South Fork Salmon River. Spawn there.
After spending the winter trapped in my basement while Evan Stafford and I put Whitewater of the Southern Rockies together, I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid writing or taking pictures of kayaking. It’s been great. Between random construction jobs the weekends have been packed with some good weekend adventures, but all suffering from the two-day limit until last week. My girlfriend Tina Swan and I packed up for a five-day Idaho trip last week, with her father George along for the ride and willing to run our long shuttles. Thursday we arrived in the airstrip town of Yellowpine, at the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon drainage. We put on to Johnson Creek, without guidebook beta, but from reading the gazetteer and from the name of the run and flow on the AW flow page. It was an exciting day, but lesser quality than the rest of the trip. On Friday we set off on a 3-day, 2-night self-support trip. We started at the confluence of Johnson Creek and the East Fork South Fork Salmon (upper run), paddled the East Fork 15 miles to the South Fork, and continued down the South Fork 35 miles to the Main Salmon, where a 20-mile paddle out leads to the take-out of the main at Vinegar Creek. We started on about 700cfs. Seventy miles, two beach camps, a bunch of big water IV+, and a few class Vs later we arrived at the take-out on 20,000cfs. It was classic river-running at its finest. It’s a five-star trip with plenty of R&R time. Enjoy the eye candy. Water Level Jargon: The South Fork gauge was reading about 4 feet when we ran it. I’ve heard it starts to get scary at 5.5, and that the sickest of the local NF Payette crowd has ventured into the SF Salmon at 7.5, paddling out on the main at 80k. Low flow offers a relaxing multi-day class IV, and high water can get as V+ as you want. -Kyle McCutchen The put-in *** Tina on the East Fork, Day 1 *** South Fork Day 1 *** Tina on Devil Creek Rapid, Day 1 *** Camp 1, about 10 miles into the South Fork. *** Day 2, South Fork *** Fall Creek Rapid rejection. A group of 10 used playboats, and flew out from Mackay Bar at the confluence of the SF & Main. *** The last drop of the South Fork, about 44 miles into our trip. *** Camp 2, about 52 miles into our trip. *** I like to kayak. ***