Wildflowers and Brown Water
Wildflowers and brown water on the Middle Fork in May! May is not a time you usually find yourself on a Middle Fork commercial trip. With the Owyhee snowpack and water levels well below normal this spring, we looked for other options to offer people who were hoping to run the Owyhee. Most people opted to wait for another shot at the Owyhee next year. Bill and Beau Bush, long time clients and friends here at WRO, decided they wanted to still go on a trip even though the Owyhee didn’t work out. After looking at possible options, they decided on the Middle Fork Salmon.
(Make sure the HD is turned on so you can see the stars…)
May is a great time to be out on the Middle Fork! In Idaho the weather in May is usually the only variable you worry about when heading out for a six-day trip. This week we hit exceptional weather! We were all prepared for possible snow showers and rainy days, but instead we had hot and sunny days that felt like July!
With the water rising ever day as a result of the warmer weather, we were able to quickly cover miles on the river. We were able to enjoy two lay over days and had lots of time for side activities, which made for a very relaxing trip! On our side hikes we identified many wildflowers and the flowers we didn’t recognize we picked a specimen and looked it up in the flower book when we got back to camp. With the hillsides covered in yellow Arrowleaf Balsm Root and purple Lupine, it was like floating through a 2.4 million acre wildflower garden in the Frank Church Wilderness!
On this trip, we were able to spend a lot of time exploring the waterfalls of the Impassable Canyon. With the hot spring days and rapid snowmelt, the waterfalls were running at full pour! Mist Falls and the Grotto were especially beautiful with the increased flow. We also stopped to check out the impressive Sheepeater pictographs at Stoddard Creek the last day before we ran some fun whitewater in the last 10 miles of the canyon.
I hope you enjoyed some of the photos and video from this early Middle Fork trip and please check back as the normal Middle Fork Salmon season starts to pick up in June!
~ Seth Tonsmeire
These are a few photos from the last two years that I’ve added quotes to. We have recently been posting these and other similar photos on the WRO facebook page. If you are a facebooker, make sure to subscribe to our page to keep a little whitewater in your news feed!
I thought this quote from Emma Smith would be a good fit for many photos. I decided to include it on this particular photo because on the Alsek there are many moments when the river sweeps you gently along, but every once in awhile there are rapids that seem to come out of nowhere.
The rapid in this photo is Lava North. After crossing Lowell Lake, a mellow float (if the wind isn’t blowing) through giant icebergs, you enter a very swift section with a few big rapids, including Lava North. Standing on the shore looking out over this massive rapid with holes hiding in the grey glacial water large enough to swallow a bus, Lava North is a rapid that will certainly get any boatman’s heart pumping.
Also check out a short video I made from our Alsek trip in 2012… The small amount of footage from Lava North certainly does not do it justice!
We usually scout this rapid from both sides of the river, often revealing very different observations. At first glance, you know river right is to be avoided at all costs, even large oar boats will not stand a chance on the right, but even after realizing this, the puzzle is still far from solved…
In 2012, I ran a line I had never run before. In years past I had been making a left cut after entering the rapid, trying to stay as close to the bank as possible. When scouting it last year the gravel bar looked as if it had shifted from years past, and I made my choice to run a line I never really liked the looks of before…a run left of center. The risk is extremely high in Lava North, so we often ask our guests to walk around this rapid. Keith was sharing a boat with John Griffith as a training trip on his first Alsek trip. John agreed he would walk around with the guests and Keith would run Lava North along with myself. Since there are melting icebergs in the lake not even four miles upstream, leaving this water a bone chilling 34 degrees, we put on our dry suits to prepare for the worse case scenario. Once you enter this rapid, suddenly you accelerate scary fast for being in a 16 foot raft! Once your in Lava North it’s extremely hard to keep your bearings. When you see the monster holes pass on the right and pass the large flip-potential haystack wave on your left, you’re feeling good, but it’s not over yet. It’s all about keeping your boat strait as you enter into the very large crashing waves that make up the run out of this long rapid. It’s like riding an icy roller-coaster!
