REI.com – Article By: MORGAN TILTON//

The nation’s oldest protected waterway is a 104-mile gateway to our past and future

The eddy catapults us river left, into a safe zone, and away from the adrenaline-pumping drop. Parallel to our raft, the sweep boat—a 27-foot-long inflatable cargo vessel—isn’t as lucky. The hulk rises several feet above the water with two far-reaching sweep oars at its bow and stern. I watch our friends ping-pong around the deck as the boat nose-dives over Velvet Falls into a colossal hole of swirling whitewater. Sweep guide, Sanne Hilbrich, and Barb Gonzalez, another boater in our group, both fly overboard into the frigid water. A split-second later, Terry Palmer—the only rafter who manages to not fall in—grabs Sanne’s personal flotation device and pulls her out of the rapid’s gut. Barb bobs to the surface and, as the current carries her away, we furiously paddle downstream to catch her.

It’s the third week of May, and we’re five miles into rafting one of the most pristine and wild stretches of the American West: the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. North of central Idaho’s Sawtooth Range, Marsh Creek becomes the headwaters of this remote river, which is fed by another dozen tributaries before Boundary Creek—our launch site. For 104 miles, the Middle Fork flows north, from high alpine forest at about 6,000 feet to the confluence with the Salmon River (colloquially known as the Main Salmon), at half its start elevation. The final segment of the Middle Fork carves through the Impassable Canyon: the third-deepest gorge in North America. The Impassable is deeper than the eminent Grand Canyon, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and triumphed only by a passage carved by Idaho’s Salmon River and Hells Canyon, which towers above the Snake River. Even before we reach the chasm, the Middle Fork is exceptionally remote. The Middle Fork is one of the nation’s first-ever Wild and Scenic Rivers—a federal protection for waterways that was introduced 50 years ago—and it cuts through the heart of the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness: a 2.4-million-acre territory that overlaps with six national forests and is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower 48.

Our trip is destined to be fast and rowdy. It’s early spring and consequently, the water’s running high, at a depth greater than six feet and a flow that’s more than 7,800 cubic feet per second, which surges up the canyon walls, accentuates hair-raising plunges and whips against edgy boulders. Much higher, and the water would be impassable, even for skilled boaters. The sheer volume creates shooting speed: We’ll complete the Middle Fork in four days, rather than the six- to eight-day average that’s typical during the summer season and at lower flows.

Matt Leidecker, author of The Middle Fork of the Salmon River: A Comprehensive Guide, writes, “At high water, the first twelve miles is a Class IV+ river with Class V consequences. Infrequent eddies and icy water can turn a flip at Velvet Falls into a very serious situation … this level requires preparation and a strong team.”

Before we reach her, Barb is intercepted by one of the safety kayakers. Our head guide, Jake Miczulski, acts quickly and calmly. He gives everyone directions, pulls Barb into the boat and we anchor the raft at the river’s edge. “This ludicrous hat—I’m never wearing it again!” Barb exclaims and yanks back her full-brim cap, which was suctioned beneath her helmet and became glued over her eyes. I’m thankful that this is the circumstance, and nothing worse, that needs consolation.

Traveling on whitewater is full of unpredictability. A guide’s ability to efficiently manage risk and emergency response comes with experience. I’m a novice paddler, but fortunately, I’m en route with one of the most qualified outfitters on the Middle Fork: Far and Away Adventures, a Ketchum, Idaho-based, 40-year-old, family-run rafting company. Jake, like all of our guides, is in his mid-twenties and is a fierce advocate for the environmental and spiritual benefits of the Middle Fork. As a seasoned local, he grew up paddling with his family, has guided for close to a decade and continues to sharpen his skills via courses, like swift water rescue, that Far and Away arranges for its staff.

Far and Away Founder Steve Lentz understands the nature of the job. His great aunt and uncle were among the first-ever commercial passengers to venture down the region’s Salmon River, in 1946. Steve has run the Middle Fork more than 100 times since his first trip in the ’70s. He even recalls the ecological impact the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act had following the designation in 1968. The grazing of cows and sheep had been disrupting the surrounding riparian habitat. With the passage of the act, the animals were removed, and the water took a big turn in clarity. The protection of the Middle Fork helped make the river a whitewater destination. “To have one of the most pristine, runnable rivers and environments in the world is an incredible asset,” Steve said.

