Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6

Otter Bar Camp (mile 90.5) to Cache Bar Take-Out (mile 99.1)

Salmon River + Mountains, Idaho

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Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6

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  • A perspective of the MIddle Fork during high water. This is the wall opposite Cliffside Camp at 7.5 feet in late May.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Otter Bar Camp innundated by high water at 7.5 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Stoddard Camp is perched on a flat terrace above Ouzel Rapid. The pull-in is swift and rocky at these flows.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A smoky vista looking up Impassable Canyon from a hike oppostie Otter Bar. The small flat left of center is the bench between Stoddard and Cliffside Camps.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Atmospheric perspective brings out individual ridgelines on a smoky August afternoon.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Sunrise hits the enormous buttress perched above Rubber Rapid just below Otter Bar Camp.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • At high water it is possible to sneak Rubber Rapid along the left bank. This photo shows the big diagonal wave crashing in the center line around 6 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A 22-foot sweep boat takes on the big diagonal wave in Rubber Rapid at 6 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Rubber Rapid for an 18-foot oar boat at 6 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Taking a hit in the tailwaves of Rubber Rapid.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Solitude Camp is not frequently used because it is so far down canyon. It is a great spot to stop for lunch on a longer day 6.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • - Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • - Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A trio of boats floats past tilted layers of metamorphic gneiss.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Devil's Tooth Rapid is one of the more challenging lines at low water. The narrow channel right of center tends to push boats to the right and over the top of the submerged "Devils Tooth" that forms the main hole in the rapid.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A an old photo (circa 1970) of a boat pulling off a wrap on the large downstream right boulder in Devil's Tooth. Clearly, life jackets would have been a good idea.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A kayaker dissapears just to the river left of the rock called the Devil's Tooth.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • An 18-oot oar raft drops over the top of Devil's Tooth. Depending on the level and angle of entry, this steep and sticky hole can surf a fully loaded oar boat.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • The higher water perspective looking downstream onto House of Rocks Rapid (7.5 feet). Note the curved Douglas fir hanging over the left bank for reference.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Looking down onto House of Rocks Rapid at low water. Note the same curved tree extending out over the left bank.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A debris flow altered the line in House of Rocks in 2008. Boaters now have to take the right-hand entrance and then cut left through the slot seen in this photo. IK's should be aware of the hazardous boulder sieve through the rocks along the right bank.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Looking back upstream on House of Rocks Rapid (note the same curved tree) around 4 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Serene canyon beauty.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Clamshell Rock is just sticking out of the water at flows around 7 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Clamshell Rock in the neighborhood of 5.5 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Clamshell Rock at September flows (2 feet).- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • The view looking up canyon from the top of Clamshell Rock.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • The view looking downriver onto Jump Off Rapid from the top of Clamshell Rock.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A paddle boat gives some perspective on the true size of Clamshell Rock.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Drifting through the serene pool above Goat Creek Rapid.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Looking back into the Impassable Canyon at the Goat Creek Buttress.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • A commercial sweep boat drifts toward the confluence with the Main Salmon.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Rafters enjoy the calm water of the Main Salmon. The access road to Cache Bar can be seen along the left side of this photo.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Cramer Creek was altered by a fire-related landslide in 2003. It altered what was once a fun, rolling wave train into this crashing monster. The center wave and hole is at it's biggest around 3 feet.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Punching through Cramer two years after the debris flow.- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
  • Cramer has become a bit smaller as high water has moved some of the debris, but it still packs a punch. The Cache Bar boat ramp is just around the corner, so keep the bottom side down!- Middle Fork of the Salmon River - Day 6
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Great rapids. Stunning canyon.
Cons: 
Can feel rushed (last day). End of your trip.
Region:
Salmon River + Mountains, ID
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Lottery application ($6.00) + Daily use fee ($4.00/person/day) ($30.00)
class of rapids: 
IV
Duration: 
Multi-day
Number of days: 
6
Put-in location: 
Boundary Creek
Put-In Location Elevation: 
5,640 ft (1,719 m)
Take-out location: 
Cache Bar
Take-Out Location Elevation: 
2,890 ft (881 m)
Total Distance: 
99.00 mi (159.32 km)
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
70°F
30°

Sun

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon.
75°F
36°

Mon

Clear throughout the day.
75°F
38°

Tue

Mostly cloudy throughout the day.
74°F
43°

Wed

Light rain starting in the afternoon.
66°F
43°

Thu

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
69°F
33°

Fri

Partly cloudy until evening.
75°F
37°

Notable Hazards + River Information

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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

These daily descriptions are intended to provide a description of a typical six-day Middle Fork rafting trip. Trip length, campsite selection, and group itineraries will vary.

For more general information about the Middle Fork check out this Adventure Overview of the river.

Day 6 - Canyon Description

The last 7 miles through Impassable Canyon slice a northerly course through the narrowest and deepest part of the canyon. The inner walls rise steeply for 2,000 feet before connecting to mellower ridgelines and mountain slopes above. Roaring Creek enters Hancock Rapid (mile 92.2) from river right after dropping 6,980 feet off the north face of Mount McGuire (10,082 feet), making it the deepest point in the canyon.

The ecology and vegetation does not change much here, and the canyon feels very similar to the latter half of day five. The metamorphic rocks continue all the way to the confluence with the Main Salmon, though they look and feel less broken and more slab-like in this final rush of river. As boaters turn the corner to onto Solitude Camp, a huge 1,000-foot wall of tilted slabs flanks the left side of the river. Downstream, giant eroded boulders choke the river channel forming significant rapids. At low water, the folds and curves of the raw stone are exposed in beautiful water-polished faces.

