Running the Middle Fork of the Salmon / The Grand Salmon project

10 reasons you should put this adventure on your running bucket list.

It’s moderately to extremely mind blowing to stand waist-deep in a cold, clear Wild & Scenic river while sipping gin & tonics after running along said river on a beautiful summer day.

Repeat that reason nine more times.

not bad, not bad

Okay, there are probably a few more reasons if I really rack my brain. Like the fact that the Middle Fork of the Salmon is a jewel of a designated Wild & Scenic river and lies entirely within the massive, epic Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness — the largest uninterrupted wilderness in the lower 48.

Everyone just calls it the Middle Fork, though. There may be plenty of other Middle Forks in other places, but there’s only one true Middle Fork. Just ask Nat Geo. Or literally anybody.

The river trail runs for 80 of the river’s 100 miles, plus there are dozens and dozens of additional trail miles up tributaries if you just can’t get enough. Not to mention the millions of wilderness acres available the second you step off trail.

Raft-supported running is absolutely the best thing since sliced bread. What’s better than summertime jogging along a beautiful river? If you get too hot you can cool yourself off at any time. All you have to carry are snacks. We’d meet the boats for lunch each day, and then eat all the delicious food we could each night at camp. It’s a helluva lot easier to carry everything & the kitchen sink with rafts than it is with your back! The list goes on and on. Sleeping under a billion stars. Rugged canyons. Campfire stories. Cliff jumping. Ancient pictographs. Canyon wrens, bighorn sheep, and cutthroat trout. Oh, and riverside hot springs. Really. ‘Nuff said.

In 2019 my buddy Sam Pannoni and I joined one of Idaho Wilderness Company’s rafting trips down the river, but instead of rafting and kayaking we ran for four days along the river before hopping in with the rest of the rafting trip for the final fifth day through Impassable Canyon, the final 20 trail-less miles of the river. Words don’t do it justice, but let me know how pictures and video do.

This is an invaluable place. Something worth cherishing and protecting.

All I want to do here is show one narrow view on how amazing the Salmon river watershed is and the lifelong memories it creates. But my friends Brooke Hess and Libby Tobey (along with their friend Alia Payne) are embarking this spring on a monumental effort to support and protect this watershed. Pretty darn amazing.

In their own words:

A source-to-sea journey of the Salmon River with the goal of promoting the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams and a moratorium on the Stibnite Gold Project, in order to save the rapidly dwindling Snake River Basin salmon populations from extinction.

Three women will be ski touring and kayaking 1,000+ miles from the sources of the Main, Middle, and South Forks of the Salmon, all the way to the Pacific Ocean, following the natural migration path of anadromous fish.

We are making a film about the endangered and threatened Chinook salmon, sockeye salmon, and steelhead populations of the Snake River Basin, while elevating the Indigenous voices of the region who have been most impacted by the declines in fish populations.

Check out their website to donate or get involved!

Sam Pannoni, ladies & gents
Sam, born a rebel
Early miles through the upper alpine stretches of the river
Been a minute since I did this…pretty sure I remember how…

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