The river’s transparency, ergo good health, is unmistakable. On day one, before we boarded our rafts on the Middle Fork, I saw the crystal-clear water from my passenger window. From the bus, shuttling along Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, I watched Marsh Creek’s vibrant kaleidoscope of pebbles and flowing, slender grass fly by. As Steve drove, I chatted with Annie Lentz, Far and Away co-owner and Steve’s wife. She described the economic impact that travelers to the Middle Fork have on the local towns, known as feeder communities. Three decades ago, small municipalities like Stanley, Idaho (population 100), received mail only once a week. Now, retail shops like Riverwear—a freshly renovated store where I stopped to buy neoprene gloves on our way to the put-in—thrive in places like Stanley and Salmon. One-third of the economy in Custer County, where Stanley is located, is attributed to tourism and travel spending: that’s double the rate of tourism in the rest of Idaho, per a 2016 report by University of Montana Research Specialist and Economist Chris Neher.

“When 10,000 commercial and private floaters go down the Middle Fork in a three-month period—and each paddler spends $300 to $1,000 on a trip—it’s a huge impact for small economies,” says Neher. He reports that 27 outfitters operate on the Middle Fork and the annual revenue that’s collected from those client fees is close to $8.4 million. Beyond rafters and kayakers, the Middle Fork attracts hunters, hikers, horsepackers, backpackers, backcountry skiers and anglers. This 104-mile stretch is one of the few places in the Columbia River Basin that’s home to wild salmon. Gray wolves, reintroduced two decades ago, also live here among the wolverine, lynx, mountain lion, black bear, elk, mule deer, moose, mountain goat and other creatures. The Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness manages 296 trails, a total of 2,616 miles—yet, far more acreage has zero trails at all. All considering, Neher estimates that the total annual economic impact of Middle Fork-related spending is as high as $15 million in Custer and Lemhi Counties alone. By my third day on the water, I understand why.

Led by Far and Away Adventures, the crew pushed off from Boundary Creek put-in. While the sunshine was blissful, the river was immediately turbulent and tough to paddle. (Photo Credit: Morgan Tilton)

At mile 74, we tie off our boats to set up camp before dusk. I stroll upriver. At an inviting bend, I sit with my legs crossed beneath a grove of ponderosa pine and close my eyes to meditate next to the rushing water. The day’s memories flood my mind: a wide-eyed instant of excitement during our day hike, when we’d run into a large family of bighorn sheep on the summit of Johnson Point; being greeted by white-tailed deer here at Survey Camp, our home for the night; learning from our guides about the spiritual presence of the Tukudeka (also known as the Mountain Sheepeater) people. Behind me, several natural depressions are distinguishable, barely, in the raised benchland, and are believed to be their remaining historic house pits. According to the Idaho Museum of Natural History, the isolated tribe occupied the canyon as early as 8,000 years ago. My thoughts settle and I lose track of time. When I finally open my eyes, a bald eagle flies directly toward me, in slow motion above the water. It’s a moment I’ve never experienced despite a lifetime in the Rockies.

The Middle Fork is a diamond in the rough, both here in the U.S. and worldwide. As we devour a delicious beachside lunch beneath the sun on day two, the guides joke about how they missed Far and Away’s gourmet menu when they were paddling in Ethiopia, less than two months earlier. Sanne, Jake and four other Far and Away guides embarked on a 35-day trip, via rafts and kayaks, to complete the last descent of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia. In navigating more than 500 miles, they passed threatening crocodiles and hippos, exchanged greetings with subsistence farmers and ultimately, were among the final boaters to experience portions of the Blue Nile’s Grand Canyon before one of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world is completed. The development will have a tremendous impact on the people who live along and depend on the river, reports National Geographic. Conservationists are concerned the enterprise will displace close to 5,000 villagers who inhabit a 200-kilometer stretch of the river, according to Power Technology. Yet, the dam, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project, is estimated to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, or, 15,000 gigawatt hours of power per year, states Italy-based primary contractor, Salini Impregilo. The double-edged sword is that the dam will introduce energy that may improve quality of life in rural communities by allowing people to light their homes and cut down on health issues caused by household air pollution.

