If the measure of a place is the people who hold it dear, the South Fork of the Salmon River has passion, integrity and depth in spades.

With an open-pit mine threatening the South Fork and its upper tributaries, the following people from around the country--people who live in Idaho or travel here to spend time and money to appreciate its wonders--want to share passion for this special place. 

If you find the thoughts and images here inspiring, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to read long form personal essays from several of the people featured (coming soon). You can also submit your own South Salmon story by jotting some thoughts down and sending them and a photo of yourself to rickey@idahorivers.org.

(Also, click here to read about the South Fork's Monday, April 10, designation as one of America's Most Endangered Rivers.)

“The South Salmon is the reason I moved to McCall from Maine 18 years ago and have made it my full time residence. Idaho wilderness is simply stunning. It calls to me like nowhere else on the planet. My profession takes me across the globe for approximately 26 weeks a year leading wilderness trips and teaching river rescue and first aid classes. The best part of traveling? Coming home to Idaho. I've been paddling since 1988 and have been on rivers in nine countries including some first descents in wildly remote places. The South Salmon continues to be my all-time favorite river. I can't even put a finger on it. Don't really need to. We just go there and we get it. It is truly special.”

-Nate Ostis, McCall, Idaho

“I first saw the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon with my grandparents when I was a young child and had no clue that the sport of kayaking existed. Even then, I felt a strong connection with the area. The ragged mountains with their granite spires and formidable peaks spoke to the part of my imagination that needs to know there are wild, hard-to-get-to places left in our country, though I certainly couldn't have put it into these words then. Years later I was lucky enough to kayak the South Fork Salmon. I have been back almost every year since--the area has a powerful hold over me.”

-Darcy Gaechter, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

 “The wildlife and scenery are so spectacular. I love to sit in camp during a multi-day run down the South Salmon canyon and watch what I call ‘elk TV.’ The hillsides are so lush and green in the springtime. Wildlife abounds throughout the canyon. I have seen everything from bears, sheep (somewhat rare these days), elk, deer, eagles and so much more. I have also had the opportunity to see steelhead on redds below Poverty Flats. What a magical experience. Paddling is my passion, but protection of this watershed for our wildlife and fish is my number one concern. We need to do more to protect our wild salmon.”   -Nathan Todd, McCall, Idaho

“The wildlife and scenery are so spectacular. I love to sit in camp during a multi-day run down the South Salmon canyon and watch what I call ‘elk TV.’ The hillsides are so lush and green in the springtime. Wildlife abounds throughout the canyon. I have seen everything from bears, sheep (somewhat rare these days), elk, deer, eagles and so much more. I have also had the opportunity to see steelhead on redds below Poverty Flats. What a magical experience. Paddling is my passion, but protection of this watershed for our wildlife and fish is my number one concern. We need to do more to protect our wild salmon.”

-Nathan Todd, McCall, Idaho

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“I had done several Main Salmon runs while growing up and had always floated by the south fork with wonder. The Main Salmon guides had told me that the South Fork was substantially more difficult and was big with the kayakers. I had to know what was up that valley. Where had that water come from? What had it been through? My wonder and imagination went wild. Years passed before I returned to the Idaho area … The river was truly magnificent. Something about being in that majestic river valley with nothing but my kayak and gear made for some of the best summer days of my life.”

-Colby Bishop, Seattle, Wash.

“For the past 15 years or so, I have seen a lot more boaters on the South Fork on every trip I have done. It is great to have a wild river that you don't have to vie for a launch permit through a lottery system. I would like to keep it that way, but we have to safeguard its treasures. All boaters should follow the leave-no-trace practices we do other wilderness rivers: haul out all trash, ashes and human waste. Don't camp on the Main Salmon and register your trip with McCall Ranger District in McCall; Boat tags are required. We all have to do our part to protect this incredible resource.”

-Les Bechdel, McCall, Idaho

“We can become confused when trying to describe the value of wild places, entranced by the euphoria of recreation or the economic value of natural resources. We should remember that there is a greater sacredness to these places in that they are our sanctuaries when the world we have built comes crashing down. In the South Salmon we can step away from phones, emails, politics, and even hardships and anxiety of our personal lives. This is a place where we can feel rooted to our planet and totally human and alive … If we allow this river environment to be harmed we will lose something more than just a place to recreate or vital wildlife habitat; we will lose a pathway for connecting to our own humanity.”

-Will Stubblefield, Driggs, Idaho

“The South Fork of the Salmon River has a special place in my heart. Since my first run down this enchanting stretch of pristine wilderness in 2014, I have been hooked. A pilgrimage to a land with no roads and a three-day trip without modern distractions helps me center myself each year. Kayakers and rafters consider this a sacred ground, and we would love for the land management plan to take into consideration this wilderness that needs to stay unaffected by the possible downsides of mining and development. Our children need to have the same opportunity to experience this area in the same way I have. Let’s keep the South Fork of the Salmon River intact and beautiful.”

-Nick Hinds, Seattle, Wash.

“Places like the South Fork are finite and we are losing more of them every year. I have heard the argument that this area is not pristine and already bears the scars of previous exploits. While that may be true, that argument ignores the fact that while Midas claims that they will leave the area better than when they found it, the risks far outweigh the potential benefits to this area. There aren't many places like the South Fork drainage left and we owe it to ourselves to preserve this area for perpetuity.”

-Nick Kunath, McCall, Idaho

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“If I had to describe Idaho’s South Fork of the Salmon in one phrase, I’d call it the rowdy cousin to its more famous and beloved drainage to the east, the Middle Fork.”

- Claire Cripps and Braden Gunem, Ketchum, Idaho

"Since we all live downstream, we all must take care of the headwaters. That is my reason for loving the whole Salmon watershed.”

