Outdoor Program Blog

Guiding on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Hello world! My name is Conner Jackson, a new director of the Outdoor Program here at The College of Idaho. I am going to be a sophomore and am an Environmental Studies major. Since this is my first post, and since it has been a good three months since I was last around campus, I figured I would briefly describe what I have been doing to keep busy this summer - river guiding. In the ensuing weeks the other three other Outdoor Program directors (Ruth Lewinski, Jessica Hansen, and Lucas Morse) will be introduced as well..

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This week and for the previous eight weeks I have been taken up by the sound of young ospreys calling for their parents in nests high in the sky; the sight of seeing people, for the first time, experience the thrill of whitewater with huge smiles glowing as the waves pass; and the smell of pork products seemingly every dinner and breakfast being cooked on cast iron grills as the stars or dewey mornings fill our surroundings. It is a good life, being a guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and a job that I cannot be more thankful to have found. This river is a binding place in the sense that, as I look back on all the adventures and even close calls we have had while navigating through 98 miles of pristine wilderness on a six- or seven-day trip, it is hard for me differentiate the separate trips that I have been down. To me, my summer has been one block of “river time” that seemingly has no end or beginning as I am rowing down it each week. 

That is not to say that I have not noticed any change or progression while guiding. For one, the guests we take on each trip all have their own distinct traits and careers behind them that got them there. Just last week, for example, my company took down a young girl who was a recent pancreatic cancer survivor, a professional trombone player who lives in downtown Brooklyn, a molecular biologist who works for a big pharmaceutical company, and the former commander of the nuclear submarine fleet in the Mediterranean Fleet for the United States during the Cold War. Secondly, with fires raging across the state and near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, I have personally got to witness trees burst into flames, a mass of wildlife get flushed down to the river corridor, and the toll of a dry summer affect river trips in the form of a fallen tree that tragically took the life of one of the guests at another company in a drowning about three weeks ago. 

Such consequences bring up discussion about the vitality of wilderness, and how much we as humans should be allowed to change our surroundings if, for example, there is a particular rapid that would be a lot easier if it were dynamited in one part, or if airstrips and cabins should even be allowed on this beautiful river corridor. 

If you would like go down this amazing river yourself, check out the company I work for called Middle Fork Rapid Transit - the owner, Grant Porter, is a graduate of The College of Idaho - or just Google “Middle Fork of the Salmon River Rafting trips.”

- Conner Jackson