I feel ignorantly unaware of the overseas issue and curious about Ethiopian culture, so I continue to ask my guides about their experience. During the passing miles, as we float, share meals and explore sights on land, Sanne and I chat about her affinity for river habitats and fish, and how her extraordinary experience of drifting in Africa may have widened her perspective. Sanne graduated from Montana State University in May 2017 with an environmental science degree. She penned her senior thesis on the Snake River’s salmon and steelhead populations, and the potential positive impact that removing four dams on the Lower Snake River could have on those fish. Now, she’s applying to graduate school to get her master’s in environmental education and pursue a teaching career along with river guiding. She’s torn by the dam construction in Ethiopia:

After leaving Lower Grouse, the gorge’s character morphs into a rougher and more rugged environment. Far and Away Adventures Raft Guide Galen Barker steers the sweep boat, which carries the team’s camp gear. (Photo Credit: Morgan Tilton)

“The reservoir will flood hundreds of tribal communities that have no idea it’s even happening. Ethiopia is full of ancient culture, and if that culture gets wiped out, the history of those people will disappear,” Sanne says. On the other hand, she adds, “I do see the positive side of this dam in Africa on the Blue Nile with the benefits of electricity.” We pause. She and I sit on a fallen tree, listening to nature’s orchestra of creaking woods, trilling birds and the flying Middle Fork, and it is not lost on us that we are extremely fortunate to be here. This river will remain relatively unchanged. Sanne describes the contrast: “On the Blue Nile, there are no regulations. Everything goes into the water: It’s where you shower, drink and dispose of waste. It’s not that way here in the U.S., because of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.”

In the U.S., the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was established in response to the water resource development projects, dams and diversions that occurred nationwide from the 1930s to the 1960s. The intent of the enactment is for rivers to be preserved and protected in a free-flowing condition for today’s recreationists and future generations, states the USDA.Despite the Middle Fork’s secure status, today, only 209 rivers are guarded by the act. The potential is much grander: 3.6million miles of streams exist and at least 3,200 rivers qualify as Wild and Scenic, according to Denielle Perry, assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University.

Our nation’s slow forward-motion for protecting waterways is further strained pressure from extractive industries and pitches for fresh construction. A year ago, the Department of the Interior released a federal review of 27 national monuments in response to President Trump’s executive order. And recent dam proposals—like California’s Centennial Dam or structures on Colorado’s Maroon and Castle Creeks—continue to surface, which concern local residents and river advocates due to impacts like the flooding of cultural sites and choked streamflow for fish downstream.

Knowing passionate river guides like the Far and Away crew, who are teachers and stewards of our country’s natural and human resources, gives me hope for a future that responsibly holds and expands our public water and land. Jake, Sanne and their colleagues devote their lives to studying Idaho’s unique geology, ecology, wildlife and human history with an intent to share that knowledge through hands-on engagement. On our final day on the water, my knuckles go white as I grip the sweep boat’s railing next to my swivel seat, and I remind myself to trust our teamwork and their leadership.

For 25 miles, my eyes become fixated. After Big Creek, a tributary near mile 78, the Impassable Canyon begins. Until this point, the peripheral alpine-peppered, high-desert slopes and jagged ridgelines towered 3,000 feet over the Middle Fork. But here, the canyon becomes narrow and remarkably consolidated. Abrupt, concrete-like walls spike 5,000 feet above us, and I gaze upward to observe the dark-toned, V-shaped batholith and its alabaster-colored waterfalls. Layers of the beveled mountainsides mimic sinking battleships. Shrubs and Douglas-firs cling to the vertical terrain despite the impossible steepness. Holes between the tight rapids, which have surged in size and frequency due to the rock-solid ravine, nearly swallow our sweep boat.

