People of the South Fork Salmon

(Editors's Note: Since publishing this blog April 9, we've received at least 10 more images and quotes from people who want to speak up for the river. Click here for a full, continuously-updated gallery.)

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 their passion for this special place.

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

“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

“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.

“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

“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.
 

 "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

"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.

“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.

“The South Fork is an incredible river trip. I am dedicated to chasing wild rivers around the world. The South Fork continues to be one of the greatest stretches I’ve ever run. The combination of incredible scenery, world class whitewater and fantastic fishing all in one of the most remote settings in the lower 48, add up to making it as magical as it is.”

-Jon Kittell, Riggins, Idaho
 


Scroll through the gallery below to read all of the People of the South Fork quotes, and subscribe to this blog to read more from them in the coming weeks.