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.
Besides thrilling whitewater from class II to IV every day, the trip descends more than a vertical half-mile through a canyon that changes from a forest of lodgepole pine and Douglas fir at higher elevations, to open terrain of ponderosa pine and rolling, grassy hills in the middle canyon, and finally the lower Impassable Canyon, the third-deepest gorge in North America, where sheer cliffs rise straight out of the roiling waters.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon is also one of the most remote rivers in America, lying deep within the second-largest federal wilderness in the Lower 48, the nearly 2.4 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. We saw bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and osprey, and made side hikes to hot springs, waterfalls, and overlooks hundreds of feet above the river with long views up and down the canyon.
On a wilderness trip this long, you cross a magic threshold of forgetting what day it is, or caring what time it is. You move according to the pace of the river, and live by the simple rhythms of nature—you feel far enough removed from civilization that its headaches can no longer reach you. I especially loved seeing it happen to the kids on our trip, who rarely know what it’s like to be fully disconnected.
Watch the video below, then read my feature story about that trip, which has many photos and more details about pulling it off. Find more info on guided trips with our outfitter, Middle Fork Rapid Transit, which specializes exclusively on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. And see all of my stories about family paddling trips and all of my stories about family adventures at The Big Outside.
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