From Rapids to Relaxation: The Hot Springs of Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River 

From Rapids to Relaxation: The Hot Springs of Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River 

Nestled in the heart of Idaho’s wilderness, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River is not just a haven for white-water rafting and fishing enthusiasts; it’s also home to some of the most stunning natural hot springs in the United States. With over 120 soakable hot springs across Idaho, the Middle Fork region stands out for its array of geothermal pools, offering a serene and rejuvenating escape nestled amongst rugged natural beauty.

Idaho’s unique geography and geology have blessed it with more soakable hot springs than any other state in the U.S. These hot springs, especially along the Middle Fork, are not just warm and inviting but also situated in some of the most picturesque locations imaginable. The Middle Fork’s remote setting in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness means that many of these springs retain their pristine, mostly untouched charm.

Access to these hot springs varies; some are easily reachable by boat or a short hike, while others require a bit more effort, adding to the sense of adventure. Each spring provides a unique experience, from intimate to social, with all offering amazing vistas.

The presence of these hot springs along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River will elevate your river vacation experience to new heights. After a day of navigating exhilarating rapids or exploring the rugged wilderness, river guests can indulge in the tranquil luxury of these natural thermal pools. Each hot spring’s unique setting and characteristics offer a fun experience that complements the adventure of the river. From the amazing hot waterfall of Sunflower to the social ambiance of Loon Creek, these hot springs serve as natural spas, providing a perfect balance of relaxation and rejuvenation. The blend of adventures and relaxation the Middle Fork offers creates a truly complete vacation experience.  This allows guests to connect with nature and return from their journey feeling both exhilarated and refreshed. The opportunity to immerse yourself in these warm, mineral rich waters under Idaho’s vast skies is a special treat that makes a trip along the Middle Fork an unforgettable adventure.

Pack With Confidence: How to Pack Your Well-Stocked Day Bag for Your Next River Trip

Pack With Confidence: How to Pack Your Well-Stocked Day Bag for Your Next River Trip

We are excited to have you as our guest with the Helfrich River Outfitters crew!  As you prepare for your trip, we wanted to give you some insider tips on what to pack in your river day bag.  Having a well packed day bag can make the difference between a good river trip and a great one.  Your day bag stays with you throughout each day of trip, in the boat, at lunch, and at camp, so items area readily available for whenever a need arises.  Having items like sunscreen, chapstick, medications and just the right water bottle can help ensure that you can relax and truly enjoy your trip.

As you gear up for your river journey, it’s crucial to organize your belongings into two distinct piles. Allocate the bulk of your items, such as clothing, personal care products, and any nighttime essentials, to the pile designated for your overnight bag. Be mindful that this bag will be out of reach during the day, as it will be sent ahead to the next night’s camp. The second pile should consist of essentials for your waterproof day-bag, which are items you anticipate needing throughout your daytime river activities. The preferred choice among travelers is a waterproof roll-top bag, ideally with a capacity of 15-20 liters. As you pack this bag, make sure to roll its top securely at least three times to ensure a watertight seal. HRO offers day bags for guests on any camping trip, while guests on lodging excursions are expected to bring their own.

Next, let’s delve into the specific items and talk about why you may want to include the in your day bag.

Extra Hat and Polarized Sunglasses

Most guests opt to wear a hat and sunglasses throughout each day, especially while on the water.  Hats and sunglasses are key to not only protecting your face and eyes from the sun but also required in the fishing boats to protect you from any fishing flies that may come a little too close to your face.  While you will likely have a hat and sunglasses on when you get in the boat, it is also smart to have an extra baseball cap and a spare pair of polarized sunglasses in the bottom of your day bag just in case you find yourself needing them during the trip.

Why Polarized sunglasses? Polarized sunglasses are highly beneficial compared to regular ones due to their ability to significantly diminish glare from reflective surfaces like water. This reduction in glare not only improves visual clarity and comfort but is particularly advantageous for activities such as fishing, where clear vision into the water is essential. These sunglasses also alleviate eye strain and enhance the perception of colors and details, which can be invaluable during outdoor pursuits. Additionally, they offer protection from harmful UV rays while aiding in glare reduction.

