Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall in Idaho - fishing, photos, and driving

It was just over a month ago that we finished up our last Middle Fork of the Salmon trip of the season. It was a fly fishing trip and the fishing had exceeded everyone's expectations, as it so often does now. On the drive back home from the take-out at Cache Bar the river was spotted with coming signs of Fall: yellow and red trees dotted the banks and the occasional early but optimistic Steelhead fisherman could be seen working a hole.

In the following weeks things seemed to warm up a bit and the signs of fall (except for the fisherman) began to slow down. Until now. With our first few nights of frost, fall has come storming back, and this time it's here to stay.

This past weekend I visited Idaho River Journeys guide Scooter Carling who lives in Sun Valley to watch the Giants hopefully destroy the Phillies. I took a road called "Trail Creek Road", which acts as a bit of a short cut if you don't mind a dirt road. Plus, aside from saving some time, if you travel this road this time of year you are guaranteed spectacular views, fall colors at their finest, and maybe even some wildlife.

Summit Creek drifts through a frosty field near the Trail Creek Road:

Fall colors, looking back toward Mt. Borah:

A herd of elk grazing near Trail Creek Road:

After the Giants disappointing loss on Sunday (by the way, there are no professional sports teams in Idaho, so I guess river guides are the equivalent of star athletes here), I started the trek back to Salmon. I gave another Idaho River Journeys' guide, Tom Tremain, a call to see if he was interested in going Steelheading. We pushed off around 2:00ish that afternoon to float a three-mile stretch of the Salmon River, just north of town.

A lot of the talking we did was about how neither one of us really had any idea how to fish for steelhead. Tom knew a little bit about technique but really we were just floating to get outside and see if luck would smile on us. We tried a few different holes and then realized that we really had no idea what we were doing. I figured we had a better chance of catching a fish if the plug was in the water, but that was the only method I could come up with to increase our chances.

We reached our take-out at Red Rock about two hours later. At the bend above the ramp, upstream about 20 yards, Tom threw the line in one last time. I held the boat, which was a drift boat borrowed from a friend, and was paying more attention to how easy it was to hold the boat in the current than to Tom's fishing. After holding for a few minutes I pushed off and headed towards the ramp. Like my previous four days of steelheading, I had not even seen one fish. The nice thing about disappointment is that the sting goes away the more times you experience it, so after a five days of failure it seemed like the norm.

Tom was reeling in and, because of the current pulling the plug downstream, the rod tip bent slightly. And he reeled in and reeled in... there was a lot of line out. And then a giant steelhead drifted to the surface with the plug in its mouth. In a moment of disbelief I turned to grab my camera but Tom quickly pointed out that I had better row us into an eddy so we would not miss the take-out.

We had never thought that we would get a fish - we didn't even have a cooler to put it in (by the way, you can keep the hatchery fish, which this was). Tom gutted it and we just threw it into the bed of my truck where it slid around for a few miles.

Tom with his fish, a 28.5" steelhead:

Just goes to show, it's always better to be lucky than good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

July 24-29, 2010 Middle Fork of the Salmon Trip Report

Middle Fork of the Salmon Trip Report by Michael O'Malley

All photographs courtesy of Tysun McMullan. Check them all out at

The weather was hot and sunny when we boarded the rafts at Boundary Creek on July 24th. The gauge read 2.3 feet so the day promised to be exciting and technical, with lots of rocks to dodge. Will shoved off early in the big sweep boat, with his mom, Mary, jumping in as swamper to assist with camp set-up.

Trip leader Jo and Scooter and Dustin took the oars, while John and Michael manned the two paddle boats. Things started with a bang, as Gary K. earned the coveted “first guest to swim” honor earlier than any previous Idaho River Journeys trip on record. Gary whiffed on his second paddle stroke and dunked before the raft negotiated First Bend Rapid.

With bouncy runs in Sulphur Slide, Ramshorn, Velvet Falls, the Chutes, and Powerhouse behind us, the group pulled into John’s Camp at mile 15.2…a solid day’s work. Under head chef Scooter’s ministrations, the grilled chicken dinner was appreciated with gusto.