The river is crossed by a large dike that has eroded into a free-standing ridge of blocky slabs at the mouth of Goat Creek. In full view from the calm pool upstream, this feature identifies both Goat Creek Rapid (mile 94.9) as well as the final turn on the Middle Fork upstream of the confluence with the Main Salmon.

In the mile-long straightaway to the confluence, the intensity of metamorphism grades into metamorphic schist. A layperson will note this change by the more layered, plate-like nature of the rocks along the left bank. Schists that break apart into talus piles also tend to have smoother, more reflective faces on the individual boulders.

Frequently the water of the Middle Fork has greater clarity than the Main Salmon, and it is fun to float over the mixing and swirling boundary between the two rivers. Unlike the Middle Fork, the Main Salmon flows almost due west, which can result in annoying up-canyon winds for the last few miles to Cache Bar. Though sunnier and less confined, the final 2.5 miles on the Main Salmon flow though an equally rugged desert canyon. The only drawback is the dirt road overhead and the pending reality of re-entry after six blissful days in the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness.

Day 6 - Whitewater Description

From Otter Bar (mile 90.3) it is only a half-day float to the take-out at Cache Bar (mile 99.1). In that short stretch, however, rafters will come across some of the biggest and most frequent rapids on the trip.

Things get busy right off the bat with Foreplay and Son of Rubber, two rapids in the lead-up to Rubber (mile 91.3). Though these are mostly washed out at high water, they get larger at lower flows. A big rock splits the main flow in Son of Rubber and often tips inflatable kayakers. Rescuers need to be ready for a VERY quick rescue to avoid an unpleasant swim into and through Rubber just downstream.

Rubber is probably the most notorious rapid on the river. It can be snuck along the left bank above 6 feet, but why would you want to do that? At higher flows (it is probably the biggest around 5 feet) it is a fairly straightforward crashing wave train IF you cock your nose into the monster left side later wave in order to hit it straight on. Otherwise, it has been know to quickly roll plenty of boats upside down. At lower flows, two large rocks begin to emerge at the bottom of the wave train, and these can cause some minor wrecks.

The next big rapid is Hancock (mile 92.2), a long S-turn sandwiched between the mouth of two tributaries. At extreme flows, the entrance to Hancock is reported to have giant standing waves that exceed 20 feet, but otherwise it is a fun wave train that leads into the middle of the rapid. The impressive “Broken Eggshell” rock marks the middle of Hancock (buried around 5 feet), which is a mess of small waves or a boulder garden depending on the flows. The crux of Hancock is the lower third, which narrows into an impressive wave train that pushes into a cliff wall at the bottom right. There are a few lurking holes in this lower section at various levels, so keep it straight!

About a 1.5 miles downstream from Hancock is Devil’s Tooth (mile 93.8) followed in short succession by House of Rocks (93.9).  Both are formed by a constriction of huge boulders in a very narrow section of the canyon. Both sport massive holes at higher water (though with plenty of space on either side along the left bank) and complicated and technical runs at low water. The low water Devil’s Tooth line is very challenging to nail perfectly as it requires pushing across a narrow channel from right to left in order to avoid dropping over the Devil’s Tooth rock itself. The move is complicated by the restricted space for moving your oars among the big boulders.

House of Rocks is a fun, slow moving, swirly run through giant metamorphic boulders at low flows. A landslide in 2008 altered the rapid and created a hazardous low water sieve among right bank boulders for both hardshell and inflatable kayaks.

Clamshell Rock (mile 94.1), a massive water-polished boulder, clogs the river just downstream from House of Rocks. Buried at flows above 7 feet, the downstream overhanging side of the boulder can accommodate an entire paddle boat at low water. Immediately below Clamshell, Jump Off (mile 94.2) is a fun right to center run down a big wave train. At low water, it pinches into a narrow run between partially submerged rocks and the right bank.

Upper and Lower Goat Creek (mile 94.9 and 95.3) rapids offer a fun splashy read-and-run ride that leads into the final mile-long straightaway to the confluence with the Main Salmon. Typically more than twice the flow of the Middle Fork, the rapids on the Main Salmon to Cache Bar have less technical and bigger rolling wave trains. A landslide altered Cramer Creek (mile 98.4), the final rapid of the trip in 2003. What used to be a fun, swimmable wave train evolved into a big Class IV run down the right side of the debris fan. The rapid has mellowed a bit over time, but several mid-channel rocks evolve from big waves at high water to a huge hole around 3 feet. It is fairly easy to clip the right side of the hole, but boaters lulled into complacency by the long pool above can easily flip a raft within the last mile of the trip!

Previous Day – Middle Fork of the Salmon River Day – 5

Reference: All content excerpted from The Middle Fork of the Salmon River – A Comprehensive Guide by Idaho River Publications.

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Published in collaboration with Idaho River Publications

Our mission is to inspire adventure with beautiful, comprehensive and waterproof map-based guidebooks.  Owner, publisher, and photographer Matt Leidecker, grew up exploring and guiding on the rivers in central Idaho.  His award winning Middle Fork of the Salmon River – A Comprehensive Guide is the standard by which other river guidebooks are measured.  Printed on virtually indestructible YUPO paper, IRP guides are truly unique all-in-one resources for adventure.  Each book is loaded with full-color maps, stunning photographs, and information on the history, geology, and wildflowers.  Visit Idaho River Publications to explore our guidebooks to the Rogue River in Oregon and the mountains of Central Idaho.

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