New outfitter offers unique take on the legendary Middle Fork of the Salmon

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“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole.”
– Richard Louv, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”

Humans are connected to the matrix more than ever before. Nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, and American teenagers average nine hours a day consuming media.

This time we devote to devices increasingly disconnects us from the natural world, but there are still truly wild places left on this continent, where geography forces you to tune out the digital ether.

Looking downriver Johnson PointOne of these places – a stunning, 104-mile stretch of waterway free of dams, motors and cell service – lies in the heart of Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon is a technically demanding river run by private boaters who score a launch date through a highly competitive lottery, as well as by professional guide companies.

In its inaugural season in summer 2016, Boundary Expeditions is one such company. Boundary acquired a business with a 43-year history guiding on the Middle Fork, letting it tailor trips to focus on small groups, safety and education. These unique excursions include naturalist-led hike/raft combinations, guided tours fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout, and nightly campfire concerts with professional musicians, among others.

“River trips are a great way to reconnect with friends and family, whether it’s the thrill of a class IV rapid or the tranquility of sitting in a hot springs watching the water flow by,” said Boundary co-owner Justin Howells. “[When] you’re on the river in 5 million acres of wilderness, it slows your life down.”

Howells, a veteran Middle Fork guide and Big Sky, Montana, resident says Boundary trips will be catered with locally sourced, Ash_waterfall-MiddleFORKorganic meals. Guests will soak-in evenings at campsites perched above the tumult of the Middle Fork, while Boundary guides share tales of local history and adventure.

Some of those stories will center around the Mountain Sheepeater people, a group of Shoshone Indians that made the Middle Fork corridor their fall and winter home for at least 3,000 years. Boundary plans to employ guides who can interpret the physical evidence left behind by the Sheepeaters throughout the drainage, and describe their rich history.

While Boundary will offer distinctive ways to experience the Middle Fork, Howells says the most vital element they offer clients is the river itself. Over six days, kids connect with the natural world, and spouses and friends reconnect with each other – on one of the last best boat vacations in the world.

Summer is ephemeral in the Northern Rockies, and there’s no better way to capture a slice of it than on a river trip, Howells says, quoting the legendary filmmaker Warren Miller. “‘If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

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