The group was up early and ready to go the next morning, impressing the guides throughout the trip with their timely packing and “we’re all in this together” attitude. Not to be outdone, guide John reciprocated Gary K’s aquatic acrobatics with a swim of his own in Pistol Creek Rapid. The guideless boat did a yeoman’s job navigating the hairpin turn while John sluiced his way safely to the pool below —without losing his stylish fedora.

Once past Pistol, we did a quick repair job on one oar boat and prepped the five inflatable kayaks, aka “duckies,” for the rest of the trip. Almost all the guests at one time or another paddled a ducky, experiencing the Middle Fork at its most exciting.

Our night two camp was Marble Creek Right, a multi-storied river-right lay-out (mile 31.7) below the big wave of Marble Creek Rapid. Under Michael’s watchful eye, Kelsey, Carly and Case lead a contingent of guests in a fun adventure swim through the rapid into the big eddy at camp. John from Logan showed excellent relief pitcher form, hitting several swimmers with an assisting throw bag toss. Photographer Tysun ( captured one of Kelsey’s swims, which we hope will be on YouTube soon. Dinner was a superb seared Ahi with a ginger marinade.

On day three, we pushed on to Shelf Camp (mile 48.1). David elected to take the swamper role, which Jo greatly appreciated.

The day started with a quick hot shower in Sunflower Hot Springs, an exciting run in Jackass Rapids, and a stop to pay our respects at the grave of miner Whitey Cox. Annette and Barb exited at Pine Creek Flat to hike five miles to camp, overcoming non-venomous snakes, a trail washout, and flustered grouse on the way.

Once at camp, half the group hiked a mile and a half to Loon Creek Hot Springs. John-Tim and Rich luxuriated in the 102 degree pool, while Erin, Kathy, Carole and others attended to bail bucket showers and shampoos. Our intrepid hikers – Annette and Barb – were the last to soak, notching an 8-mile day on the trails.

After a tasty pork chop feast, the group retired to their tents. A storm front moved through, causing some midnight scrambling with tent fly set-up. By morning, the rain had passed through, and most had spent the night in relative coziness.

The rain cooled the canyon, and we embarked under pleasant though overcast skies. At Loon Creek, we picked up new guests Mike and Kathy, and said good bye to Mary, who flew back to Salmon.

The pace of the water on day four picked up, with big drops at Tappan Falls, Cove Creek, Haystack, and the Jack Creek series. Gary T. and the other fishermen demonstrated their skills, hooking (and releasing) trout after trout throughout the day. The kayakers, anchored by Bill, Kevin, Steve and David, demonstrated the “I’d rather be lucky than good” principle and put together some astonishing and generally upright runs.

John and Lauren (swamper on day four and five) had our night four camp, Grassy Flat (mile 73.0), in good shape with tents a-drying. The camp was a big open meadow on river left with a 180-degree view of a big bend in the Impassible Canyon. After a well-received antipasto intro, the lasagna was devoured in short order. Suzanne announced she was ready for a real shower and clean sheets. (We’ll try to cross-sell her on a three-day Rogue River lodge trip.) The big, just-past-full moon lit up the area like a stadium throughout the night, but after a 25-mile day, everyone slept soundly.

Day five highlights included a stop at Rattlesnake Cave to view Sheepeater Indian pictographs, and a hike to the bridge at Waterfall Creek. After a visit to the sublime Veil Falls, a brief thunderstorm caught us, but the rain was warm and the light in the canyon dramatic. Tysun was a man possessed, bagging a significant number of the 6,000+ photos he took during the trip. At lunch, Dustin gave an interesting talk about the life of a Wilson Creek salmon, complete with an interactive beach sand map.

With the recent rains swelling the lower canyon water levels, we hit big drops at Porcupine, Redside, and Weber. Herb had the trip’s most exciting ride – in Cliffside – but Jo’s intrepid nearly-all-ladies paddle crew effected a quick rescue when he took a swim. Herb retired from the kayaks with honor and regaled us all at camp with stories of his cool, calm bravado.