-Devon Barker-Hicks, Riggins and McCall, Idaho

“I have a personal and professional relationship with the South Fork Salmon river watershed, which I am grateful to have had for the last 25 years. I am extremely concerned that some of the unique qualities of the South Fork are threatened and may be destroyed by the current proposal to reopen mining in the Stibnite area. The connectivity of ecosystems needs intact habitats for many species, aquatic and terrestrial. Analysis of potential impacts from the current mining proposal must identify requirements of all species which could be affected within the immediate area and downstream in the South Fork.”

-Mary Faurot, McCall, Idaho

“The South Fork of the Salmon is one of the most legendary river trips in the world. Due to its challenging rapids and stunning scenery, this river is unlike any other. It is the only Class V multi-day trip in the United States that both rafters and kayakers can do in the warm summer months. I was lucky to raft down the South Fork a number of years ago and can personally attest to the river’s remarkable qualities. Unique and stunning scenery, world-class and remote fishing, crystal-clear and cold water, and of course epic, sought-after recreation.”

-Zack Collier, Hood River, Ore.

 “I would fly anywhere in the world to run that river, but it's right here in Idaho.”   -Zak Sears, Moscow, Idaho

“I would fly anywhere in the world to run that river, but it's right here in Idaho.”

-Zak Sears, Moscow, Idaho

“Three years ago Chris proposed to me on the banks of the South Salmon. We have returned to the river every year since and feel a deep connection to its corridor. It is an amazing resource that should be preserved for future generations.”

-Brittani Madden, Lotus, Calif.

“The South Fork has mostly healed from past abuses and is a jewel that should be preserved in any way possible for future generations.”

-Gary Barker, Kalispell, Mont.

“The South Fork is pure, intimate, utterly enchanting. Her emerald waters sparkle in the Idaho sun like a perfectly cut gem, so that even in a state brimming with gorgeous rivers, the South Fork dazzles the eye. The wilderness setting is exquisite: a rugged granite canyon lightly cloaked in open, sun-filled forest. Across this ancient backdrop the South Fork winds and dances with such youthful exuberance and unblemished clarity that, much as you want to stop and drink in her beauty, you can’t resist joining in. How could we help falling in love? We’re counting the days until we can see the South Fork again.”

-Bill Cross, Ashland, Ore.

“I love the South Fork Salmon deep in my heart. The first day my now husband and I ever spent time together was on the South Fork Salmon. This is one of the wildest places I’ve ever had access to, and it’s a blessing to have this pristine wilderness in my backyard. For all the lovers of this wild and pristine place, please protect the South Fork Salmon River from mining. Keep wild places wild, and pristine habitats pristine.”

-Emily Stoenner, Boise, Idaho

“The South Fork Salmon is a trip of a lifetime—that I plan to do every year.”

-Jon Crain, Poulsba, Wash.

“I first visited (the South Fork of the Salmon) in the early `80s and it stands out not only as a Mecca for river runners, but as a gateway to the kind of wilderness experience that is becoming increasingly more important even as it becomes that much harder to come by. A whitewater paddler for 45 years, I love the South Fork for many of the same reasons I love all wild rivers: the beauty, the challenge, and the privilege of being able to experience that which is untrammeled by the hand of man. The unique experience that has been given to those of us who have had the opportunity to visit this magnificent place needs to be protected and preserved so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy it as well.”

-Scott Gerber, Portland, Ore.

“Being on the river, it’s like falling in love. You can’t explain why you are drawn to a person, but you are. The South Fork of the Salmon is just that, falling in love. It is something inside me drawn to that river, every time. I can’t explain it entirely, and it almost seems irrational how much I can feel it, and be overwhelmed by it. Being on the South Fork, and knowing that river, that is love. It is so deep.”

-Cooper Lambla, Charlotte, North Carolina

“Although I grew up in Idaho, I only ventured to the South Fork of the Salmon in recent years, and feel so grateful to know this special place. Unparalleled scenery, challenging whitewater, abundant wildlife—all in a remote backcountry setting. I applaud the efforts of Idaho Rivers United and all the individuals working to protect this gem of a river canyon. Let's preserve the South Fork for generations to come.”

-Laura Bechdel, McCall, Idaho

“Crisp, tight loops of flyline cast into the backdrop of cold, clean water. Wild trout rising to eat my dry fly. Native bull trout long as my arm chasing down my streamer. International chinook salmon long as my leg arranging gravel in which to lay their eggs. I've had the pleasure of experiencing these things over 18 years of knowing the South Fork of the Salmon River and its tributaries. Personally, I do not trust advocates for extraction projects of the size, scope and risk as what's been proposed here. I've seen countless areas ‘restored’ or ‘improved’ by man. Some folks may think this kind of work looks great. I can spot it a mile away and it always reminds me of a zoo. I'm never impressed by habitat I see in zoos. But that's just me and my jaded knowledge of what's really wild, unspoiled and free.”

-Bryan Huskey, Boise, Idaho

“The South Fork of the Salmon River is an absolute gem. The river is clean, pristine and needs to be protected. Last year I put on the South Fork with my friend Devon at 6 o’clock on a Friday night for a three-day self-support kayak trip. My husband ran the shuttle for us, and about 1 mile in we see a huge cinnamon bear on the right standing on his back legs. About 100 yards downstream on the left we saw a black bear staring at us. On this same trip we saw over a dozen bighorn sheep and their babies. The camps are pristine, and I absolutely love how river people respect the beaches, river and trails. I moved to Valley County to enjoy the wilderness, enjoy rivers, and hope to see the South Fork of the Salmon protected and not mined by a Canadian Company. Lets keep Idaho the Gem state.”

-Lisa Marie Glodowski, Donnelly, Idaho