The view from the Loon Creek Trail, which runs along loud gray-emerald waters and leads to the trail’s namesake riverside hot springs. The Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness is filled with these hidden gems. (Photo Credit: Morgan Tilton)

After we jostle through Redside Rapid, near mile 80, our boat is throttled through a series of hydraulic waves—known as Weber Rapid—before a stretch of calm. I take my mind off the flow and ask Jake what his plans are for August, when he finishes up the guiding season. He says he’s starting a graduate program at the University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School. His master’s will be in natural resources with an emphasis in environmental education and science communication. His ultimate plan? To introduce as many youths as possible to radical experiences in the outdoors, and to continue to share the Middle Fork’s magic for generations to come.


Featured photo – The bright-green hillsides that surround the Middle Fork of the Salmon carry an effervescent glow from spring showers in the third week of May. (Photo Credit: Morgan Tilton)


Float Your Boat: The Best Whitewater River Trips in America – Mens Journal 2018

Salmon River, Idaho

Most river trips involve a certain amount of effort at the end of each day to unload the boats and set up camp. And, let’s be honest, they also include a bit of “roughing it.” Not so with Far and Away Adventures’ Middle Fork of the Salmon River float. Every morning, after a hot towel is hand-delivered to your tent—and an indulgent breakfast like pancakes and bacon or frittatas and sausage is served—the outfitter’s giant sweep boat sets off with nearly all the camp gear. When you arrive at the next campsite that afternoon, the tents are set up, dinner is already being prepared, and happy hour is well underway. This leaves you free to relax bankside, fish for an endless supply of cutthroat trout, or scan the surrounding mountains for bald eagles and black bears. During the day, you’ll float 100 miles of high-country forest and granite canyons in some of Idaho’s most storied landscape, full of Native American history and pioneer sites. At night, you can sip wine fireside or hike to the hot springs adjacent to a few of the campsites for midnight dips.

CUSTOMIZE IT: In addition to its general trip, Far and Away offers a custom trip for larger groups, so you can have the whole float to yourself. —Ryan Krogh


Luxury Rafting on the River of No Return, Mens Journal 2018


Central Idaho’s intriguingly named Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness (named, it turns out, for a home state senator who helped pass the Wilderness Act) fairly spawns superlatives. Including adjacent parks and Forest Service lands, it is home to the largest roadless area in the lower 48. Its official borders run through six different National Forests. And it’s the second largest contiguous protected wilderness area in the U.S. (after Death Valley), encompassing some 2.2 million acres of stately pines, 10,000-foot peaks, deep river gorges, and a veritable encyclopedia of big game, from bear, moose, and elk to Big Horn sheep and mountain goats, among others.

Cutting a path through all that wonderment is a main tributary of the Salmon River – the aforementioned River of No Return – dubbed the Middle Fork of the Salmon. One of the most iconic and scenic whitewater rivers in the world, the Middle Fork is an unparalleled way to visit one of the few truly pristine chunks of wilderness left in the United States.

The six-day adventure begins in the small town of Stanley, Idaho, at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains (just a few miles from the headwaters of both the Main Salmon and the Middle Fork of the Salmon). From there it’s a short drive to the put-in below Dagger Falls, where you wave goodbye to all signs of civilization and human contact, minus a rare homesteader’s cabin or occasional Nez Perce pictographs along the river banks. During the ensuing 100 miles of river run – featuring 300 class III to IV rapids – you’ll experience five star-studded, light-pollution free nights, hundreds of world-class fishing holes, and half a dozen epic hot springs along with views that discourage attempts at description.

The Middle Fork can only be run with a permit, and just seven boats per day are allowed to launch. The permits are incredibly difficult to get and only available through a lottery held every winter, so we recommend hiring an outfitter; we’re fans of Far and Away Adventures.

Not only will it sort out the permit in advance for you and take care of all the logistics, it also layers on the luxury, serving gourmet meals and fine wine by candlelight, and providing private tents with carpets, elevated beds, flannel sheets, and full-size pillows. [Six-day all-inclusive from $2,750 per person; far-away.com]


Southwest Magazine May 2018

Design Your Own Getaway.  Specializing in “wilderness luxury” Far and Away Adventures allows you to custom-build your vacation. While most trips take place on or near the Middlefork of Idaho’s Salmon River, the adventures vary from fly-fishing to white water rafting, with age-specific options. Whether you’re an advanced outdoorsman or you prefer hot springs to hiking. Far and Away works with you to create your ideal getaway and provides a staff of expert guides for every level of adventurer.



