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.

Mist Falls Impassable Canyon

Mist Falls, Impassable Canyon 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!

Arrowleaf Balsm Root Salmon River

Arrowleaf Balsm Root flowers cover the Middle Fork in May.

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!

Middle Fork Salmon Gauge

Middle Fork Salmon Gauge at Middle Fork Lodge: it’s starting to rise!

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.

Stoddard Pictographs Middle Fork Salmon

Sheepeater Pictographs at Stoddard Creek

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

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