We finished the day at Stoddard Camp (mile 90.0) and part of the group joined Will for a short hike to intriguing pictographs and a cold water spa treatment in the creek. Dinner was a steak and Caesar salad repast with wine tasting. After delicious brownies, the group shared high points of the trip. The guides noted how the group truly embraced what the river offered, and thanked the guests for joining us.

Day six started early, and the big drops continued with Rubber, Hancock, and Devil’s Tooth rapids. After a brief stop as another group de-wrapped a sweep boat at House Rocks, we forged through Jump-Off and Goat Creek, reaching the confluence of the Main Salmon well before noon.

Mary was waiting for us at Cache Bar with a delicious deli sandwich lunch, and the group said farewell to the Middle Fork.

Other highlights: Carrot cake, blueberry pancakes, bacon, the smell of early morning coffee, the psst of the can of nuts announcing the start of lunch, cool snakes on the trail, meeting a real cowboy and his dog, having all our fishing licenses in order when Fish & Game visited Shelf Camp, seeing a bevy of otter, a bald eagle fly-by, a bear and big horn sheep on the side of the road as the bus headed to Salmon.

This diverse group really melded. As Will said, “If you walked into camp on night five, you wouldn’t know who came with whom. Everyone got along as friends.”


Check out all of Tysun's photos at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Idaho River Journeys Offers Summer Rafting Vacation Deals

Guests Can Take Advantage of Group and Family Discounts, Student Rates and Credit for Kern Rafting Trips

Taking a whitewater rafting vacation in Idaho has never been easier, nor more affordable, thanks to veteran outfitter Idaho River Journeys. The company has announced three money-saving offers for the 2010 season, which runs from June through September on Idaho’s Middle Fork and Main Salmon River. First, groups and families of 10 or more earn a 10% discount off regular adult rates, and groups of 16 or more earn one FREE space. Second, student rates are offered on many trips to any student, at any grade level including graduate school, and third, in cooperation with Kern River Outfitters in Southern California, the company will credit guests 100% of their 2010 Kern River trip toward any Idaho rafting vacation taken this season.

“More than ever, travelers are looking for ways to spread their vacation dollar,” comments Bob Volpert, owner of Idaho River Journeys. Bob and his wife Mary have outfitted on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the Main Salmon River since 1978. Their trips are a mix of exhilarating whitewater, spectacular hikes, and delicious wilderness cuisine. “We recognize this, and we hope that these offers will help families, groups and students of all ages to enjoy fun filled rafting vacations this summer.”

Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon is America's premier wilderness river. Deep cathedral forests, steep canyon walls, natural hot springs, fabulous fly fishing, exhilarating whitewater and beautiful, spacious campsites make the Middle Fork of the Salmon world famous. Trips are from four to six days, and launch weekly from June 3 through September 2. Main Salmon River rafting vacations are river trips that everyone, from grandparents to grandkids, can enjoy and return with memories that will last a lifetime. The river is ideal for families with children age seven and up. The water is warmer than most western rivers, many campsites are on big, sandy beaches, there are good hiking trails nearby, and famous rapids will keep everyone smiling. Trips are five or six days, and launch weekly from June 20 to August 30.

Kern River Outfitters offers half-day to three-day trips ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V on three sections of the Kern River: the Upper, the Lower and the Forks. Just a few hours from most Southern California cities, the Kern River is a popular summer vacation destination getaway for first-timers and families, as well as for experienced river rafters. Prices range from $115 to $998 per person, depending on the length of the trip and the date of departure; 100% of those trip costs will be applied to an Idaho rafting vacation for guests participating in this offer.

“Customers who take advantage of this promotion will essentially enjoy a free river trip on the Kern,” observes Keith “Luther” Stephens, general manager of Kern River Outfitters. “For people who enjoy rafting and adventure travel, this is the deal of a lifetime. We think we’ll have a lot of takers.”

For more information on Idaho whitewater rafting vacations, call Idaho River Journeys at 1-888-997-8399 or visit For additional information on trips offered on Southern California’s Kern River by Kern River Outfitters, call 1-800-323-4234 or visit

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eddy Out: Nugget Creek on the Middle Fork of the Salmon

Nugget Creek, mile 87.9, comes in on river-left deep in the heart of the Middle Fork of the Salmon's "Impassable Canyon". A short hike up the creek leads to a small grotto where the creek takes a plunge from the canyon wall high above. At the mouth of the creek there is a small cabin which was perhaps built as early as 1917 by Earl Parrott.

