Idaho’s Lost River

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On August 31st I headed out of Eastern Idaho for Stanley with family and friends.  Mission, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.  After realizing we had forgot the groover (human waste container) we had to make a quick stop by Canyon Whitewater in Idaho Falls to rent one.  Then we were off.  

Arriving in Stanley that evening we were fortunate to have a crew member with an A-Frame cabin to crash at on night one.  Many beers and several hours of match stick poker made for a good last nights sleep before hitting the river.

Pictures 053.jpgThe next morning we woke and hit the road for the 90 minute drive to the put-in (Boundary Creek).  We stopped for a pee break on top of the last pass before descending down to Boundary.  It was at this point that we discovered a bit of a tire issue on the trailer…….as in we were missing one.  The rim looked as though we must have been driving on it for a while….who knows how long?  Changing the tire is was also discovered that the spare was quite low…hmmm.  Fortunately this area was in the midst of a forest fire war zone, so we pulled into their camp, found the mechanics and used their air compressors to top off our remaining tires. 

Pictures 064.jpgFinally at Boundary, in the midst of a rainy muddy mess, we rigged the rafts, lowered them down to the river, and shoved off.  Shortly there after, things proved to be quite technical with the low water level.  There were no shortage of rocks to navigate around.  Pictures 056.jpgThat being said I did get a bit hung up in the Sulfur Slide area, having to exit my raft, pull it off a rock in ragging water, and then dive back on board as it shot down river.  The river had my full attention at that point, ha ha.  Next was Velvet Falls, which was my favorite rapid of the trip.  The key to this one being a large bolder on the left side of the river, you must tuck sharply around the right side of the bolder, catch a small eddy on the down stream side, and the row your ars of toward the small notch at the break of the falls.  It was SICK!

Pictures 070.jpgSoon after Velvet we rowed into our camp #1 at Trail Flat.  This was my favorite camp of the trip.  Our own personal series of hot springs (that might be washed out at higher water) and several dear that frequent the site to lick the salty rocks.  Pictures 067.jpgWe promptly named this hot spring the “Pecker Eater.”  Several of the crew exited the spring with a series of bites, one of which received a few inconveniently place bites……enough said.  

The next day we encountered a rapid that was not on the map (come on USFS), but it was one to remember.  Just past Lake Creek around mile 15 there is a rapid that is about five years old.  Not sure of the name, but enjoyable none-the-less.  Pictures 120.jpgAbout 6 miles downstream there was a series of rapid just about as memorable as Velvet.  Lake Creek rapid followed closely by the famous Pistol Creek rapid were a good test of maneuverability.  With little time to pull it back together after Lake Creek, you drop into Pistol, a good size falls followed by a massive hole and an immediate sharp left.  Quite the “S” turn.  

About mid day on day 2 we reached the Indian Creek airstrip/USFS post/camp where we lined out our permits and remainder of our camps.  With the Boundary Creek USFS post being closed do to low flows, this was the check-in point, and many groups had been flying into this point because of those low flows.  Just after Indian Creek was our camp #2 at Pungo Creek, near mile 27.

Pictures 100.jpgDay 3 was less intense than the rest.  There was a hot shower though!  At about mile 32 is Sunflower Flat with a series of hot springs elevated up on a cliff and a hot spring falls dropping into the river.  Nothin quite like a hot shower in the middle of nowhere.  As I mentioned, there were not many rapids in this 18 mile stretch, but one I will remember for next time.  At about mile 36 is Jackass rapid.  I think I know why they call it that…..DO NOT try to go left.  Of-course that is what I did and it was a rodeo….next time GO RIGHT!  Later that evening we reached our camp #3, Culver Creek, around mile 45.  This was not the greatest camp, but lets be honest….how bad was it…..we’re on one of the most beautiful rivers in the world.

Pictures 108.jpgDay 4 things picked back up a bit with a fun bridge to jump off of, While Creek Pack Bridge at about mile 48 miles.  Believe it or not there was yet another hot spring at about a mile hike up Loon Creek.  Pictures 111.jpgThen starting at about mile 56 there are a series of super fun rapids stretching over a mile; Grouse Creek rapid, Tappan I rapid, Tappan Falls (stay right, super fun), Tappan II rapid (about 100 yds long, sick), and Tappan III rapid.  Not far past this series of rapids was our camp #4, Johnny Walker, just past mile 60.

Pictures 122.jpgPictures 112.jpgDay 5 was a VERY long day of rowing.  24 miles with big winds blowing up the canyon.  There were times it felt like we might have been blowing up stream while rowing our arses off down stream.  However, in that 24 miles there were several sections of fun water.  The Jack Creek rapids, Porcupine rapids, and Redside & Weber rapids made for some intense sections.  Rattlesnake Cave was a nice place to stop and check out some Indian Pictographs.  Our last night, camp #5, was spend at Lightning Strike camp at mile 85.  Pictures 134.jpgThe camp was given that name because of a burned out stump on the beach that was a result of lightning striking the then tree and pretty much blasting it out of the ground.

Pictures 131.jpgDay 6, our final day on the water.  This final 15 or so miles proved to be some of the most exciting.  We started with a pretty tame first mile or two and with the sun not quite reaching into the canyon is was a pretty chilly.  Warming us up though was the Cliff side rapids, that were super fun in low flows.  The first, upper Cliffside, was only like 10 ft wide, right up against a huge cliff face, and full of big waves.   To follow were Rubber, Hancock, Devils Tooth, House Rocks, and Jump-Off rapids.  Pictures 118.jpgThese were all awesome rapids, however, we did have a small mishap on the last of this series, Jump-Off rapid.  Bob and my Dad (Bill) took a line a bit too close to a rock while my Dad was tending to a camera, high-sided, and my Dad was dumped off the back.  He went through the washing machine a bit, but popped back to the surface and hopped back on board.  

Pictures 137.jpgReaching the confluence with the main Salmon River, we were on the home stretch.  Just one major rapid to go.  Cramer Creek rapid (also not really on the map, thanks again USFS) was a new addition to the river as of about 2001.  Pictures 139.jpgThis was a great way to finish the trip, it was full of big waves and raft swallowing holes.  Around the next corner or two we reach the take-out, Cache Bar.  Amazingly there was only one other group there, so getting the rafts on shore, broke down, and loaded was a surprisingly fast process (usually not the case went more crowded).

Now it was time to drink a beer or two, enjoy the beauty of a ride out of the Salmon, stop for grub, and head home!


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  • About Teton FreeRide

    Teton FreeRide is a content based blog founded and operated by Mike "Mikey" Leake. Mikey has lived in the Teton Valley region of southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming most of my life. He has also had the opportunity to live and play in the Lake Tahoe area, and now, Alaska too!

    After competing on the Freeskiing World Tour on-and-off for 10 years Mikey has transitioned to judging various events and become an advisory board member with the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA). Over the past 13 years he has worked in the ski industry through skiing as an athlete, coach, guide, ski patrol, event coordinator, event judge, marketing consultant, team manager, videographer, and as an associate producer. Mikey has a true passion for the outdoor industry and tries to be involved in every aspect possible.