fork is rarely run since it has difficult Class IV and V rapids that can only be run in a narrow range of flows for a few weeks each year.

We started our trip on the Secesh River, which is an upper tributary of the South Fork of the Salmon. We rafted 6 miles of continuous Class III and IV rapids with wonderful Alpine Scenery before meeting the South Fork.

Horseshoe Bend on the Secesh River

Horseshoe Bend on the Secesh River

At the confluence with the South Fork we joined a few other boaters and loaded up our overnight gear before an evening float to our first night camp. It was amazingly beautiful floating down the deep, rocky canyon in the early evening.

The next day brought many, many Class IV rapids in quick succession as well as the Class V rapids Devil Creek and Elk Creek. It was an exciting whitewater day that ended at a beautiful camp site just past Elk Creek.

Entering Devil Creek Rapid

Entering Devil Creek Rapid

Our third day had many, many more rapids punctuated with a few stops along the way. Our first stop was to check out a steam boiler and incinerator that were built and reportedly never used.

Smokestack for the steam boiler

Smokestack for the steam boiler

We also made a stop to check out some pictographs including one that someone in the group referred to as the "Circle of Life" which seemed very fitting.

The Circle of Life

The Circle of Life

The crux of the trip was Fall Creek Rapid, which was a long Class V rapid that started by dodging some HUGE holes and making our way over several difficult drops before the final plunge down the final big drop among giant boulders.

The bottom drop of Fall Creek Rapid

The bottom drop of Fall Creek Rapid

For our final night we camped just above the confluence with the Main Salmon and we celebrated our successful runs through Fall Creek and the countless other rapids. We woke up on our fourth day and enjoyed the final 20 miles of the Main Salmon River between Mackay Bar and Vinegar Creek.

Floating down the Salmon River

Floating down the Salmon River

For more photos, please check out our Flickr Set titled South Fork of the Salmon.

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Author

Zachary Collier

Zach is the owner of Northwest Rafting Company and has led groups throughout the U.S. as well as Siberia, Bhutan, Nepal, Honduras, and Chile. His passion for wilderness shines through how he runs both his trips and his company. He's as confident on the oars as he is on the chess board, while he delivers a truly memorable experience in the most amazing places on the planet.

Connect with Zach:  Google+  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

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