Read the full article

The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act turns 50

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Turns 50!

And the Middle Fork Salmon is so much better because of it.
Far and Away’s Steve Lentz remembers traveling the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with his father when toilet paper littered every campsite, rocks were blackened with soot and scattered garbage had to be shoveled into piles before tents could be erected.
Idaho’s then-Senator Frank Church introduced legislation to set aside certain rivers for protection from development, including more dams that could ultimately harm or destroy the fragile river ecosystems. The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) was passed unanimously in the Senate and with only seven no votes in the House of Representatives. 
When the WSRA was signed on Oct. 2, 1968 it created the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, which originally designated eight rivers, including the Middle Fork Salmon. Over the next 50 years, another 200 rivers have been protected, and the wilderness area through which the Middle Fork flows is now called the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area in his honor.
WSRA protected rivers that “possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, culture or similar values, in their free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
One hundred miles of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is designated as Wild, which is defined as “free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive, and waters unpolluted. The river also includes a one-mile section as Scenic, which is more developed than Wild river sections and less developed than Recreational river sections.
Today, the Act protects 12,734 miles of 208 rivers in 40 states and Puerto Rico, representing about one-quarter of one percent of the rivers in the U.S. Dams, on the other hand, have modified some 600,000 miles of rivers, or about 17 percent of rivers in the U.S.
Here on the Middle Fork Salmon, Far and Away is famous for it well-equipped sweep boats carrying “Far and Away the Most Stuff on the River.” If we carry it in, we carry it out. And that includes fine food and wine, cloth table cloths, massage tables, yoga mats, private tents, solar-powered showers and more.

Wild and scenic describes the river. Civilized and luxurious describes the experience.



Try These Yoga Hybrids – Northwest Travel & Life

Yoga and Rafting  Each morning, glampers start with an hour-long yoga class. Whether in a forest or on a beach, owner Steve Lentz promises “the background symphony of water and nature.” Guest instructors have included such celebrities as Mariel Hemingway. “It’s so well received. Far & Away has been offering yoga as part of the trip for nearly 10 years, on every departure,” Lentz says. far-away.com

Ride the Rivers in Colorado and Idaho – GLOBAL TRAVELER

dreamstime_m_12931629Highlights of upcoming expeditions in Idaho with outfitters Far and Away Adventures include a selection of luxury Middle Fork trips with safari-style camping on riverbanks, guided backcountry adventures, solar-powered showers and gourmet meals with fine stemware, wines and chef-prepared cuisine. Six-day, five-night itineraries with a maximum of 22 participants include new “sweep boats” fitted with swivel seats, wooden decks and wine cellars. From Aug. 11–16, a themed Bourbon on the Middle Fork trip includes whitewater rafting, fishing and luxury camping with evening bourbon tastings and seminars covering trends, tastes and techniques. Personalized charters are also available that include handpicked menus, great wines and guest-chosen activities.

About 2.5 hours from Denver near the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Colorado, new luxury cabins and glamping tents are part of Echo Canyon River Expeditions. Nine Royal Gorge Cabins provide luxury accommodations in six 800-square-foot, two-story, two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom loft cabins; and three one-bedroom, one-bath, 600-square -oot king cabins. Loft cabin living areas include galley kitchens and other features such as flat-screen televisions, granite bars and double-sided gas fireplaces. Glamping tents are fitted with comfy beds and can accommodate up to four in two queen-sized beds fitted with soft linens. The tents also include screened windows, private porches, picnic tables, fire rings and complimentary WiFi (but no private bathrooms). A wide variety of seasonal rafting adventures on the Arkansas River are also offered, from peaceful floats with your family to heart-pounding whitewater adventures. Afterwards, you can rehash the high points of your day over a meal or a Colorado beer at the 8 Mile Bar & Grill.

By Debra Bokur – March 11, 2017


Family travel five: It’s time to treasure nature together – CHICAGO TRIBUNE

sfp-family-travel-five-its-time-to-treasure-na-001Earth Day provides an annual reminder to treasure our natural resources. Here are five ways to appreciate this beautiful planet.

