Jerry Dixon, of Seward, Alaska
On June 5, 2003, I mountain biked from Lemhi Pass to Salmon, Idaho,
and began a kayak descent of the Salmon River. This is the area where
Lewis and Clark first met Sacajewea's Shoshone tribe and had the good
fortune of finding out the chief was her brother. The Salmon River
valley is still beautiful and one does not need a permit here to float
the magnificent stream.
With friends I floated from above the town of Salmon to Panther Creek.
It was in this section I saw the largest herd of elk I have seen in
my life, except for Jackson Hole in winter. I also had the opportunity
to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon twice at high water. Lewis and
Clark correctly decided that the Salmon was too difficult to descend
in dugouts that weighed up to a ton. Having recently run the Salmon
River to the Snake and the Snake to Heller Bar above Lewiston, I have
no doubt they made the correct decision.
What the Corps of Discovery saw as a formidable barrier of wild rivers
and endless mountains, is now oversubscribed. As someone who has been
fortunate to run rivers and traverse mountains here since 1961, I've
seen a tsunami of change. One must now apply for a permit to run the
Middle Fork or Main Salmon and your chances of getting a permit are
70 to 1 for the Main and 170 to 1 for the Middle Fork at the height
of the season. I have applied for a Main Salmon permit every year
for the past 16 years and never succeeded. Fortunately, I am wealthy
in my river friends and every summer have been invited on a river
friends I ran the Middle Fork twice, the first time during the 2003
Memorial Day weekend. The water was at 7.0 feet or "extreme hazard"
classification. Snow blocked access to the Dagger Falls put-in and
commercial outfits were giving up their permits. Private parties were
jumping at the chance to go and snapped up the permits. At the snow-covered
put-in, seven parties per day were trying to launch, some with 14
boats in a party, into a stream that was barely wide enough for a
fully loaded raft. That weekend two boaters were lost in separate
accidents, their bodies found one month later at Riggins, 200 miles
At one point our group came around a corner to find an 18-foot raft
sideways in a Class IV+ section with ropes draped across the river
in both directions. Had we not been alerted by our kayakers running
scout, we could have become entrapped in the ropes laced across the
this to a run I had on the same section of the Middle Fork Salmon
22 years ago at high water in kayaks, when we never saw another party
during the entire journey. This year, airplane flight services did
big business by evacuating boaters from the Flying B ranch who had
decided the risk was just not worth it.
Our precious wild rivers have become so oversubscribed that many boaters
who may not have the skills are willing to take a chance just to get
After my second run on the Middle Fork Salmon in high water, I mountain-biked
to the Lost Trail Pass. Then I backtracked once again to meet a Sierra
Club group at Lemhi Pass for some hiking and photography.
Read the six-part account of Jerry's trip:
of the Mountains to Lemhi Pass
Pass to the Salmon, float Salmon to the Lost Trail
of the Beaverhead Mountain Range
Trail Pass to Lolo and across the Lolo Pass
the Clearwater to the Snake, Snake to Columbia and Columbia to Wallula
Biking to the Pacific
Back to main page of this journey.
Photos by Jerry Dixon. Top: Jerry Dixon with his
trusty mountain bike on Lemhi Pass. Middle: Dagger Falls on the Salmon
River. Bottom: Ron Watters negotiating a rapid on the Salmon River,
in high water.
For more information about the Sierra Club's Lewis and Clark campaign or to find out how you can help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.