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Flying into the Frank Church Wilderness to the river of no return

Posted at 11:16 AM, Aug 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-16 20:39:50-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Frank Church Wilderness features more than two million acres of protected wilderness, it's the largest connected wilderness area in the lower 48.

But gaining access to this remote wilderness can be a challenge with no roads, people have only a few options with the main ones being flying and boating.

We flew into Indian Creek, one of several backcountry airstrips in Idaho.

When we got our first glimpse of the river of no return, there was a commercial trip preparing for a journey down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

"The Middle Fork of the Salmon is ranked in the top three rivers in the world for its pristine nature," said Steve Lentz of Far and Away Adventures. "That's one of the wonderful things about this river you leave Stanley, and you immediately begin to cross into the Frank Church, and you begin to see the wildness of it all, how roadless it is."

Far and Away Adventures based out of Sun Valley operates a different type of trip, their boats were filled with gear as this company offers a luxury type safari journey for guests.

However, because the water is low this time of year the guides raft the first 25-miles of the trip by themselves, the guests fly to Indian Creek just like we did.

"It's a pretty big awakening for everyone to come and land here," said Lentz. "They come down off the ramp and look at the river and just see oh wow I'm here for six days."

The guests will travel the remaining 75-miles until the river links up with the Main Fork of the Salmon River.

To be able to float this river, people either need to go on a commercial trip or private boaters need a permit, those are giving out after the Four Rivers Lottery that happens every year in January.