Your adventure on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River will begin in the town of Stanley, Idaho, located in the Sawtooth Mountains. To reach Stanley, many of our guests begin by flying to Idaho’s capital city of Boise, which is served by several major airlines.
Travel Options from Boise
From Boise, you can rent a car, schedule a shuttle or schedule a flight to Stanley.
Air seats and charters are available to Stanley through Gem Air (208) 756-7382 and Salmon/McCall Air (208) 756-6211 or (800) 992-6559. Depending on the size of your group and your time constraints, air travel may be the best option for you, plus a backcountry flight is an incredible way to see the Frank Church Wilderness. Check out the air travel websites for details and rates. We will be happy to help you with any arrangements you need to make.
Caldwell Transportation is an excellent and economical choice for large groups traveling from Boise to Stanley, as they run daily afternoon bus service between Boise and Stanley through the summer months. Contact them at 1 (800) 727-9925 for current schedules and pricing.
Of course, renting a car is always a great option for families and it affords the opportunity to take some time exploring the area before or after your trip. Even though you won’t be driving during your time on the river, car rentals are usually less expensive than air travel.
If you have decided that renting a car or driving your own is the way to go there are a few details you should keep in mind. The trip from Boise to Stanley takes about 3 hours and travels along scenic highway 21. Even though you’ll be excited to start your river trip…enjoy the journey. The scenery is spectacular!
Should you choose to drive, you can arrange to have your car shuttled from Stanley to our end-destination in Salmon, Idaho, through River Shuttles our trusted shuttle service based in Salmon. The cost for shuttle service is $120.00 per vehicle (subject to change) which must be paid to the shuttle company directly. It is best to make advance arrangements. You will leave your keys and shuttle paperwork in the River Shuttles drop box in the front lobby of the Mountain Village Lodge, which is where we meet the morning we launch. River Shuttles will drive and park your car at the Salmon, Idaho, airport and leave your keys at the Salmon Air desk. (This airport is where we bring you after leaving the river.) You can expect to be in Salmon at about 3 p.m. on the take-out date of your trip.
Ground transportation is provided from Stanley to the launch point and to the Salmon airport after the trip. If you’ll be returning to Boise by air, most of our guests enjoy taking a pre-arranged 60-minute scenic flight. The flight normally arrives in Boise around 5:00 p.m. We are happy to help make all of your additional travel arrangements if desired.
SIDE NOTE: Occasionally, water levels require us to launch our trips from Indian Creek Campground. This is beyond our control and, unfortunately, necessitates an added flight from Stanley or Boise to Indian Creek. The cost of this flight s not included in the trip fare. You will be notified in advance if this flight becomes necessary, at which time we will help arrange the flight for you and ask that you pay by check, VISA or MasterCard to the selected flight company.
Plan on staying overnight in Stanley the night before your river trip begins as we will be meeting for an orientation the evening before our launch. Depending on your travel plans at the end of the trip, you may also want to arrange lodging in Salmon where our trip ends. There are several options in both towns but they get pretty busy during the summer so its important to make reservations as soon as possible. Here are a variety of lodging and dining options in each town.
Lodging in Stanley
Mountain Village Lodge – 1-800-843-5475 (remember this is where we meet on the morning of our launch).
Stanley High Country Inn – 1-208-774-7000
Redfish Lake Lodge – 1-208-774-3536
Sawtooth Hotel – 1-208-721-2549
There are also a number of Airbnb and VRBO rentals in Stanley.
Papa Brunees – best place for pizza! Eat in or takeout. – 1-208-774-2536
Sawtooth Hotel – dinner with old time ambience – 1-208-721-2459
Redd Square Restaurant – 1-208-774-0635
Kasino Club – dinner – 1-208-774-3516
Mountain Village Lodge Restaurant – all meals – 1-208-774-2101
The Stanley Bakery – breakfast and lunch – 1-208-774-6573
Be forewarned…the bakery opens at 7:00 am daily and has the most delicious meals and baked goods around. But…..our bus leaves at 7:45 so you need to plan on being on line at the bakery before they open!!!
The Stanley Chamber of Commerce is also a great resource in helping you with travel arrangements in the Stanley Area – 1-800-878-7950
Lodging in Salmon
The Stagecoach Inn – 1-208-756-2919
Super 8 Motel – 1-208-756-8880
Syringa Lodge – 1-208-756-4424
Oddfellows Bakery – breakfast and lunch – 1-208-756-1122
The Junkyard Bistro – lunch and dinner – 1-208-756-2466
Bertram’s Salmon Valley Brewery – all meals – 1-208-756-3391
The Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce is an excellent resource for info about the Salmon Valley – 1-208-756-2100
Both Stanley and Salmon offer numerous recreational opportunities and you might want to consider planning your trip with some of these in mind.
If you still have questions, notify us of your travel arrangements ahead of time, and we’ll gladly help you plan out all of the details.
