Saturday, June 9, 2012

Upper Salmon Camping

With a potential salmon fishing season possibly beginning June 23, it's time to review the camping situation on The Upper Salmon River from The East Fork to the Sawtooth Hatchery. (We will talk about boating access in a separate post.)

Old Timers and Salmon Heads already know their favorite camp nooks and niches.  This discussion is for readers who might not be all that familiar with that portion of Salmon Country and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).

The camping zones are: Sawtooth Valley, camps along the river, Yankee Fork, the lower SNRA, Sawmill Station and East Fork.

The BLM runs a great little campground located right at the confluence of The East Fork and The Salmon River.  BLM Volunteer Clark Morley has been tending this recreation site for over 10 years and keeps it in tip top shape during the summer season.  There aren't many sites and they are first-come, first-served.  Clark and his late wife, Joan, developed a large fan club over the years.  It's a great place to stay if you can arrive early enough to get a site.  Click here for the BLM's webpage on The East Fork site.

There aren't really any camping areas up on The East Fork unless you know somebody.  It's all private property for about 20 miles upstream.

The next genuine camping upstream is Old Sawmill Station.  As far as we're concerned, this is THE place for a Big Rig to camp.  They have gas, hookups, showers, washing machines and, of course, the awesome restaurant and store which carries a great beer selection.  The hospitality at Old Sawmill Station is legendary.  They simply can't be beat.  Whatever they charge to camp there is a bargain.  Old Sawmill Station also functions as a clearinghouse of sorts for hunters and fishermen.  If you want to know what's hot and what's not, you better beat feet to Old Sawmill Station.  Click here for their one-page website.

There's a couple of Forest Service campgrounds upstream from Sawmill--Holman and Whiskey Flat.  They are very basic.  Whiskey Flat has the advantage of being right on the riverbank not far downstream from Slate Creek.

Farther upstream is Torrey's Cabins.  They also offer excellent RV sites with a lot of amenities.  It's an excellent place to stay.  You can click here to visit their website.  One of the very big advantages of staying at Torrey's is the proximity to the Torrey's Hole River Access Site (RAP) virtually right next door.  Torrey's has been a popular place to stay since the 1930's and the place has faithful clients whose experiences there go back a two or three generations.  Torrey's also rents out eight great little cabins.

Lower & Upper O'Brien are two real nice Forest Service campgrounds not too far upstream from Torrey's. Next is the Yankee Fork road to the right.  There are three small campgrounds on the lower Yankee Fork. They probably aren't suitable for bigger rigs. Farther up, of course, the area remains heavily impacted by past gold dredging activities and there are a lot of mining claims and private property parcels.

We aren't sure what the situation is for camping at the old Sunbeam Resort located across Highway 75 from the remnants of the infamous old dam.  We'll check into it next time we are up that way.

Mormon Bend is the next major campground upstream.  It's flat and has wide turning areas and the Big Rigs fit well in some of the sites there.  The boat launch area is hardened and is one of the better RAP's on the Upper Salmon.  We thought this campground had reservable sites but can't seem to find them online today.

Riverside, Casino Creek and Salmon River campgrounds are all three along the river between Mormon Bend and Stanley.  Casino Creek is located on the other side of the river (river right) and was improved a few years ago.  It appears to be a favorite of sportsmen.  None of these campgrounds show up on the reservations website so they may all be first-come, first-served.

Forest Service campgrounds in the SNRA are managed by a concessionaire.

Once you reach Stanley, camping options abound.  Although there are 16 developed camping areas between the Salmon headwaters and Stanley Lake, we'd recommend only a couple of areas: Redfish Lake and Sunny Gulch.  If you know Redfish Lake you know it can be a zoo scene during the peak of summer season.  However, it is well developed and close to Redfish Lake Lodge's amenities.  Glacier View Campground (63 sites) and Outlet Campground (18 sites) at Redfish Lake can be reserved online.  All the roads and spurs in both campgrounds are paved.  Both have flush toilets and, of course, drinking water.  There are no hookups and time-of-use restrictions do apply for generators.

Our top recommendation for salmon fishermen who plan to camp in the Sawtooth Valley would be the Sunny Gulch Campground. It only has 10 sites so it can't get all that crowded. The roads and spurs are paved.  The turning radii are generous.  It's very close to the Redfish Lake intersection, lying between the Stanley Ranger Station and the Redfish road.  The campground is located on the north side of Highway 75.  This campground was completely redone about 6 or 7 years ago and it is a great place.  It's out of the mayhem of the Redfish Lake area, close to the main road and located right on the river.  Sunny Gulch is reservable.

To check into reserving a camp site online you need to go to Recreation.gov.  Use "Sawtooth National Recreation Area campground" in the search field and all of your choices will appear throughout the entire Sawtooth National Forest.  There are other reservable campgrounds in the SNRA such as Stanley and Alturas Lakes.  You do have to pay a steep fee to reserve a campsite via the online system.  If we recall correctly, it's nine bucks.  Whatever the price it's a bargain.  There's nothing better than knowing you actually have a place to camp with your name on it.  If you show up at the wrong time in Sawtooth Country finding a campsite might not be possible.  Better to pay the fee and be safe than sorry.

There may some limited RV camping options in Stanley. We suggest you check with the Stanley Chamber of Commerce to inquire as to the status of such possibilities.  Click here for the Chamber's  fine website.  The Chamber would be the place to inquire about the many overnight lodging facilities in Stanley and Sawtooth Country.

Our website format accept comments below each of our posts here.  Please use it to post up ideas, comments, experiences and questions about camping in The Upper Salmon River region.  We welcome your participation.  And one final note--it's only an hour round trip to drive from Challis up into East Fork Country and a two hour round trip to Sawtooth Country.  There are some real nice RV facilities and lots of overnight lodging in Challis.  If the drive doesn't bother you, check out Challis.

Good Luck & Happy Camping!  jp

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