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South Fork of the Salmon River

This last week we joined a 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 of the Salmon River has both challenging rapids and stunning scenery
The South Fork of the Salmon River has both challenging rapids and stunning scenery

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.

Secesh River

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.

Rafting Horseshoe Bend on the Secesh River
Rafting Horseshoe Bend on the Secesh River

South Fork of the Salmon 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.

Devil Creek Rapid on the South Fork of the Salmon River
Devil Creek Rapid on the South Fork of the Salmon River

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. 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.

Pictographs on the South Fork of the Salmon River
Pictographs on the South Fork of the Salmon River

Fall Creek Rapid

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.

Scouting the entrance of Fall Creek Rapid
Scouting the entrance 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.

Our final camp just upstream of Mackay Bar on the South Fork of the Salmon River
Our final camp just upstream of Mackay Bar on the South Fork of 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

As owner of Northwest Rafting Company, Zach Collier combines international guiding experience in places like Siberia, Bhutan, and Chile with a natural business acumen for systems and logistics. Whether he’s on big water or in the back office, Zach strives to ensure NWRC offers exceptional whitewater and wilderness experiences for guests and guides alike.

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