Earl Parrot, who was later dubbed the "Hermit of Impassable Canyon", lived in the Middle Fork canyon for over 25 years. He was as self-sustaining as one could be. He had two cabins - one at the top of the canyon where he had a garden and another at the mouth of Nugget Creek (which is visible from the river) where he panned for gold.

Only a handful of folks ever ran into Parrott while he resided on the Middle Fork. Those who did found him skiddish and irritated. He preferred to be by himself and away from people - which is exactly why he took a liking to the Middle Fork's remote canyon.

On August 15th, 1945, Earl Parrott died in Salmon, Idaho. Although is lower cabin remains, his upper cabin was burnt to the ground by a forest fire in 1989. Today a creek, lake, and campsite bear his name.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kayaking on Oregon's Rogue River

We're teaming up with Phil and Mary DeRiemer to offer two great kayak instruction trips on the Rogue River for 2010. The two dates we've chosen are August 11-14 and August 18-21. These four day trips are all camping but with the luxury of raft support. Phil and Mary will help you hone your paddling skills and the Rogue River Journeys crew will be there to provide tasty meals and camping supplies to make your Rogue River kayaking trip the best it can be.

Mary DeRiemer works with a trip participant on the Rogue in 2009:

Join us in 2010 for a Rogue River kayaking trip you'll never forget. Build your skills, enjoy great company in camp, and don't worry about a thing. This is one of our most popular trips so don't wait, book your trip today. To reserve your spot on one of our Rogue River kayaking trips give Rogue River Journeys a call at 1-866-213-7754.

More information:
Check out the DeRiemer's Rogue kayaking page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eddy Out: Rainie Falls on the Rogue River

Rainie Falls, mile 1.7, is the largest rapid on Oregon's Rogue River. The actual falls, which drops nearly 12' feet, is easily portaged (which we always do) along river-right through a channel known as the "Fish Ladder". One can hear the roar of the falls nearly a mile away. A long flat pool of water leads to an enormous horizon line where sprays of water shoot into the air and a mist from below the falls rises up into the air.

The falls is named after "Old Man Rainie" who lived on the Rogue and gaffed salmon from the falls. During the fall season, one can sit at the base of the falls and watch countless salmon attempt to clear it on their way upstream.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eddy Out: Sheepeater Hot Springs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon

Sheepeater Hot Springs, mile 13.1, is a series of hot pools on a high bench on river-left. The hot water bubbles out of the ground and as it makes its way from pool to pool the temperature of the water cools down. The various temperatures of the pools allow everyone to find a comfortable place to soak.

The large bench is popular amongst deer, elk, big horn sheep, and mountain goats. The minerals that are brought up by the hot springs makes the area attractive to wildlife. A few logs are all that remain of an enclosed cabin that was built by Jack Crane around 1911. Crane was a foreman at the Bingham Canyon copper mine in Utah but also had claims at Sheepeater.

This popular hot spring is normally accessed by groups camped in nearby areas. Some of the most popular camps to access this hot spring are: Sheepeater Upper, Sheepeater Lower, Scout, Joe Bump, and Fire Island. The Middle Fork trail runs right next to the hot springs so hiking to and from these river-left camps is relatively easy.

Photo by Tysun McMullan.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rogue River Night in Portland set for April 1st

The first annual “Rogue River Night” is slated for April 1st at Shorebank Pacific (1101 SW Washington Street) from 6:30 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. Southern Oregon’s Rogue River, one of the eight original Wild and Scenic Rivers from 1968, is poised to gain additional Wild and Scenic River miles. Wild and Scenic status offers protection to rivers and streams from further development or degradation. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects many of the most popular wilderness rivers in the United States.

The evening will showcase Rogue River photography by Roger Dorband, a discussion by a representative from the Save the Wild Rogue Campaign, and offer perspectives from guides and staff of Rogue River Journeys, a Rogue River whitewater rafting outfitter. Appetizers will also be served.