Rain Gear:

Always remember to include rain gear in your packing list, regardless of the river you choose, the time of year, or the sunny forecast. River trips are notorious for their unexpected rain showers, so it’s unwise to assume you won’t need it based on a forecast of clear skies and warm temperatures. Beyond just shielding you from unexpected downpours and chilly, cloudy days, rain gear is also valuable for protection against the cold waters of the river, especially during early mornings when the river lies in shade and the sun hasn’t yet risen enough to warm the surroundings. As the temperature increases throughout the day, you can simply remove your rain gear and put it back in your day bag.  Your raingear should include both waterproof pants and a waterproof jacket with a hood.

Water Bottle with Carabiner:

When planning your river trip, selecting the right water bottle is essential. Opt for an insulated bottle that’s convenient to drink from and fits well with your gear. Since hydration is crucial, you’ll appreciate choosing a bottle that feels right in your hand and is easy to use. Personalize your bottle with stickers to make it uniquely yours. For added convenience, attach a carabiner to it. This allows you to clip your water bottle to the boat or your day bag, ensuring it’s always within reach.

Sunscreen and Chapstick
Sunscreen is vital for your river trip, so choose a type that’s easy to apply. Spray or stick sunscreens are recommended to avoid slippery hands, which can make it difficult to grip the boat, fly rod or a paddle. Lotion sunscreens are fine too if that is what you prefer.  Eco-friendly brands like Sun Bum Mineral and Alba Botanica Sensitive are also recommended to protect the river’s ecosystem. Don’t forget to pack ChapStick with SPF in your day bag as well.  The dry river environments can quickly lead to chapped lips, which, if neglected, can cause you discomfortable throughout your journey.

Extra shirt or Sarong

Packing an extra quick-dry shirt or sarong in your day bag is a smart choice for river trips. It provides sun protection and adds a layer of warmth if it gets cool. On warm days, a water-dipped layer can be refreshing and help maintain comfort.

An Extra Pair of Socks

Bringing along an extra pair of socks can greatly enhance your comfort during our trips.  A spontaneous hike can be much more enjoyable when you can throw on a pair of socks to keep your feet protected. River sandals can sometimes cause discomfort over time, so having socks for protection can provide immediate relief. In cooler weather, wet socks can lead to cold feet, affecting your overall comfort. Carrying a dry pair of socks to change into can keep you warm and comfortable throughout the day.

Tip: Opt for thin wool socks or quick-dry socks as they provide the best balance of warmth and drying speed.


Some days you may want to wear your swimsuit under your clothes (or as your clothes) but other days, you may not want to have to wear it all day.  On these days, you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to jump in the river or a hot spring just because you don’t have a swimsuit with you. On these days, we recommend throwing your swimsuit in your day bag to have it handy if you want it.


Especially in the spring and fall, temperatures on the water can vary widely and having an extra jacket for layering can ensure that you stay comfortable all day.  On cooler mornings, you will most likely start the day wearing your jacket in the boat and stow it in your day bag as the day warms up.

Phone or Camera

To capture the stunning views and memorable moments on the river, it’s important to have your camera within reach. You can store your phone or camera in your day bag for convenience or use a waterproof case for added safety when not stored in your bag.

Phone Tip: Conserve battery by switching your phone to airplane mode and activating low power mode. This will extend the battery life, allowing you to take photos and videos throughout your adventure.

Wallet or Cash

Carrying a small amount of money in your day bag is practical for any impromptu visits to riverside shops you might encounter during your journey.

Fishing License

Having your fishing license with you on the water is essential. Fish and Game officers may perform checks at any time to verify that all anglers are properly licensed. We recommend placing your fishing license in your day bag, ideally at the bottom where it can stay safe and accessible throughout your trip.

Medications and Necessary Personal Toiletries

We highly recommend keeping essential personal items with you in your day bag for easy access throughout each day.  Medications, both prescription and over the counter, are vital to have on hand. Additionally, we recommend that you pack other frequently used items such as Band-Aids, contact lens solutions, lotion, baby wipes, or any other daily necessities. Having these items readily accessible will ensure you’re prepared for various needs you may have needs throughout each day.

Please feel free to call or email us with any questions.  We hope you have a wonderful river vacation!  

Skip to content