Middle Fork Salmon River Trail no. 578

Whitewater rafters in Cliffside Rapid, Middle Fork Salmon River, Idaho.

Reunions of the Heart on Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River

By Michael Lanza Sitting in my inflatable kayak as our flotilla of more than a dozen rafts and kayaks launches on our first morning on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River, I just drift and wait. And it takes only a moment before the feeling sinks in deeper than the warm sunshine on my skin: serenity. The profound peacefulness …

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A hiker above the Middle Fork Salmon River in Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

America’s Newest Long Trail: The Idaho Wilderness Trail

By Michael Lanza

We emerge from our tents on a mild August morning to discover that the waters of the upper and middle Cramer Lakes, in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, have transformed overnight. Where last evening these lakes on either side of our campsite had been rippled by mountain breezes, now they lie perfectly still; they are glassy mirrors offering inverted, sharp reflections of the forest and jagged peaks surrounding the lakes. A few hours later, our backpacking party of three parents and six teenagers hikes across wildflower meadows and past alpine tarns to proudly reach a mountain pass at over 9,000 feet on the Cramer Divide, overlooking a turbulent sea of razor peaks stretching to every horizon.

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Rafters on the Middle Fork Salmon River in Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Photo Gallery: Floating Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River

As our big group of several families and friends disembarked from our flotilla of rafts and kayaks and wandered up to our campsite on a sandy beach beside the river, I started surveying facial expressions. We had just finished the first day of a six-day float trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River—a day filled with running rapids, swimming, cliff jumping, fishing, and drifting lazily down one of the West’s most lovely river canyons—and I wondered: What was everyone thinking?

It didn’t take long to ascertain the collective mood: All I saw were smiles, laughter, and the kind of deep calm most of us don’t experience often enough. This did not surprise me. I knew from experience that’s the effect the Middle Fork has on people.

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Middle of Nowhere: Hiking Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon Trail

Middle Fork Salmon River, Idaho.

Video: Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River

By Michael Lanza

On a six-day rafting and kayaking trip on one of the world’s premier wilderness rivers, Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon, my family and 21 friends and relatives enjoyed beautiful canyon scenery, great side hikes to waterfalls and overlooks hundreds of feet above the river, and big whitewater: The roughly 100-mile-long Middle Fork has some 300 ratable rapids, many of them class III and IV.

This video captures the unique beauty, thrills, and magic of rafting and kayaking the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

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