Backpacking The Middle Fork of The Salmon River

I just returned from a seven day backpacking trip along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness with my family. The four of us walked from Boundary Creek to Indian Creek. Many of those miles were spent slowly maneuvering over fallen trees from past wildfires along the trail. While our hike was a bit more rugged and slow going than we anticipated, we had the time to carry on at a slower pace and not hurry to our eventual pick-up at Indian Creek by a back country pilot.

My two sons, Will (12) and Charlie (10), each carried considerably heavy backpacks for a week. Along the way we witnessed a massive caddis migration on the upper stretches of the Middle Fork followed by a great salmonfly emergence. One night, we watched thousands of adult salmonflies fly high above the river en masse. I was able to watch hundreds of salmonfly nymphs crawl out of the river onto rocks and shrubs and morph into adults. Unfortunately, after one great day of fishing, and after a few strong thunderstorms, the river went up and turned to mud.

A muddy river also made it far more difficult to filter drinking / cooking water. Fortunately there are many small feeder streams to the Middle Fork and we were able to use them to filter our water.

We had a great final rest day at Indian Creek and then flew out from there to Stanley.

A contemplative moment. Indian Creek. Middle Fork of The Salmon River, Idaho.

Idaho Back Country Pilot. Cessna 206. Indian Creek to Stanley.

Frank Church. Burn area from the 2000 Pistol Creek Fire.


Collecting rainwater from the tarp.


Fire Island camp.

Fire Island. On this tiny island there is a small hot spring that pumps out a small stream of steaming hot water.

Salmonfly. Pteronarcys californica

An emerging salmonfly. On this particular night, I watched hundreds of salmonfly nymphs crawl out of the river and onto rocks and shrubs to morph into adults. The image above was taken after 11 PM.

Caddis Migration.

With the Middle Fork of The Salmon blown out and muddy from strong thunderstorms, we hiked to small creeks with clear water to filter our drinking water. Charlie, pictured, walks back upstream to Dolly Lake with the goods.