1. Visit a national park. You may already have a favorite, or perhaps you yearn to visit Yosemite or Glacier. This year, the list of possibilities got longer with the addition of seven new parks in eight states plus the District of Columbia.

While several of the newbies await land acquisitions or design approvals, others are ready for your arrival.

Check out the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park in Massachusetts for river rafting, canoeing, kayaking and cycling. You’ll also get the chance to honor the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. The area hosted the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory, a symbol of the nation’s transition from farm to factory. Ask about adventure packs to help youngsters explore the region.

Contact: nps.gov/blac

2. Raft a river. Find your way to Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness and commit to an unplugged week on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. As you float, fish and splash through 100 miles of spectacular scenery, you’ll be treated to unexpected luxuries. Relish the fresh air of morning as your crew delivers hot coffee or cocoa to your cozy tent. Later, warm up in a hot spring, dine on organic, seasonal specialties and plan for the next day’s adventure under a starry sky.

3. Hike the Rockies. Make a plan to take on a trek that will reward your clan with stunning vistas, wildflowers and a sense of accomplishment. The 12-mile trail between Crested Butte and Aspen crosses over the Maroon Bells pass (12,500 feet) and through splendid scenery.

A package created by Crested Butte’s Nordic Inn and the Limelight in Aspen simplifies logistics for travelers. It offers a comfortable night’s sleep, breakfast and assistance in transport to and from the trail heads. Your complimentary use of a satellite-assisted device makes it possible to track your progress, enabling an easy pickup at the end of the hike (and SOS capability in the off chance things go awry).

Contact: nordicinncb.com; limelighthotel.com; visitcolorado.com

4. Consider a farm stay. A stay at the Flint Hill Farm, which is on 28 acres in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County, means you and your family will learn about country life dating back to 1850.

Find out what it means to run a certified raw cow and goat milk dairy and how artisan cheese, butter and yogurt are made. Collect eggs for breakfast and then, if you like, assist with feeding and handling the horses, chickens, pigs and sheep.

Contact: farmstayus.com; flinthill-farmag.org

5. Camp under the stars. Keep your carbon footprint low by setting up your tent close to home. Teach the kids what it means to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” Bring reusable utensils and containers and leave the campsite better than you found it.

While exploring, discuss the importance of staying on marked trails to protect fragile ecosystems.

BY: Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
The Dallas Morning News

5 trips even teens will think are cool – SEATTLE TIMES

teens4_0608Whether they suffer from FOMO or just need to relax, these trips are perfect for teens — and the rest of the family.

Teens can be a picky lot. But they’re at an age when they will remember family vacations, and great memories can be made. Here are some teen traits and how to accommodate or battle them on your next trip

Your teen may suffer from FOMO

That’s Fear of Missing Out. Sure, there’s the big game on Saturday, Heather’s birthday party and Jason’s gathering to consider. But won’t there always be some can’t-miss event on your teen’s calendar?

The flip side is they’ll have plenty to share on social media after the family boards a high-tech über-ship like Royal Cabibbean’s Anthem of the Seas for an island-hopping cruise through the sunny Caribbean.

Or perhaps your son or daughter would prefer exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage. Expect photo ops on ziplines or while dog-sledding across icy glaciers.

Your teen may relish the rewards of unplugging
You won’t know for sure until you try. But once there is no Snapchat to send or sports scores to check, the conversation may flow.

So buckle up your personal flotation devices and share the thrill of a trip down Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Far and Away Adventures, where trout are plentiful, hot springs provide a welcome warm-up and frothy rapids get the adrenaline pumping.

Share stories around the campfire and catch the star-filled show overhead.

Your teen may be stressed

It’s a complicated world. And then there are colleges and careers to consider. So, for now, why not relax, old-school style?

Head to southern Maine’s Migis Lodge on the shores of Lake Saranac, where families have been bonding since 1916. Swim, paddle, float, ski or sail by day.

Then, gather your clan for a lobster or clambake before a settling in for a fireside game night in your cozy cottage.

Your teen is curious
So why not explore someplace new together?

