Middle Fork Salmon River

May 8, 2012 at 15:09 | Posted in Boating | 2 Comments

Last week found seven of us paddling the Middle Fork Salmon River. Three of us put in at the Marsh Creek bridge just west of Stanley where there was still two feet of snow and a brisk 22 degrees. Wisely, we suited up in our dry suits in the hotel and had only to launch at the bridge. Thanks to Bill Bradt for providing the shuttle, he returned to Salmon for the noon flight in to Indian Creek airstrip. Meanwhile Jody, Tyler and I raced down Marsh Creek only stopping in our first eddy at Dagger Falls after two hours. In that time we had descended out of the snowfields and gained enough tributaries and volume for Dagger Falls to be our first major obstacle on the main stem Middle Fork. With a log jammed in the entrance chute I opted to carry the whole falls while Jody and Tyler just portaged the log and ran the falls. I captured the action on video which was fun and we regrouped and headed downstream.

The river was running at bankfull stage at 6.5 feet at the Middle Fork Ranch gauge, having spiked to 7.8 36 hours previous to our launch due to rain and heat. With cooler temps forecast we felt good about the river continuing to drop while we were on it and indeed it did, with it falling all the way to 4.5 feet by the time we ran through fun canyon on the last day.

Another hour put us to Trail Flats Hot Springs and our second eddy of the trip, where we pulled out and warmed our toes and hands in the flooded pools riverside. After a brief luncheon and the soak we pushed on another hour to Sheepeater Hotsprings and the end of our first day on the river, approximately 25 miles in four hours. The current was really cooking at this level and we were well inspired by the cold temps and promise of the hot springs to stay in our boats trying to stay warm and avoid eddy lines. Marsh Creek at this level was not a good place to swim with constant current, few eddies, steep snowbanks, and fairly continuous whitewater. The camp above Dodge Creek rapids was wet but not entirely flooded out and the Dodge Creek Rapids was our first exciting ride down class 3+/4- water. There were however no log jams on the stretch from Marsh Creek to Dagger Falls.

After a great night at Sheepeater Hot Springs with plenty to drink and hot water to soak away tired muscles,  we launched late after waiting for the temps to rise and again jetted on down the river. Velvet Falls was easily navigated on a river left line and Pistol Creek rapids had a log in the river left line requiring taking the right line. After that it was fast and smooth to Sunflower Hot Springs where we caught up with  Bill, Jim and Charlie and laid over for a night and another. The first fifty miles had flown by and we were well out of the snow belt by Sunflower, enjoying a nice bench camp and the close proximity of a wonderful hot springs. Folks scattered the next day on hikes and to Marble Creek Rapids wave and only regrouped at the springs and for dinner.

The day from Sunflower to Loon River is quite straightforward with many play waves to catch at higher water and a few ranches to float passed. We pulled in river right for another day of soaking and waiting for Ryan to fly in and meet the group. He made it no problem and we boated the short stretch of Loon River from the Hot Springs to head down the river again. Floating down to the Flying B and beyond becomes the most exciting part of the river as the volume is high and the channel is heavily constricted by sheer walls of granite and crumbling mountain. With huge waves to attempt catching and big holes to dodge we had an exciting time making our way downriver to Elk Bar where we spent our final night on the Middle Fork River. By Noon the next day we were out having sailed through the canyon without anything but positive vibrations and a few monster waves surfed by Tyler and Ryan. Charlie, Jody and I, inspired by there fun times, worked to get on a few waves and did with a couple fun rides a couple rolls and some good face shots. At the take out the sun beat down and it felt like the desert it is there, from snowfield to desert only makes the trip more interesting and fun. Thanks to a great crew and the good times.

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