Living on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Over the past weeks, I have been learning and living on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Central Idaho. Through studying and living on the land, I am very fortunate to have this opportunity to be there. Over this last month, I have been beyond privileged to be able to learn and operate on this water. Several responsibilities come with being a ranger at the Boundary Creek Ranger Station. Part of the Daily routine is informing Boaters that will be making the 100-mile journey through the Middle Fork about the dangers of invasive species and checking their watercraft for debris or vegetation from rivers.

After checking that they have all the required sanitary and camping gear, we move on to the mandated “Leave No Trace Talk.” This talk covers things that many experienced boaters might be aware of, like securely locking food away at night or packing the ashes from their fires. However, much of this talk is designed specifically for the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Two sections of the “Leave No Trace Talk” that resonated with me personally were the sections about Salmon Spawning and Archeology/ Heritage Sites. Being from Idaho, all Salmon are considered part of the culture. Sockeye and Chinook Salmon are animals depicted in iconography all across the state for children to learn about and appreciate. The second is educating boaters on the Tuka Dika’s history, or the Mountain Sheep eater people.

Our Salmon section focused on keeping the Salmon River clean and giving our wildlife the best chance to survive and spawn in the future. We were very lucky to live and work so close to a Salmon run area called Dagger Falls (pictured below). This position included paperwork, facilities maintenance, groundwork, and interacting with private and commercial boaters. The fee for floating the Middle Fork is only 4 dollars a day when you put in for the lottery to receive a permit. However, some people don’t want to wait for a permit and will hire an outfitter to take them along the Salmon. Hiring an outfitter includes food, tents, equipment, and expert guidance from a river guide. Those who take the outfitter route can pay anything from $800 to over $6,000!

During my time there I learned that the Salmon River was not just a place for rafting, but it truly was a culture. I saw groups of boaters in costumes, handing out drinks, and most importantly I saw the camaraderie and joy that this place brings to the public and its importance to so many people. While I will not get to spend my entire internship at Boundary Creek, I cannot wait to return there and enjoy it once again.

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