A textured city such as New Orleans offers rich cultural, historical and adventurous outings. Check out the spooky vampire and haunted house tours and visit compelling movie sets.

Sample new styles of music in all-age venues like House of Blues and Preservation Hall. Stir up some spice-filled fun in a Cajun cooking class before testing your skills in an Audubon Institute ropes course.

Your teen will be gone before you know it
You’ll be moving your fledgling adult into a dorm or apartment in no time. So for now, pack your suits and sunscreen and enjoy quality island time.

In Hawaii, explore torch-lit paths, indigenous birds and flora, and a world-famous luau at the Big Island’s Hilton Waikoloa Village. Dig in for toes-in-the-sand dining and hula dancing on Kauai, snorkel on Maui, or surf and swim while relaxing on Oahu.wa

By Lynn O’Rourke Hayes
The Dallas Morning News (TNS)

Floating the mysterious Bruneau River is worth the work – Idaho Statesman


River guide Sparky Easom yells out commands as the paddle raft with six passengers pinballs through Cave Rapid, one of the first Class IV (expert) rapids on Idaho’s remote Bruneau River.


A raft on the Bruneau River is framed by steep canyon walls few people see. Paddle raft guide Sparky Easom’s eyes are focused on roaring whitewater downstream on the Bruneau River. “Paddles ready,” he says to his passengers. “It’s a place of wonder,” river guide Jessie Jarvis said about the wilderness canyon southeast of Boise. Guides Sadie Grossbaum and Jessie Jarvis prepare a dinner at camp on the Bruneau River. It’s easy to relish the lunch spots on the Bruneau River. Loaded with rafting gear, a Far and Away Adventures truck creaks its way down the last steep and rocky segment of the road to the Bruneau River canyon. A raft on the Bruneau River is framed by steep canyon walls few people see. Paddle raft guide Sparky Easom’s eyes are focused on roaring whitewater downstream on the Bruneau River. “Paddles ready,” he says to his passengers.

Easom coordinates the forward and back paddling of the passengers, and the raft zig-zags through a maze of boulders that need the expertise of a veteran river runner.

“Easy does it. Take a break.”

It’s late May and the Bruneau’s flows, after four years of low water and canceling trips, are perfect for the 40-mile wilderness whitewater run in a pristine, 1,200-foot canyon known for being hard to float, hard to reach and hard to predict.

That’s right. You have to catch the Bruneau River while you can, and for many, it’s a bucket list expedition they want to catch.

Desert roads that tend to be greasy wet have to be passable. River flows have to be just right where they can be run in kayaks and rafts — not too high and not too low. The running season can be months, a few weeks or mere days. The season can be anywhere from April to mid-June, depending on snowpack in the 10,500-foot Jarbidge Mountains on the Idaho-Nevada border, which feeds the river.

Contemplating all the variables, a time can come when all conditions are perfect, and then a desert downpour gums up roads and makes river flows too high to run.

Steve Lentz, who owns Far and Away Adventures out of Sun Valley with his wife, Annie, was watching the river, roads and weather all spring trying to bet on the best days to launch. “You basically roll the dice,” he said.

He picked the fourth week in May. Several of his guides scouted the river in the preceding weeks. Anticipating guests got emails that it was a go.

Still, just days before the trip, certain sections of the roughly 50 miles of desert roads leading to the launch site turned into axle-deep quicksand. Back roads going into the Bruneau Canyon can turn into a greasy frying pan of infamous Owyhee gumbo from one freak desert storm. Owyhee gumbo is an extremely sticky goo that results when rain hits the talcum powder dirt. Just add water and it’s like Elmer’s Glue on tires.

At the last minute, it was a definite go, but still with hesitations on what the rafting convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles loaded with rafts, raft frames, coolers, food and other gear would find.

In the end, the expedition gets to the launch site on the Bruneau downstream from the confluence of the Jarbidge and West Fork of the Bruneau rivers. The river “put-in” is a gateway into an ancient lava rock canyon of orange-brown, black, gray and seemingly blue colored walls, red cliffs and Christmas tree like junipers. Around each bend are spire-like hoodoos shooting hundreds of feet skyward, deep dark caves and pastel-gray volcanic columns.

