It’s a trip of a lifetime — Floating Idaho’s 100-mile, 100-rapids Middle Fork of the Salmon River through heart-racing whitewater, rich and fascinating history and geology, and immense wilderness landscapes that range from forests to craggy canyons.
One minute you’re getting blasted by churning whitewater from Tappan Falls, one of the most nail-biting rapids on the Middle Fork. A huge wave covers the paddle raft knocking some paddlers to the floor of the raft. It’s like being in Nature’s giant bowl of seltzer. What an adrenaline rush.
The next minute you’re on a hike going to a rock cliff to look at pictographs and to learn about the life of Native Americans who lived along the river more than a century ago. “History is very important to me,” said Bill Bernt, an outfitter with Aggipah River Trips (aggipah.com), as he talked about Native Americans who inhabited the river canyons.
The next minute you might be hooking a wild cutthroat trout that will dance across the water.
A float trip on the Middle Fork is many experiences with an outfitter like Bernt. It’s enjoying gourmet Dutch oven food (breakfast blueberry muffins to die for), great camping, new friendships, fun hiking, hot springs, wildlife watching (Were those critters bighorn sheep? Sure enough.), and excellent cutthroat trout fishing.
The Middle Fork is considered one of the best river rafting trips in the world, spending five nights and six days in the heart of the almost 2.4-millon-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.
What lures people to the Middle Fork? Bernt, who has been outfitting on wilderness rivers since 1977, has the answer. “First, it’s the technical boating challenge. Another would be the fishing,” he said. “There’s the change in environment with scenery ranging from 6,000 feet in elevation at the launch down to 3,000 feet at the last set of rapids.
The magic of the Middle Fork will be glowing in your mind with the brightness of the coals heating that dutch oven with those blueberry muffins.
Outfitters say most trips are booked up this summer with maybe openings for one or two persons.
“In any case, folks may still be able to find spaces for Middle Fork of the Salmon trips this season, especially smaller groups and couples," said Aaron Lieberman executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, “Though next season would be the sure bet.”
Definitely plan for next summer’s trip.