Two of us paddled the SF Salmon recently in a packraft and IK. Flows were around 2.5 feet on the SF gauge (175 cfs) with the EF Salmon and the Sesach river adding another 375 cfs for a total flow somewhere around 550 cfs. It was a fantastic level to float the river with every rapid except Elk and Fall creek having a clean line. We spent three full days making the run to Vinegar creek, and even with the ELF conditions we had no problem making miles.
The remoteness, whitewater and scenery are simply outstanding! We only stopped to scout Devil and Fall creeks, reading and running everything else. However, we paid for our complacency with a long swim through Elk creek rapid and the rock garden below it chasing our gear. Even at our low flows there were some BIG unavoidable hydraulics that kept things interesting, especially when running blind. Fall creek was the most challenging with only one doable line that set you up for a scary run right next to the undercut cliff wall on river left. Of course, by that point I was already swimming, which made the wall even more terrifying. I also got a really good fish-eye view of the bottom of the river as I got recirculated in the two river wide holes below the terrifying undercut cliff. What a fun rapid!
Next year I would like to run it around 1000 cfs. Even though it would make some of the whitewater bigger, I think it would fill-in the rapids more evenly and make some the lines easier. Because of the boulder choked nature of the river the packraft did better than the IK on the SF. Once we hit the main the IK definitely was the way to go as it tracked better and handled the winds with less effort. However next time I’m either flying out at Mckay Bar, or hiring a jet boat to pick me up there as they are always deadheading back to Vinegar creek and I’m sure you could get one cheap. The only negative comment for the entire trip is the paddle out on the main. I guess you got to pay-to-play.
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