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Middle Fork of the Salmon

The adventure begins!
Loading up all of our stuff for rafting/kayaking, and camping, we left Missoula with Kevin Colburn riding along to meet up with the rest of the crew in Salmon, ID. We knew one of the other people on the trip, and had met two of the others briefly. Basically, it was a group of mostly strangers who we would be teaming up with for an 8 day high water mission down the Middle Fork. Half of the fun of these sorts of trips for me is the new friends that you make when you spend that long on the river together, and this trip was no exception!

The group assembles in the grocery store parking lot in Salmon - in the rain.

There were tons of last minute details to take care of, we had some gear we were dropping off to have flown into the ranger station airstrip a little less than half way down the run, and of course everybody had to buy one or two more six packs as the beer stress set in that maybe we wouldn't have enough for 8 days on the river. The shuttle is long, so the usual method is to camp somewhere near Stanley, ID in order to make it to the put in fairly early on your launch day.

The shuttle is very beautiful, but about 5-6 hours long.

On the morning of launch, we enjoyed a big breakfast at the restaurant in Stanley, then headed to the put in to get everything ready to go. It takes a lot of stuff to sustain a group of 13 for 8 days on the river, and rigging the rafts and loading them up usually takes until early afternoon.

Rigging the rafts at the Marsh Creek put in near Stanley.
The water was FAR higher than I had ever seen it here, which made me a little nervous about rowing Marsh for my fisrt time.

When you do the Middle Fork pre-season, you get the added challenge of running Marsh Creek since the road into the normal put in at Boundary Creek is still snowed over. Marsh is a small, continuous, log choked class III/IV stream that makes up about the first 12-15 miles of the run, and is absolutely terrifying to rafts because a 1500 lb gear boat is really hard to stop, and there are very few eddies. Pinning or wrapping loaded gear boats on logs is common here, as well as ripping the floors out of rafts in the shallow rapids. Several rafters have died in logjams on Marsh - it's not to be taken lightly. Our plan was to send a crew of kayakers ahead with radios to scout for bad wood and relay information back to the rafts. This was the first time we've tried this method on Marsh, and it was a HUGE stress reliever. Before we even left the put in, Andria had radioed back to me from miles downstream that they had located the first river-wide logjams and were waiting to help us out. As we got further downstream, radio reception got clearer and we got the message that the wood was at an island where we were to run right, and look for them to throw us ropes and swing us over to the island above the logs so that we could get out and get the boats around the obstacle.

Moving a raft down to the river-wide log, while another crew waits to help the raft over.
The other side of the island had a much worse log.

Wrestling the raft up and over the partially submerged log.

Hudson enjoying the snow on the island while the rafts were lifted over the logs.

In the end, we were the only group around our launch date that had no pins or raft damage on Marsh Creek, largely due to well coordinated group efforts and the use of the radios. I'll never do Marsh Creek without a radio again!

Heading off down Marsh Creek after dealing with the logs.

Click to read the next part - Reaching the Middle Fork proper!