Experience an American classic! Combine the Middle Fork and Main Salmon for a 200-mile, ultimate Idaho rafting adventure.
Of all the rivers that flow through Idaho, perhaps the most spectacular is the Wild & Scenic Salmon River, the longest undammed river system in the continental U.S. OARS’ Middle Fork and Main Salmon River rafting combo offers the best of the best – an Idaho whitewater rafting journey down the two most beloved segments of the Salmon River, one of our nation’s most epic rivers. Guests will be treated to views of beautiful scenery, rugged mountains, fragrant pine forests, and wide-open meadows teeming with abundant wildlife.
Considered the premier alpine river trip in North America, the Middle Fork Salmon River boasts non-stop, Class III-IV whitewater cascading through the Sawtooth Mountains, natural hot springs, and offers world-class fishing. The Main Salmon River, which flows through the Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness, offers a rich river rafting experience with free-flowing Class III whitewater and big sandy beaches—perfect for camping, playing, and rafters of any age or experience level.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Middle Fork and Main Salmon River rafting combo is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip
The evening before your trip, we’ll meet in either Stanley, ID or Salmon, ID (depending on your departure date*) for a pre-trip orientation. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.
*June trips depart from Stanley, ID. August trips depart from Salmon, ID.
Take a scenic flight to the put-in at Indian Creek, where our boats and crew await you. (At certain water levels, we may be lucky enough to put in further upstream at Boundary Creek, which we access by ground shuttle. The trip will start there whenever possible.)
After an informative safety talk, we’ll launch on the pure waters of the breathtaking Middle Fork. Within moments, you’ll experience your first rapid, an appropriate introduction to this river, whose exciting, consistent whitewater doesn’t stop until its confluence with the Main Salmon.
Our high-elevation put-in rewards us with fantastic alpine scenery, and we spend our first day among deep green forests, dramatic mountains, and crystal clear creeks that pour out of the woods and into the river.
The first day of this Salmon River rafting expedition generally sets the pace for our time on the river. Typically, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a great hike, a visit to a waterfall or a Native American pictograph, or a soak in a natural hot spring. Come lunchtime, we stop to enjoy a delicious riverside picnic. After feasting and relaxing (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a side hike), we get back into our boats for more exciting whitewater before reaching camp by mid- to late afternoon.
Days 2 – 6
Continuing downriver for the next few days, we’ll see the scenery change from high mountains to gently rolling hills. Thick forests give way to miles of open grassland dotted with cool glades of pine. The views remain stunning, and the whitewater action-packed. Huge rapids like Powerhouse and Pistol Creek are interspersed with less intense yet still thrilling whitewater in the form of wave trains, chutes, and drops.
Our journey downstream takes us to more hot springs, alcoves decorated with Sheepeater Indian pictographs, and magnificent Veil Falls, a unique waterfall that plummets freely into a natural amphitheater from a high rock overhang.
Towards the end of this stretch, the Middle Fork rushes into Impassable Canyon, a narrow gorge that creates some of the most high-intensity and continuous whitewater of the trip. Paddle hard through Redside, Rubber, and Hancock rapids, and enjoy the sudden, spectacular change in scenery from wooded hills to the sheer granite walls and huge boulders of Impassable Canyon.
On Day 6 we’ll reach the confluence with the Main Salmon. The guests
who are rafting only the Middle Fork will say goodbye and leave the river, heading back to Salmon, Idaho. As we turn west at the confluence the flow of the combined rivers more than doubles and we bring in the dories! We float past Corn Creek where our Main Salmon journey officially begins after the guides expedite the process of bringing on fresh provisions for the continuation of our journey.
Days 7 – 10
The scenery of the Main is distinct from that of the Middle Fork. On the Main, we’re traveling through the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. This broad canyon is heavily forested with towering pines and conifers and, early in the season, blanketed with vibrant wildflowers. We may be welcomed to the Main by a family of otters swimming near our boats, a herd of bighorn sheep scaling a steep canyon wall, a giant elk or moose wading in the shallows, or if we’re lucky, a black bear standing sentinel on shore.
As we journey into the pristine heart of the Frank Church, each day brings new discoveries: exciting rapids like Five Mile, Big Mallard, and Elkhorn, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill’s homestead and Jim Moore’s place (maybe you’ll find the fortune he buried in the hillside!), and perhaps we’ll stop for a short hike to Barth Hot Springs or the peaceful Yew Grove. The fishing is excellent during these days, and on trips in August, warm air and water temperatures encourage frequent refreshing dips in the river.
On our final day, as the Main Salmon River begins to parallel the forest service road, we conclude our adventure. Bidding farewell to the river and our guides, we’ll take a two-hour drive to McCall, where a lovely resort town awaits us. You’ll want to spend the night, or even a few days, in McCall to enjoy its beautiful natural setting on the shores of Payette Lake and its authentic small-town Idaho charm.
Meeting Time & Place
June: Salmon, ID
August: Stanley, ID
7 PM, the evening before your trip
Approximately 4 – 6 PM to McCall, ID
Dates & Prices
Save $200 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.
• Flight package from Boise or car shuttle
• $4 per day Recreation Enhancement Act Fee
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to Stanley (or Salmon) and back from McCall
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip.
Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, dory, inflatable kayak, and paddle raft (requires 11 or more trip guests).
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night.
While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.
Average Air & Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
Your whitewater experience on the free-flowing Salmon starts off with a bang on the Middle Fork. Rated Class III-IV, the Middle Fork has more whitewater than any similar-length river in the U.S.—over 100 rapids in 100 miles. Turn by turn, as each tributary surges into the river, the Middle Fork dramatically changes character from a big creek into a thundering river, all the while creating rolling wave trains and thrilling drops. Further on the Main Salmon, you’ll notice a significant difference in the nature of the whitewater as the river widens and doubles in volume. While the Class III rapids of the Main are less technical than the Middle Fork, the pool-and-drop nature of the Main Salmon offers time to relax and enjoy the scenery in between rapids.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
An $800/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 60 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more before the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We do regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|180 or more days before your trip||$100/person|
|179 – 120 days before your trip||$200/person|
|119 – 90 days before your trip||$400/person|
|89 days or less before your trip||Full Fare*|
OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $50/person fee up until 120 days before departure. You may choose to make a one-time transfer of your payments to a credit account for use during the following season, which incurs a $100/person fee up until 120 days before departure. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. is operated under special use permit with the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement
We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Main Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon River between Guard Station Campground and Carey Creek, we acknowledge the territories of the Nimiipuu, Shoshone-Bannock, and Lemhi-Shoshone.
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