Those who wish to attend the event are asked to RSVP either online ( or by calling Rogue River Journeys at 1-866-213-7754.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Eddy Out: Cameron Creek on the Middle Fork of the Salmon

Cameron Creek, mile 39.5, comes in on river-left immediately across the river from Little Loon Creek. During the summer months it is mainly a dry creek bed and to the uneducated traveler would be an easy site to pass up.

The name of Cameron Creek is attributed to Kenneth Cameron of Scotland who grazed cattle along this stretch of the river starting in 1916. Pictographs on a rock wall near the area as well as pit depressions in the ground and shards of obsidian suggest that the Sheepeater Indians spent extended periods of time at Cameron Creek.

In 1919 Kenneth Cameron married Bessie Watson. She lived upstream at Indian Creek when they first met. The two of them homesteaded thirty-five acres and grew grain, alfalfa, and potatoes. Soon after their marriage they bought the ranch at the mouth of Loon Creek. Eventually they sold their ranch and moved out of the river corridor. Kenneth continued to work the ranch life at Butte Ranch, just north of Emmett, Idaho.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Middle Fork Idaho Outfitters Highlight Brigade Service

Spectacular Scenery, Whitewater and Fly Fishing highlight trips

SALMON, ID, February 25, 2010 - In Central, Idaho, less than 125 miles from Boise, is a wilderness river that National Geographic has called the third best whitewater rafting river in the world. Of the ten rivers they list in the book Journeys of a Lifetime, the Middle Fork of the Salmon is the only one that doesn’t require travel gymnastics to get to or a passport for U.S. citizens.

A passage from Journeys of a Lifetime reads: “This is one of the world’s most popular whitewater rivers, with everything to offer you—rapids up to Class IV and glorious alpine and forest scenery as it flows through America’s largest roadless wilderness area outside Alaska. Wildlife can include the enchanting sight of a mother bear swimming across the river with her cubs.”

It is those attractions and more, the natural hot springs, world class fly fishing, spectacular hikes, that first lure vacationers from around the world to the Middle Fork. But it is the Middle Fork guides and outfitters, a few of whom are famous for providing exceptional customer service, deluxe camping, acclaimed cuisine and friendly access to this wilderness, that brings them back.

Standards are high on the Middle Fork where 25 outfitters offer trips. Some have achieved levels of service that exceed what you would expect at most vacation resorts and they serve meals that rival famous restaurants. These outfits have adopted the term Brigade Service to define what they do.

Sheila Mills and her husband Dave run Rocky Mountain River Tours. Sheila is the author of four best selling Dutch oven cookbooks that are reflected in the company’s dedication to serving outstanding food. “When we took a look at what Brigade Service was about we concluded it was paying attention to all the little details that go into providing a great vacation and making sure guests had the best possible Middle Fork experience.”

Brigade-Style service is defined by these outfitters as striving to deliver a memorable and exhilarating wilderness vacation experience that features exceptional customer service, acclaimed meals, gracious and welcoming guides, and a desire to introduce guests to the secrets of the Northern Rockies of Idaho. Trips feature a 4-1 guest to guide ratio with interpretive talks, fly-fishing, geology hikes, and provocative campfire conversations.

The Brigade Companies consist of four, long time Middle Fork outfitters who have joined together to promote their trips and the concept of Brigade Service. Outfitter Bob Volpert who operates Idaho River Journeys, one of the Brigade Four, said, “The idea was to unite a select group of outfitters that ran high quality trips and had similar service standards. We share this commitment and feel confident about recommending each other’s trips.” The other two Brigade Outfitters are Hughes River Expeditions and Solitude River Trips.


For further information or to arrange a media trip, contact Bob Volpert at 1-888-997-8399 or by email at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eddy Out: Paradise Lodge on the Rogue River

Paradise Lodge, 20 miles downstream of Grave Creek, is where we often spend our last night on the river. High above the river, the deck offers beautiful views looking downstream and upstream.

The lodge itself is rich in history. The land was first developed in 1903 by Charlie Pettinger. It was in such a remote location that, with exception to the mail man, very few outsiders ever visited. Even today there is no road into this remote area. The main lodge was constructed in 1959 by Deak and Louise Miller. The current owners, the Schleining family, are the fourth owners of this beautiful piece of land.

