The Middle Fork is an offshoot of the Salmon River that is the major branch of the Snake River, which in turn is the key offshoot of the larger Columbia River. It contains white water for about a hundred miles and is near Stanley, Idaho. Its highest altitude is 2,100m and the lowest is 1,200m. It is formed from the convergence of the Marsh and Beer Valley Creeks. It has about 100 tributaries with the largest being Loon Creek, Rapid River and Camas Creek which range between 32km to 40km in length. The Middle Fork travels across 6,500km2 of Salmon River mountainous landscape which has 3,000 peaks.
History of the Middle Fork
There is great historical significance in the Middle Fork which makes it a crucial destination for young and old people. There is evidence of human activity in this area dating back 14,500 years. This is evident from the findings at Wilson Butte Cave that is found next to Twin Falls. These are some of the most ancient in discoveries in North America. People who trek up the river will see Native American pictographs and interact with resourceful guides who will respond to all historical queries.
Frank Church – the Senator and Politician
One of the most influential conservationists and politicians who helped to hedge off the Middle Fork was Senator Frank Church. From 1957 and 1981 he was the Democratic Senator representing Idaho. He was passionate about the environment and ensured that the wilderness around the Middle Fork was protected. He was especially pivotal in sponsoring the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act to ensure that the Middle Fork and seven other rivers were shielded from development activities. He is also credited with the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area to shield the beautiful gorge from the building of dams.
Frank Church extended his campaigns to the last year of his final term and ensured that the River of No Return Wilderness was created as a home for the Salmon River’s middle and main forks. In the United States, this reserve is the largest region under protection and comprises of 2,366,757 acres of spotless ecosystems. The influence of Senator Church was so profound that the River of No Return Wilderness was in 1984 christened The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Today, local people simply call it The Frank Church.
Sacagawea the Guide and Interpreter
In 1788 in the present-day Salmon, Idaho, a girl by the name Sacagawea was born among the Shoshone tribesmen. She would later be abducted by Hidatsa people at the age of 12 and transported to a hamlet in present North Dakota. At 13 years of age Sacagawea got married to Toussaint Charbonneau, a Frenchman who worked as a trapper, as the second wife. Sacagawea became crucial to Clark and Lewis when they reached this village in the 1804 / 1805 winter. These explorers intended to move up the Missouri River that spring and employed Charbonneau as a guide because this would ensure Sacagawea came along to help in interpreting the Shoshone language.
Sacagawea started being of great use to the team when they journey began in April. When Clark and Lewis’ journals were trapped in a capsized boat, she retrieved the documents. When the team wanted to acquire a fur robe as a present to President Jefferson, she battered her beads for the garment. Sacagawea also benefited from the journey because she met her own brother who had risen up to head their tribe! She went with the team all the way to the Pacific Ocean and was at Fort Clatsop as Clark and Lewis constructed a shelter for winter.
The story of this exceptional Indigenous American woman can be read in detail at the Sacagawea Interpretive Center which is found in the town of Salmon in Idaho. Here you will also find a park with an area of 71 acres which is devoted to the Agaidika, Sacagawea tribe, and the contribution of the great woman to the history of the United States.
The Shoshone People
These were the inhabitants of the eastern and central Idaho. They were also referred to as the Snake People because they were predominant in the areas around the Snake River. The meaning of Shoshone is actually the Valley People. The main sub-groups of the Shoshone were the Agaidika, who were also called Salmon-Eaters and the Tukukika who were referred to as Sheep-Eaters. These two peoples lived around the Salmon River and either ate salmon or hunted down buffalo, deer, antelope or mountain sheep as the names suggest.
Although President Grant decreed that the Shoshone be given 100 square miles as the indigenes of the Salmon River, pressure from other inhabitants resulted in the order being reversed in 1905. Moreover, the Shoshone were pushed out of their ancestral lands to the southeastern parts of Idaho in the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
You can understand the history of the Shoshone to a greater depth of you visit the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and access the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum.
The Nez Perce People
Another group of people that lived around the Middle Fork was the Nez Perce. They are said to have lived in this area for over 10,000 years and had the highest population in the 1800s as compared to other tribes. More than 6,000 of them inhabited various villages. They would migrate depending on availability of food and the season. They ate steelhead and Chinook salmon that could be found in Clear Waters, Snake and Salmon Rivers.
Presently, a 2,000 square miles Nez Perce reserve stands in north Idaho. There is also the Nez Perce National Historical Park that has 38 unique sites scattered in Washington, Montana, Idaho and Oregon. These centers preserve the culture, history and folklore of the Nez Perce.
Fishing on the Middle Fork
This areas is famous for Dolly Varden, cutthroat and rainbow varieties although Dolly Varden is not found abundantly. You will enjoy fishing from mid June to the end of summer on our fully guided and raft-supported Middle Fork of the Salmon fishing trips. The best fishing month is September because temperatures and water levels are low and the fish are active as they seek to gain weight for winter.