The canyon is the home of a variety of wildlife, such as bighorn sheep, songbirds, hawks, redband trout and river otters. Western tanagers escort rafters downstream — yellow flashes flittering from juniper to juniper. The south-north canyon is a migration highway for them in spring as they head to Central Idaho’s high country.

All this is hidden from most people.

The Bruneau is a secret canyon in Southwest Idaho’s sagebrush plain, located between 90 and 120 miles southeast of Boise. Look across the sage flatlands as you leave the farming town of Bruneau and you don’t even know there’s a river canyon out there. Miles and miles of sage go by and still no canyon. Then, suddenly there is a gash in the earth and the river appears like a tiny mocha-colored ribbon in the distance.

The Bruneau gets its life-blood flows from fresh snowmelt in the Jarbidge Mountains of northern Nevada and drains north through an area called the Owyhee Uplands. It eventually ends up in the Snake River, one of Idaho’s major rivers.

Despite the struggles of putting together such an expedition on a remote river, Far and Away Adventures, a wilderness river outfitter, serves up a luxury trip. For the average person who is not an expert river runner, the best way to experience the Bruneau is on an outfitted trip.

On the river, wetsuits, lifejackets and helmets are provided along with the expertise of guides who have PhDs in whitewater.

Off the river and in camp, guides provide gourmet meals and fine wine; huge, spacious tents and cots with sleeping bags lined with flannel; and plenty of waterproof bags for personal gear. Guides set up camp tents as guests take a hike or relax in lawn chairs taking in the grandiose scenery.

After a day of paddling, it’s so relaxing to sit in a lawn chair and anticipate an exquisite dinner. How river guides can get all the fixings for a dinner is a wonder: caprese skewers with balsamic reduction drizzle; spring spinach salad with strawberries; candied nuts and feta cheese and citrus dressing; grilled Basque lamb lolipops in a cabernet, soy ginger garlic marinade; grilled lemon peppered asparagus spears; and sweet potato casserole with pecan crumble.

And, after a day of vigorous paddling, there’s still room for dessert — Dutch oven whole-baked cinnamon apples with handed whipped cream topping.

Relaxing after dinner with daylight fading and a fire burning in a fire pan, it’s easy to reminisce on the river, the road coming in and the canyon’s mystery. With all its inaccessibility and hard work to get to, the wonder of the Bruneau River never grows old. Just ask guides who know the river up close and personal.

“The Bruneau creates curiosity in me. It’s a place of wonder,” says river guide Jessie Jarvis, who rows one of the large gear rafts. She and fellow guide Sadie Grossbaum clean up after dinner and talk about how special the canyon is to them.

“The Bruneau Canyon is a different planet,” said Grossbaum, who never knew it was here while growing up in Idaho.

For many, the Bruneau River is on a bucket list. “I had one guy who had done 17 rivers. After doing the Bruneau, it was at the top of the list,” Lentz said.

It’s also an incredible trip for whitewater newcomers. Michael Scott of Sun Valley had only done day trips on whitewater rivers. The Bruneau was his first multi-day trip. “It is a fantastic journey, an amazing run. The Bruneau is definitely worth the wait,” he said after a day of whitewater and canyon scenery.

Luckily, the wonders of the Bruneau are preserved forever. Congress designated the 89,820-acre Bruneau-Jarbidge Rivers Wilderness in 2009 and the canyon as protected rim to rim. The area is so unique that visitors joke if it was in another state, say like Kansas, it would probably be a national park.

It’s the last morning on the Bruneau River and nature’s alarm clock goes off. It’s a symphony of birds greeting the first faint rays of daylight.

It’s an orchestra of chirps, squawks, chatters and tweets, much like the sounds of trumpets, flutes, clarinets and bassoons reverberating off the canyon walls. The background accompaniment is the percussion sounds of the river.

It’s also the final leg of the river with an infamous section called Five Mile Rapids. In the mix are Boneyard, Nemesis and Wild Burro thundering up ahead and raring to bounce, buck and douse paddlers.

Luckily, we have paddle guide Sparky Easom calling out commands.


Special to the Idaho Statesman