Below: A compilation of footage from paddling in ID and CO during June and July of 2014. Video by Adam Goshorn
After years of unsuccessful lottery applications for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River (MFS) in Idaho, this year I was lucky enough to be invited along by friends who won a permit. Jenny Leaderer and her husband, John Kern, invited Shawn Malone, David Dehart, and I to join them for an eight-day, self-supported run down the MFS in June of 2014. Dave and Shawn normally prefer to run difficult whitewater in their open boats, but as the trip approached, they decided that having to stop and dump open boats loaded with eight days worth of gear sounded like more work than fun. So, they decided to pack Shawn’s small raft with their gear and R2 the run instead. This set-up worked well for them and they allowed Jenny, John, and I to add our camp chairs and a few beers to their raft, making our trip a little more spoiled than self-support typically allows!
Below: John and Adam enjoying typical MFS scenery. Photo by Jenny Leaderer.
Below: Jenny and John scouting the best route between some big holes somewhere on the MFS. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
There are many things about the MFS that make it such a coveted and special run. It is a free flowing river through the heart of the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states. Also, there is almost no flat water and the entire 100+ mile run consist of quality class III-IV rapids that build in volume as the river gains multiple tributaries every day of the trip. As if all that weren’t enough… for the first two-thirds of the trip, there are hot springs to stop and enjoy every day. What’s not to like?
Below: Unpacking boat to camp at Sunflower Flats hot spring that provided a hot shower at river level, in addition to several cliff-top pools for soaking. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
Below: The upper pools at Sunflower Flats. Photo by Dave Dehart.
Our small group of five first-timers enjoyed eight wonderful days together on the MFS. Every bend in the river brought new things to check out and as the end approached, we wanted nothing more than for the experience to continue. However, all good things must come to and end and after the take-out our crew parted ways. Shawn and Dave had to head out to make their way back home to Chattanooga, while Jenny, John, and I made our way south in pursuit of more paddling in Colorado before we had to head back east.
Below: Testing the waters at the top of the eddy at Fly Camp. Photo by John Kern.
Below: Shawn and Dave cruising R2 through Velvet Falls. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
Over the years I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time paddling in Colorado. While our time there this year only included one run that was new to me, it was great to revisit several rivers and creeks that I had grown to love on previous trips. We started out in the northern part of the state, in the Cache La Poudre River drainage. With the water levels too low for Big South or Joe Wright Creek, but still higher than we wanted for the Narrows, we settled for a couple quick laps on the Upper Mish section. None of us had previously run the section, but turned out to be quite fun at the water level we had that day and everything always seems more fun when no one knows the run and is boatscouting together!
Below: Wildflowers with scars from an old burn in the background. Photo by Dave Dehart
Below: One of numerous pictograph sites along the MFS. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
From the Cache La Poudre, we moved south to more familiar territory in the Arkansas River drainage, where we would spend the bulk of our remaining time in Colorado. We did slip over to the Roaring Fork drainage for two runs on the Slaughterhouse section. We also did a run on Castle Creek, which enters the Roaring Fork only a little ways upstream of the put in for the Slaughterhouse section. During our time around the Arkansas drainage we set up base camp at bottom of Five-And-A-Half rapid on the Numbers section and did multiple runs putting in at Pine Creek rapid and paddling back to our camp. We also got multiple runs on Clear Creek (a tributary of the Arkansas), one of my favorite runs in the area. Clear Creek’s fast paced action and numerous small boofs is enough to make any paddler smile. However, it also has a somewhat forgiving nature (at moderatge levels) which lends itself to mad bombing… only catching the occasional eddy in the entire three-mile run!
Below: A thin sheet of falling water at Veil Falls. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
Below: The last remnants of snow high atop Independence Pass which seperates the Arkansas River Drainage from the Roaring Fork Drainage. Photo by Adam Goshorn.
As the end of our time in Colorado approached, we eventually packed up our Arkansas River camp at Five-And-A-Half and headed way downstream to run the classic Royal Gorge section. Meeting up with Adam Spillman, we had a great time enjoying the waves and holes between the towering cliff walls that are the trademark of this run. After departing the Royal Gorge, we drove as far east as we could the same day and treated ourselves to a hotel room in eastern CO, just a little ways before the Kansas border. After showers and a good night’s sleep, the following day we drove straight through to Chattanooga in a single 19-hour push, stopping only for gas along the way.
Below: A longer, much more inclusive video from our time on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Video by John Kern
Middle Fork of the Salmon, ID from John Kern on Vimeo.
Until next time… Adam Goshorn
Below: Flowers of the MFS. Photos by Adam Goshorn.