On the evening before your launch, you will need to join us for a trip orientation meeting in Stanley, Idaho, at 5:30 p.m. (we meet at River 1 on Highway 75 on their deck overlooking the river). This is a group meeting and a great opportunity to meet and connect with fellow travelers. We will discuss river safety, low impact camping and river procedures that must be followed for the duration of the trip. It’s also a more laid back time where we can answer any last minute questions before the hustle and bustle of launch morning. At this time, we’ll provide you with two waterproof duffels for your personal gear along with instructions on how to pack. Right after the meeting, you’ll also be able to purchase souvenir T-shirts, hats, cookbooks, maps and books on the Middle Fork which we’ll have available.
The meeting will last about 45 minutes to an hour depending upon the size of our group after which you will be free to explore Stanley for a bit, or join us for dinner at one of the local restaurants.
If you’re worried about what to bring, don’t. Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters has all the camping essentials and more covered including freshly laundered sleeping bags, spacious tents with cots and sleeping pads, and a clean sheet for some warm summer nights. Below we’ve included a more detailed list of everything we provide and below that is a packing list for you to use. If you have any questions about gear feel free to contact us and ask away!
- Gourmet dutch oven meals.
- Unlimited drinking water.
- 1 large tent for 2 people for optimum room and comfort. Private tents provided on request.
- 1 deluxe Therma-Rest self-inflating sleeping pad per person.
- Comfortable cots for sleeping
- 1 freshly cleaned sleeping bag, 1 clean sheet and 1 small pillow per person. You may bring your own sleeping bag if you prefer; however, but it must compress into a 10”x 20” dry bag that we supply. We will automatically supply you with a sleeping bag unless you notify us that you are bringing your own.
- Dining utensils, souvenir cups and water bottles.
- 3 waterproof bags: one for your clothing and personal camp items, one for your sleeping gear, and one small day bag to keep in the raft. See “How to Pack” below for bag sizes and packing recommendations.
- 1 Coast Guard approved Type V life jacket of the highest quality (please do not bring your own PFD unless it is a Type V)
- Wet suits are usually unnecessary but will be provided whenever weather demands. Feel free to bring your own for fit and comfort. Exceptionally large or small sizes may not be available.
- We have several solar showers and will happily have them filled and heated for you when you reach camp…just ask!
- Dining tables and comfortable chairs (set up along with your tent by our gear boat crew)
- An extensive first-aid kit in every boat. Our fully equipped guides are trained in first aid, CPR and all aspects or river rescue and emergency procedures.
What YOU need to provide:
- Wide brimmed hats for sun protection
- Quick-dry clothing for river use (2+ pairs of nylon shorts and/or swimsuit, 1-2 short- and long-sleeve shirts, 1 pair of lightweight pants.
- Good rain gear (jacket and pants) Important!
- River shoes (river type sandals with heel strap or tennis shoes)
- Camp shoes (lightweight hiking boots or tennis shoes)
- Long underwear (polypropylene top and bottom)
- Warm jacket (pile or polar fleece)
- Camp clothes (1-2 long pants or sweat pants, 1-2 short- and long-sleeve T-shirts, 1 sweatshirt or any type of warm top)
- Underwear and socks (include at least 1 pair of wool or neoprene socks for chilly days)
- Gloves (wool or polypropylene for camp and optional neoprene for rafting)
- Personal toiletry items, small towel, washcloth and moisturizing lotion (Shampoos and soaps are not allowed in the river but you can use them above the high water mark-our guides will happily point out the high water mark. Biodegradeable shampoos are not allowed in the river)
- Several large ziplock bags
- Sunscreen and lip protection
- Sunglasses with strap (spare pair recommended)
- Small flashlight or headlamp (check your batteries!)
- Camera or cell phone for photos only – no service in the Frank Church!!
- Personal medications, prescriptions (bring two containers)
- Extra contacts or glasses
- Your musical instrument!
- A good book
- Personal wine, beer, liquors and soft drinks
- Wet suit and or neoprene socks (if you want your own)
- Small day-pack or Hydration pack for hikes
- “Funky” costume for our last night together
- Pillow case (our camp pillows are small. You can put our camp pillow plus some soft clothing into a pillowcase to make a comfy pillow.)
You may not use all of the gear on this list but we recommend bringing it all so you are prepared and comfortable. Keep in mind, especially when packing clothing, that you can expect warm days (60 to 90’s) and cool evenings (40-60’s) on the river. However, mountain weather can change rapidly. It can snow in July or be intensely hot. The weather is impossible to predict. So be prepared. If you have questions about or need to purchase any of this gear and want some advice, please feel free to contact us with all of your questions.
