High Water Middle Fork-Main Salmon Trip Report
Each spring RMRT sets out for its annual Guide Training Trip. The goal is to dust off winter’s cobwebs on a high water Middle Fork- Main Salmon Combo. This year the water levels were perfect for a 4 day assault of 185 miles of Idaho’s best whitewater.
3 Oar Boats, 2 kayaks, 11 guides, 4 days, 187 miles
May 25 Indian Creek.
Due to an insane amount of snow on Banner Summit we stuffed raft gear into airplanes and took the scenic route to the river. From the air we followed a super swollen Raft River as it joined a much larger Middle Fork. The color of the Middle Fork had an Alaskan like green-grey tone as it freight-trained down river. From the air Lake Creek rapid looked clean and fun, Pistol looked super swirly. It started raining as the last plane departed. We were greeted with a full eddy of logs and driftwood at the bottom of the boat ramp. Thursday night ranger Dave gave us a gage reading of 8.2. A solid rain continued through the night. Temps dropped.
River level: 7.6 and dropping
Weather: Cold and Wet, Snow up high
Miles: 48 miles
We woke to dropping river levels and a low snowline. The surrounding peaks were dusted white. After playing a Hercules sized game of pick up stix with lodgepole and Pondy’s in the IC eddy we launched boats and departed downstream. Stiff breeze and cold temps. Dropping levels. Majority of water was coming off the top. Loon Creek and Camas Creek were running high and brown. Big Creek did not have as much water as we expected. Below Big Creek the tribs were running clear. Rapids that stood out…. Ski Jump, Jackass, Cub Creek waves were building and swirly, Tappan Canyon was a washed out blur. The 5 miles from Haystack to Grassy Flat was the most fun of the trip. Continuous huge waves and hole dodging. Super fun. The weather broke as we arrived at camp. Dry Suits were torn off and the sun at Grassy felt like July. Great hike up the ridge behind camp. Ridiculous wild flowers and electric green views in all directions.
River Level: Approximately 7.1 and evening out
Weather: Brilliant Blue Bird skies
Miles 67 ( PR for most of us)
The lower Canyon was action packed. Weber felt like the largest rapid on the Middle Fork. The waves in Hancock were the biggest so far. Lower Cliffside was the most difficult move to keep inside left. Rubber was starting to wash out. Clam Rock was a pour over. It took us less than 1.5 hours to float 24 miles to the confluence. Movin. Cramer was washed out. Kitchen Sink Rapid between Cache and Corn had some huge waves. Arrived at Corn Creek around noon ate lunch, swapped off at the oars between the MF crew and the MS crew, picked up a permit and headed down the Main. Approximately 18,000 at Corn Creek, 70,000 at Whitebird. The first waves in Killum were larger than any on the Middle Fork. Spent the afternoon staying on the inside and managing huge, inconsistent waves, massive boil lines and chaotic haystacks. The waves in Hancock stood out in size and stature. Aside from an abbreviated soak at the hotsprings we arrived at Magpie Creek Camp around 5:30 PM. 67 miles in a day. A personal record for many of us. That evening we tried our new recipe for our Bristol Bay wild Sockeye Salmon.
Gage: holding steady, approximately 17,000 at Shoup and 62,000 at Whitebird
Weather: Perfection. Crazy Green. HOT in the lower Canyon.
Started the morning out with Bailey Rapid. Huge, fun wave train. The Sapp Creek through Little Stinker series was action packed. Split Rock requiring a solid move to avoid. Magnetic. Big Mallard was completely washed out and Elephant Rock in Elkhorn was an enormous breaking wave hole that looked clean and runnable…until it built and broke, easily swallowing an 18 foot boat. We floated by in awe. We scouted Whiplash. It was at a relatively friendly Class IV level. A few folks took the left side of the tongue, while others took the high and dry sneak line on far river left. We stopped at Buckskin’s, said hello to Heinz, chatted with a group from Alaska. Only people we saw on Memorial Day weekend. The South Fork was running clear. The float from the South Fork to Lower Bull Camp was absolutely beautiful, and having current through the Salmon Lakes made it fast and fun.
Gage; Water came up over night. Approximately 69,000 at Whitebird
Weather: Perfect, warm morning
Floated the 9 miles from camp to Chittam rapid in no time. Lots of big waves and boils. Dried Meat Waves were huge. Scouted Chittam, Arguably the biggest rapid on our trip. The easy sneak was washed out requiring a hard pull to break some huge boil lines on the right side of the tongue. Everyone had clean lines. We passed Carey Creek Boat Ramp around 10:30 and continued downstream. The boil lines and eddy fences from Carey Creek to Spring Bar were impressive and humbling. Keeping down river momentum was a constant struggle in the big, swirly water. We had some great boat flip “training” and arrived at Spring Bar on time at 1 pm.
The drive back to Stanley included a stop at KB’s for a burrito in McCall and a rapid, by rapid description of the North Fork by Max as we drove past. A quick stop at Boundary Creek road to recon the road quickly turned into a snowball fight and we arrived in Stanley around 8 PM for de-rig. All in all it was a great trip. Essential for the Middle Fork crew to see the river at high flows before safely introducing guests to the fun next week.
Stay tuned for pictures and video….