Camping Along The Salmon River

Wednesday, July 23, 2020

43 degrees this morning, 86 in the afternoon.

It was a chilly morning. After sweltering heat for the last few weeks, I was surprised this morning, turning the heat on. I started thinking about the logistics of the Middle Fork trip that starts Friday, so I wrote some notes for Carla, who is going to move the truck and trailer to her place in Challis. Then I went through the recommended gear list, making sure I had everything. I tried to think about how I would find things in a dry bag. I’m a little worried about hooking up and getting out of my camp spot and then getting to Stanley on time. 

I am camped across from a major launch site for rafts, kayaks and fishermen on the Salmon River. It’s the Elk River launch site. It was interesting to watch the steady flow of people, guides and rafts. I don’t know if they sign up for a certain time, but it seems regulated. Like John told me back in Twin Falls, this place is busy, very busy. Some people wore masks, some didn’t. Some rafts had 10 people in them, all with paddles.

There was a fairly steady flow of traffic up and down this road connecting Challis and Stanley. Motorcycles, trucks, RV’s and river-running companies were busy. There was a question about whether the state would allow the rafting companies to operate with Covid 19, but they finally opened it up. It is a huge part of the state’s income. Here in Stanley, it IS the income, and it was rocking.

I fished the Salmon River in front of camp for a while with no luck. Since it was chilly, I put on all the gear – chest waders, boots, vest and hat. By the time I put all that stuff on, It warmed up. I quickly realized I didn’t need chest waders. At least in this spot, if I waded up to my waist, I would soon be carried away, probably through “Piece of Cake Rapids”. I had a nice piece of water to fish for about 50 yards. I switched flies three times, but nothing. Then a huge midge hatch came off. I don’t really know what they were, but they were very small and brown. Still, nothing broke water, so they must be feeding below the surface. I couldn’t match it, but I put on something similar with no luck.

 I couldn’t move downstream, so I went up, but that’s where everyone was putting in. Above it was a beautiful bend in the river, flowing against the near bank that was reinforced with huge boulders. Of course the best place to fish it was from the other side, but there was no way I could get across. It was tough enough to get down on this side. As I attempted to get down, I realized it was a perfect place for rattlesnakes. Then I thought about how I could get around if I did get down there. You’d have to be 21 years old to get around down there, and I am not.

I got out of all that gear, fixed lunch and considered the options. Tired jumped all over me, so I took a 30-minute nap. I thought I’d drive back toward Stanley and look for a better entry place. Just around the corner Yankee Fork enters the Salmon, so I made the turn. There was a busy outfitter/campground/motel on the corner. As I drove along the stream, it looked beautiful – just the right size for wading, but some big pools. Around the corner was a campground that was full. Well, it’s not really a campground, but a place where people camp.

It’s a strange area, and I soon found out why. It was a huge mining stream where $13 million in gold was found. A restoration project has been going on since 1939, probably costing double the $13 million, and it still looks terrible. The road turned to dirt and dust, but it was a good dirt road. Every turn-off had a camper in it, or two or six, slide-outs and all. I like the way some circle the wagons, or campers, sometimes in a square with all the chairs and tables set out in the middle. Most had ATV’s. 

There was a surprising amount of traffic on this dusty road, so I continued on to see what the heck was up here. I passed a dredging operation, cleaning up the area. Then I came to a big dredging building that had a museum inside. The parking lot was full. A little further up the road was a “town” called Custer. It’s what’s left of the old mining town, and this road was the main supply road to Challis. 10 or 12 cars were parked to look explore the town.

OK, above town should get quiet, but more campers at every side road. Now all of them had ATV’s. I’m sure this is a great area to ride ATV’s. However, with all this traffic and campers, it could be dangerous. I tried a side road leading to the stream that looked a bit rough. After 100 yards, it opened into a small parking area. A rougher road led down to the stream. I didn’t want to chance driving the truck down there. What if I couldn’t turn around, so I parked and walked down the hill. There was a Ford Focus parked beside the stream with their tents, tables and chairs all set up. Geez!

I headed back down, happy that I hadn’t found a carwash in Twin Falls. I marveled at all the people camped. One guy had a place all to himself, sitting on a bluff overlooking the stream…….and all the rocks piled up on both sides of the stream from the “restoration project”. It’s Wednesday! What the heck does it look like on Saturday?

I came to a bridge and decided to fish. Bridges are Kelly’s favorite places to fish. It’s a great way to test the stream without too much trouble, and the shade provides cover for the fish. This time I just put the wading boots on and went in. I tried a Coachman dry fly in what looked like a perfect run under the bridge, but nothing. Out the other side of the bridge was another nice run. I noticed a few brown flies in the air, so I changed, but nothing. I was about to give up when a fish splashed right in front of me, but he didn’t want my fly. 

Above that were two big pools that the river swirled around. Seeing grass on the other side, I put a grasshopper on – nothing. After five or six casts to the larger pool, I plopped it in the middle and started walking up. Boom, a very nice fish hit it, but I wasn’t looking. I was walking, and I missed him. I did get a good feel though, and it was a nice fish. Nothing else was interested in my grasshopper though, so I called it a day. Maybe I’d come back tomorrow. 

After looking at all those remote places, my campsite might as well be in town. They would be laughing at my concerns about camping there – vault toilet and all! 

My Photography theme is no longer supported, and I was getting a line through the pictures, so I am experimenting with a new theme, called Gridiculous

  3 comments for “Camping Along The Salmon River

  1. July 26, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Really enjoying your blog
    Are you going to make it up North on this trip?
    We thought of you at Farragut last week

    Ken & Ruth

  2. Jim Camblos
    July 27, 2020 at 1:28 am

    What beautiful country; I see why you like it. Why so many campers at this site compared to others?

  3. July 27, 2020 at 5:48 am

    Hi Jim,

    I don’t know why there are so many at this site, but a lot of people like to camp in groups. Then they ride the ATV’s together. Maybe the ones who don’t ride, have company while they stay in camp. It’s a bit like a wagon train traveling together, cooking meals together, having a big time.

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