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As some of you may know there have been changes to the reservation system on the Main Salmon river that occurred without public comment this year. Three large new additional sites have been added to the reservation system. No group under 21 people will be allowed to reserve a large site until the large groups have selected theirs but the major change is that small and medium sized groups that are 7-8 day trips WILL NOT be allowed to reserve ANY large camps on the entire river system. This leaves 2 large sections of the river where there are limited areas for medium sized groups to camp.

With the changes - there were 9 campsites for a medium sized group to select from on the entire 80 mile river. We were awarded 1 reserved site.

The average private group is 12 people and we are the ones who are left out. Our voice needs to be heard by those who make these decisions. Unfortunately it is ALWAYS the private boaters who get left out because we are not united in our voice. The Salmon Rivers need a voice from the private boaters.

Please take a minute to email or call Ken Gebhardt at the North Fork District Ranger Office:

Ken Gebhardt
North Fork District Ranger
Forest Service
Salmon-Challis National Forest
p: (208) 865-2731
c: (208) 303-8110
f: (208) 865-2738
[email protected]

This is a copy of the letter I have sent him. Please feel free to use it if you don't want to type your own letter. I am sure he will enjoy reading it multiple times. It is important that they hear from us.

Please also help to spread this information to other private boaters on other online forums.

Your voice needs to be heard.

Mr. Gebhardt:

I am very disappointed in the changes to the reservation system this year without public comment. The changes this year definitely favor the larger groups on short trips and work to build more animosity towards the commercial companies and the enormous parties that they operate on river. The commercial groups are an important part of the river system and I in no way advocate that they change. They allow many people to access this area of our nation that would not otherwise have the opportunity to see and they bring a positive exposure to the sensitivity of the river and our wilderness lands, but the system has always worked out before – why change the system now? It definitely makes it easier for the commercial and large trips to select the prime spots that they want.

The new changes have left large sections of the river with limited places for a medium sized group to camp. Before we worked on a system of respect for the different groups both large and small and we occasionally needed to select a camp where there were limited small and medium sized camps – but we have given more reservable campsites to the large groups and completely excluded the medium and small groups. This system now only works for the large groups who put the larger burden on our delicate resource. I understand the need for limits, especially on the final 10 miles of river but I hope this change is only for this year. With the new rules there are only 9 camps that are reservable to our group and in 2 sections of river there are now a very limited number of camps available. I have always felt we were being more responsible by bringing smaller groups. Maybe we should rethink this strategy.

This year we intentionally kept our group to a smaller number and left behind friends and families who wanted to see this section of river again and now we are being left out for acting responsibly during this time of public crisis. It is apparent that the larger groups and I would assume commercial companies have lobbied for this change as it significantly favors them and their schedule and makes life much easier for their guides.

Please return to a system that works equally for all parties.

Sincerely,
 

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We launched last year on August 17th with a group of 12. 3 of our 5 reserved camps were large camps (lower yellow pine, rabbit, and maxwell). We launch this year with 18 on Aug 12th. We send in camp requests tomorrow and are asking for 2 large camps. It will be interesting. I saw the changes this year and am worried but they have modified Aug 1st by going back to last years rules. It’s unfortunate that the group size between 11-20 get shafted.
 

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I actually didn't realize how bad it has become for a group with 11-20 people. Of the 35 reserved camps, 21 are for groups larger than 21 people, 9 are for medium groups with over 10 people, and 4 are for groups under 10 people. I wish I could compare the reserved campsite lists over the years because I believe they have taken some that were medium sized camps and turned them into large camps (such as Motor). It would be tight to fit 30 people into that site at low flows.

Below the South Fork Salmon River is the worst, with 8 of 10 reserved camps for large groups. At this point I think I'm a fan of all camps being assigned during the lottery period just like the Middle Fork. I'm gonna request the last few years of river use during the lottery period just to see what the average group size is for commercial and privates.

I do understand the need to provide larger camps for the larger groups but seams like a group between 11-20 is limited. They can't stay at a small camp and they aren't eligible for a large camp unless the large groups don't want. This year it sounds like you send in your request and they assign camps so you have no idea if a camp you didn't request is available or not.
 

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This is terrible, I just got off and they told me I could have only one large site,( we got Magpie) and I was like, but nearly all the best sites are large group, and nearly all reserved sites are large group. I learned from this trip that small groups are looked down upon greatly by many. Caught me off guard.
 

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Brilliant, pack the camps to capacity during a pandemic and then stopping re-issuance of cancelled trips for the rest of the permit season to reduce potential covid spread and for a "better" wilderness experience.
 

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I agree... I often take trips just with my partner... Seeking solitude rather than a river dance party with 20+ people. But this doesn't mean I don't like a well-situated camp, a great hike, or hot springs, which, of course are often at the big sites. Big sites became big sites often by overuse due to popularity because they have special qualities. I like special. That said, I try to stay at small sites whenever possible, but I will stay at a big site if it's the only way to access something special.
Maybe, every party should get an opportunity to pick one special camp regardless of camp size.
 

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Just to give folks an update. Our group went from 18 to 13 people. They assigned our camps yesterday and 3 of our 4 reserved camps are large camps. Maybe it really affects groups <10 people or maybe July just has lots of larger groups than August. I've only done in July once and generally save this trip for August. I do understand why they don't assign some large reserved camps to the smaller groups. The smaller groups are traveling much slower and although a large reserved camp may be available the day the small group launches, a large group launching 2-3 days behind can catch them in the lower part of the river. That all being said I think I'm a fan of all camps assigned during the lottery season.
 
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