The Salmon River, Idaho #1 – 1981 and 1997

The Wild and Scenic Salmon River runs through the 2,366,757 acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Its waters are the purest in the lower 48 states.

In the summer of 1981, our bright new rafting company (New Wave Rafting Company) was faced with a drought on the Rio Grande. What to do? Acquaintances of ours suggested that we accompany them on a trip down the Main Fork of the Salmon River. These were founding and other members of a preservationist group named Earth First! Myself, wife Kathy and son Ethan were thrilled to join them, to experience the Salmon River in the company of kindred folk.

We traveled to Idaho in our 1-ton company van and made a beer stop in Blackfoot, ID. Turns out that one of our party had an uncle who owned a distributorship there, who directed a forklift to load a pallet of beer into the rear end of the van. At the put-in we saw that Dave Foreman’s raft  was a self-bailer i.e. he had cut the floor out. His frame was a homemade aluminum affair that exactly fit the dimensions of the main tubes, so that it rested on those tubes all the way around, with all weight  suspended from it. The pallet of beer was then transferred to his boat, which is all that he carried. And I must confess that I failed to get a photo of it!




Ethan Miller takes his turn pumping up our flimsy Udisco raft






Kathy and Steve, in our new Miwok






Our Udisco taco’ed, with a paddler whose foot got caught in the crease suffering a broken toe


Kathy and ?


The wilderness setting and sublimity of the scenery was conducive to drinking lots of beer and taking lots of drugs


Beach camp

Thanks, Dave Foreman and Earth First!, for the invite!

After our 1981 trip on the Main Fork, our next goal was to run the  Middle Fork  – perhaps the most prized river destination in the country. With the clearest water and an astounding native cutthroat trout fishery, we just had to get there! And, friends who had secured a permit provided us that opportunity in the fall of 1997. We flew into Indian Creek from Salmon, ID, with Wilderness Aviation.


Our put-in for this fall trip (9-21-97) was Indian Creek, at Mile 25. Seasonal low water in the very rocky stretch upstream of here argued against using the usual start at Boundary Creek (Mile 0).

1. SalmonAirstrip900#2'97TDeN.jpg

Seen in the center is Will MacHendrie, our host


Are those kayaks and canoe going into that little plane?


Well,  two of them went in


We pass over the confluence of Marble Creek and the Middle Fork


We circle over the strip, losing altitude


The final approach. The airstrip is seen ahead. A burned hillside is seen below.



The ramp and put-in, Mile 25


The put-in, view downstream


Kathy. We began to catch beautiful cutthroat trout (and release them) within minutes of launching.


same as above


Will MacHendrie, at Marble Creek Rapid, Mile 31.7. The pink tag on the rear of the kayak is his boat permit.


Kathy and Will MacHendrie


Kathy and cutthroat


Kathy casting. We used only dry flies – mainly grasshopper imitations.




Kathy and cutthroat


Tappen Falls, Mile 57.9


Kathy, enjoying Tappen Falls


Elk Bar Camp, Mile 79.6


Just one more fish!

Thanks, Will and Carol MacHendrie, for inviting us on your trip!

See Part #2, on our 2009 trip:

About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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