When the waves start to shrink, it’s time to pull as hard as I can for the left bank where we pick up our walking friends. Looking back up river watching Keith’s boat disapearing behind every wave, then bust through the top of the next was awesome. Once I got pulled over, and tied up my boat I noticed my hands were shaking as the flood of adrenaline finished disperesing through my body. As Keith pulled over I could tell, he was feeling the rush of the experience as well. After some high fives we shared similar stories as we waited for John and the guests to show up. After a short float down to camp, a cold celebratory beverage was in order!
Further south and with a much a earlier run off, a place of equal adventure lays in the Idaho desert. The Jarbidge Bruneau River cuts through an ancient caldera volcano, giving us an incredible cross section through this areas eruptive geologic history. Driving to the river always surprises people, especially coming in for the 4-day Bruneau only at Indian Hot Springs, which requires a 4WD mission. You drive out across this flat grassland desert for miles and miles. As you start to near the canyon, you realize there is a slice of rock missing out of the middle of this flat desert landscape. This canyon was formed from the river eating away at the rock over the last 19 million years! In the bottom of this slice lays the exciting class IV whitewater of the Jarbidge Bruneau River. Breath taking canyon scenery and the whitewater to match it!
Bill Rinehimer came out for a Main Salmon trip with a bunch of friends a few years back. The whole group was very into the inflatable kayaks. I took the opportunity to take lots of photos of these guys. This shot of Bill in Five Mile is one of my favorites from the week. This quote is from Barry Lopez, the renown author of books such as Arctic Dreams, and I thought is was fitting for the kayak shot of Bill getting up close and personal with the Main Salmon.
I hope you enjoyed these photos, quotes, and stories. Make sure to subscribe to the WRO facebook page for more whitewater in your news feed!
~ Seth Tonsmeire
Halloween Fun at WRO
For Halloween here at the WRO office we decided to dress up Iris’s dog Zephyr as a throw rope! It took a little persuasion for this miniature Australian shepherd to agree it was a good idea, but nothing a few treats couldn’t take care of.
Kayak Adventures with Ryan Casey
Many of you that joined us in 2012 on the Middle Fork Salmon will remember Ryan Casey. He joined the WRO crew last season and brings un-paralleled whitewater experience to the table. Ryan has raft guided in the past but is known for his exceptional kayaking ability! The Stikine River of British Columbia is a classic of the North America for Class V+ expedition kayaking. Only a select few kayaking groups venture into the Stikine each year. Thanks to Ryan for sharing some pictures and words from his adventure this fall!
Our trip consisted of four members, Cooper Lambla, Bryan Ward, Ben Hawthorne and myself. It was my fourth time, Ben’s third time, Brian’s second time and Cooper’s first time. We drove there in two days about 36 hours from Stanley. Splitting shifts driving not too hard mentally but physically cramped after being in a little Honda CRV for that long. The hardest part of the drive for me was knowing what lies ahead after we put on. Our group put on with about 14,000 cfs and about a 90% chance of rain. We had a little over an inch of rain throughout the first two days and by evening day 2 we had clear skies. By morning day three the water level had risen to a high level of about 18,000-19,000 cfs. At this point there is no great egress except by river. The hike out would be insane, roughly 40 miles through coastal British Colombia’s thick forest over rugged terrain and a three thousand foot scramble just to make it up to the top of the canyon rim. Luckily I had seen similar water levels on my previous trips and knew we were still within tolerances for levels. The Stikine is unparalleled in terms of commitment, difficulty and beauty. Each day holds at least one rapid where the canyon walls make portaging impossible and one is forced to run class V+. At only about 60 miles and three days car to car it is not the longest, but it sure might be the best river trip I have ever done.
We hope you enjoyed some of the picture from Ryan as much as we did. We are excited to have Ryan on the WRO team and look forward to getting him back on the river for a full season next year!
The video below is not from Ryan’s trip, but this White Box Magazine video gives you a good idea of the whitewater on a Grand Canyon of the Stikine River expedition!
July River Days
We had a great mixed group on our July 3rd date this year! Three different families and two father daughters to make up a group of sixteen. Everyone from the group met for the first time in Stanley, but quickly became new friends on day one.
Check out a great video guide Matt Westfall put together from July 3rd!
Hope you enjoyed the pictures!
- ▼2013 (7)
- ►2012 (11)
- ►2011 (18)