How to Pack:
We provide 3 waterproof pack bags for your gear at the orientation meeting on the night before launch. The smaller day bag is for items such as a rain suit, sunscreen, camera and anything you might need during the day. The larger bag is for your clothing and personal items. (In order to keep clothing organized, you may find it easier to pack your things in smaller, soft duffels or several stuff-type sacks that can slip right into this bigger gear bag.) Your sleeping bag, small pillow and blanket will be packed in a separate bag and will be there waiting for you at your first nights camp.
The larger bags travel in our gear boat which is loaded in the morning and goes ahead of the main group so we can set up camp. All of that gear will be unavailable to you until late afternoon. Try to limit your gear to our suggested pack list as raft space is limited. Also, given the environment, pack to be comfortable rather than fashionable. Leave the designer clothing and valuables at home.
What to Wear:
We recommend that you layer your river clothes on most days so you can adjust for comfort as the day warms or the weather changes. On a typical day, you would wear a swimsuit or nylon shorts, a “quick dry” short-sleeve top (or long-sleeve for sun protection), and a fleece top for mornings when it is cooler. Your fleece top can be put into your “day” bag after it warms up.
You should also wear river sandals or tennis shoes that are comfortable when wet, a hat, sunglasses with a strap and plenty of sunscreen.
We wish we could always guarantee the water levels and predict the weather. Regardless, our Middle Fork trips have always offered guests unforgettable moments due to the river’s magic and the good company they’ve shared. To make sure nothing stifles the fun, we try to ensure that you and other guests come well-prepared for all conditions. Most of your days on the river will be spent in shorts or swimsuits and short sleeves, but rain gear and extra layers should always be packed in your day bag for unpredictable mountain weather.
In general, water levels are highest in early June and, thus, offer the biggest, wildest whitewater of the year. Spring-type weather in June, however, can change rather quickly, from hot and sunny one day to chilly the next.
In late June and into July, the weather gets warmer and so does the water as river levels typically start to come down. It’s the time of year when the wildflowers bloom. An afternoon temperature in July might be 80 degrees with overnight lows 45-50 degrees.
From mid-July into August, the river warms up significantly and guests enjoy swimming and fishing in the crystal clear water. Then, in late August and September, our trips get a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings with warm days for great fishing.
High or low water levels and snow conditions can dictate that we launch from Indian Creek Campground or other wilderness launch points instead of Boundary Creek, our regular launch point. Only small airplanes access these wilderness airstrips. Please note that if we must fly in to an alternative launch site, there will be an additional fee of approximately $130.00 per person. Early August and later trips typically require flying to one of these airstrips. You will be notified in advance if this flight becomes necessary at which time we will arrange the flight for you and invoice you for the cost.
Launch Day 1:
On the morning of your launch, we will depart by shuttle from the Mountain Village Lodge in Stanley. You will be notified of the time at the trip orientation meeting the evening before. We will “put in” either at Boundary Creek or Indian Creek Campground depending on water and weather conditions (see Water and Weather for more details).
If we depart from Boundary Creek, travel time is about 1½ hours from Stanley. We suggest eating breakfast prior to boarding the shuttle. If we launch from Indian Creek, it is a 25-minute flight to the airstrip and launch point. The boats will be loaded, you will be briefed on river safety, and we will get on our way down river–usually between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Our camps are different on every trip, depending on the number of miles we are able to cover downriver. We’ll stop for lunch around noon and arrive in camp, typically between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Our large gear boat usually travels ahead of the group so camp is ready upon arrival with tents set up and appetizers underway. You are free to get settled and enjoy yourself while we prepare a gourmet dinner.
A Typical River Day:
Our guides rise early, usually around 5 a.m., to get coffee going. So if you are an early morning person, we’ll be ready! If not, stay snuggled in your tent till you hear a call for breakfast, usually served around 8 a.m. We break camp and are usually back on the water by 10 a.m. each day. And we always take time to stop and relax later for a delicious lunch.
During the day, you may choose to ride an oar boat for sightseeing, relaxing and fishing; paddle boats to paddle and maneuver through the rapids; or inflatable kayaks for tackling the river on your own. Each day consists of great whitewater, majestic scenery, wildlife viewing, fishing, swimming, hot spring soaks and stops for side hikes to historic, geographic or scenic highlights. (There is a trail that follows the course of the river so we always encourage hiking for anyone interested.)
Final Day 6:
The Middle Fork will keep you enthralled every mile. The character of the river and its canyon change from beginning to end. On our last day of rafting, we’ll enter the Impassable Canyon and run some of the trip’s biggest whitewater sandwiched between sheer granite walls. And finally, at the confluence with the Main Salmon, we’ll leave the Middle Fork behind by taking a moment to look back upstream at the spectacular canyon that has been “home” for the last six days. “Take-out” will be at either the confluence of the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon or at Cache Bar. There, lunch will be served, plus changing rooms and rest rooms will be available. Finally, we’ll shuttle you back to Salmon, Idaho, for your journey back home.
Get In Touch
Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters
Willis McAleese, Owner
1901 Main St.
Salmon, ID 83467