With a ceiling overhead, a fresh shower, and a bed to crawl into you'll be happy to stop at Paradise. Enjoy relaxing on the deck for hors-doevres and wine, taking a stroll on the Rogue River trail, or simply take in the views. At Paradise, "there are no strangers here, just friends we haven't met."

If you're interested in spending a night at Paradise Lodge, take a look at our schedule page for our "camp/lodge" trips. These are trips where we spend the first night or two camped along the river and then our final night at the lodge. They are our most popular trips and are the best way to see a little bit of everything the Rogue River has to offer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

River Trips: Offering solutions for last minute shoppers

It's the day before Valentine's Day and you may be scrambling to find that perfect gift for your loved one. Maybe you're starting to feel the pressure, maybe not. Regardless, we've now reached the point of time where the countdown is measured in hours, not days. Want to find a gift that actually means something? You've heard the phrase a "gift that keeps on giving"? Well, it's not all baloney, and sure, it's a cheesy thing to attach onto a world-class river trip but it's hard to say it any better. The gift of a river rafting vacation truly does keep on giving.

Our all-inclusive river rafting trips are a lot more than just rapids. We run the three best multi-day rivers in the west. Oregon's Rogue River and Idaho's Middle Fork and Main Salmon Rivers are all designated Wild & Scenic. This means that, aside from great whitewater, you'll float through river canyons that are far, far, far away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. Cell phones don't work on the rivers we run. There is no Facebooking, no stock market, and no distractions. When you are on a trip with us, the only distractions are the rapids, the beautiful river canyons, and the people you're with. In situations like this, it's easy to see why a river trip is the perfect "couples" gift.

Camping on the river is comfortable. We use big gear boats to carry a "home away from home" that is set-up every night. Our tents are large, spacious, and always top-of-the-line. You don't even have to set your tent up - our guides are happy to do that for you. Once at camp you have plenty of time to do whatever it is you'd like. There is always an excellent hike nearby, always a swimming hole to enjoy, and always a knowledgeable guide seconds away to help you find what you need. Or, if you'd prefer you can simply relax in camp, sip wine, and watch the river flow by.

It's easy to see why our trips would make great gifts. If you're still looking for that gift for tomorrow's big day, save yourself a trip into town and pick up the phone. Call us at 1-888-997-8399 and prepare to give the gift that, you know, keeps on giving.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Eddy Out: Veil Falls on the Middle Fork of the Salmon

Veil Falls, mile 81, is an impressive spring-fed waterfall that drops into a giant cathedral of mint and granite. From the river it may not look like much. But once you've scrambled over boulders and gone up the canyon wall nearly 200 feet you'll see why it is worth the stop.

There are three parts to the Veil Falls adventure: First is getting up to the falls, second is relaxing and enjoying the waterfall, and third is making is back down to the boats. Slow and steady always wins the race, especially at Veil. There's a well-worn path that leads to the cathedral but gravity is working against you on your way up. Veil Falls is not a drive-by, though, so you can spend as much time as you would like admiring the falls.

When the wind changes directions the drops of water turn, spiraling there way to the floor. You may be caught soaking in the afternoon sun rays one moment, only to be soaking in the waters from above the next. The ground is coated in mint leaves. Roll some up and put them in your nose. It sounds weird, right? Next, find a flat rock to lie down on and look up. Try to watch an individual drop of water fall from the very lip at the top all the way to the bottom. (photo above/right: Veil Falls twisting and turning on a windy afternoon. Photo by Tysun McMullan)

On the walls of the cathedral are pictographs, which further adds to the magic of this place. Often times we arrive and a herd of Big Horn Sheep are grazing at the base of the falls. Veil Falls is a must-make stop on the Middle Fork. You'll be glad to have made the trek to this beautiful place.

Random interesting fact about Veil Falls:

Very close to this location Barry Goldwater and Andy Anderson found a stick with "Bob McCollom L.H. Atkins 1889" carved into it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 3 Tips for Whitewater Photography

Surf's up on the River.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

Nothing pushes the post-vacation blues away better than flipping through stellar photos of your trip. And nothing revives the memory like some action-packed shots of you and your friends or family pounding through big rapids.

