The Middle Fork begins as a small, quick stream close to 6000 feet above sea level, and increases more than five-fold in volume over its 100 mile course. The upper river is in a tight canyon covered with Douglas fir and lodgepole Pine. Then the Middle Fork of the Salmon River canyon opens up and features ponderosa pine, sagebrush, and mountain mahogany, flora more typical of the high desert.
Imagine waking to the smell of coffee brewing or bacon cooking. For the early birds we have coffee, fruit and juice ready by 7 or 7:30 and full breakfast by 8. Breakfast normally consists of something hearty and traditional like pancakes and bacon, french toast and sausage,or scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon. We also have juice, fruit, yogurt and cereal for those who want to eat lighter.
Breakfast is a good time to talk about what the day will be like, so people can pack accordingly. For example, if there is a long hike planned, you might put your hiking shoes in your day bag so they will available for the hike.
After breakfast it is time to pack up and get your big dry bag down to the sweep rig. The sweep rig is a large raft that carries most of our equipment. Two people ride in it: a regular guide and a swamper. This latter is usually an aspiring guide whose job it is to set up tents, heat water, and otherwise make guests comfortable. The sweep boat goes directly to the next night's camp site, so the guide and swamper can have have the tents and kitchen set up by the time we arrive.
We will have everything packed and ready to hit the river by 9:30 or 10. We don't usually care to be on the river earlier, because it is too cool before then to be getting wet. You will have a chance to read, chat, hike, fish or otherwise relax while the rafts are being loaded.
On The Water
We float the Middle Fork in five types of boats.
The sweep rig is large raft with large sweep oars on the bow and stern that does not carry guests. Its function is described above.
An oar raft is a large raft that is rowed by the guide. Your job here is to relax, watch the scenery go by, and hang on in the rapids.
A paddle raft is a bit smaller. Everyone gets a paddle, and works as a team to maneuver the raft. The guide sits in back, steers and give commands.
An inflatable kayak, or ducky is a one- or two- person boat. With no guide, it is the most challenging -and fun-way to run the river.
A paddle-assist raft, or power pack is one where the guests paddle and the guide rows. It has the ultimate in power and precision and is usually used only on very high water, when power and precision are critical.
Unless you know what kind of boat you want to be in, we recommend that you rotate between boats a few times each day, in order to get the whole river experience.
Once on the river we will float for two to three hours before stopping for lunch. We may also stop to take a short hike to a hot springs, waterfall, pictographs or other spot of interest.
Lunch normally takes about an hour, and gives people another chance to stretch their legs with a short hike, fish, or relax.
After lunch we float another two to three hours, again perhaps with an off-river activity. We arrive in camp between 3 and 5, depending on the miles we cover and the stops we make.
When we hit camp you will find your tent already pitched. All you have to do is unload your dry bag. Again, there is time to hike, swim, read, fish, relax or play games. Often a guide will organize a game or a hike to a place of special interest.
We serve hors d'oeuvre around 7 and dinner around 8. It is too warm to eat earlier. Dinner is usually a social time when everyone gathers to eat and share their day's experiences. The lead guide usually takes advantage of the gathering to tell everyone what tomorrow will bring.
After dinner we will have a camp fire if is cool and/or dark enough. The Middle Fork is on the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, so in June and July it stays light until 9:30 or 10.
Some folks tend to stay up late, talking, perhaps singing. Instruments are welcome if they are small enough to pack (no pianos, please) and add a great deal to any camp scene.
Sometimes, especially on the last night, people put together skits, make up songs, and otherwise celebrate the completion of a wonderful trip together.