The most exciting part of a river trip is getting downstream. Running the rapids - big waves, holes, and missing rocks. At the bottom of most rapids there are big pools where we pull over to watch the upstream boats come through. This is enjoyable - watching your friends drop into wave after wave while hooting and hollering.

Hooting and hollering all the way downstream.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

And, of course, this is where we see a lot of cameras come out of the dry bag. Photo after photo is blurry, too dark, too much light, accidental flash, no flash... You name it, we've all done it.

I caught up with professional whitewater photographer Tysun McMullan to learn what it takes to produce, not just good shots, but great shots. I asked him what he thought the "Top-3 Tips" would be for someone trying to capture the perfect whitewater photograph. Here's what he had to say...

Charging down Sock-em-dog on the Upper Kern River.
Photo by Tysun McMullan.

The Top 3 Tips for Whitewater Photography

1. Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode. Set your Aperture to 8. (this is in order to keep at least the entire raft, kayak or swimmer in focus. An aperture of 8 will give you about 10 to 12 feet of focus range from your center focus point.

2. Set your focus mode to continuous and keep your subject in the center of the frame. If you want to recompose you can crop it later. You are only worried about the focus sensor being somewhat near the center of your boat. In continuous mode the focus will keep changing as the boat moves toward or away from you.

3. Lastly adjust the ISO according to the particular light situation you are in. I.E. In the shade you would use a higher ISO in order to keep your shutter speed at least at 500. This is all while keeping your aperture fixed at 8. and your focus in continuous mode. The only thing you should be messing with is the ISO.

Remember to keep the boat in the center of the frame -
you can always crop in post-production. Photo by Tysun McMullan.

About the Photographer

During the summer Tysun McMullan photographs for Kern River Outfitters on their Lower, Upper, and Forks of the Kern rafting trips. After 10 years as an editor at MTV Networks he decided to break off and pursue some of his own passions. Now he produces, directs and edits fly fishing films and take photographs for various travel and outdoor sports magazines. Check out his website at: http//

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Best River Trip in the World

Earlier this week when National Geographic came out with news that the Middle Fork of the Salmon had been ranked the third best whitewater river trip in the world we were ecstatic – but not surprised. We’d been saying this for decades. What did surprise us, however, was how long it took for the Middle Fork to gain some attention.

When we first started outfitting trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon we realized just how much the river had to offer. You can find no other river in the world that offers the type of trip the Middle Fork can. The reason? Well, a river trip that sees you dropping nearly 3,000 feet in elevation, traveling over 100 miles, with spectacular hiking opportunities, world-class trout fly fishing, and of course fun whitewater is just hard to come by. Add-in the fact that it flows through the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area and you’ve got yourself the ultimate wilderness river experience.

The Middle Fork's Canyon is the most remote river canyon in the Lower 48:

A journey down the Middle Fork of the Salmon is more than just a rafting trip. It is an experience of so much more than whitewater. Those who float through the Middle Fork canyon enjoy more than the thrill of going downstream. It’s about seeing America’s most remote river canyon outside of Alaska. It’s about camping along the banks of a free-flowing river. It’s about soaking in hot springs rich with history – the same springs Native Americans soaked in, that early hunters and trappers soaked in – and enjoying it the same way they did. It’s about watching your son catch his first cutthroat trout – and then his second and third.

The Middle Fork is home to beautiful cutthroat trout:

The Middle Fork of the Salmon represents to us what the ultimate river trip is and for that we are thankful to offer our customers what we consider to be the best river trip on Earth. Join in our enthusiasm for this river and visit the Middle Fork of the Salmon in 2010.

On the Middle Fork, it's not uncommon to arrive at camp and think
"this is the most beautiful place on Earth":

Ready to learn more about the Middle Fork?

• Idaho River Journeys' Middle Fork of the Salmon page.
• Middle Fork of the Salmon fly fishing information (opens as PDF).
Sign up for a trip down the Middle Fork.
• Read the National Geographic article about the top rivers in the world.