Middle Fork’s a
world unto itself
Express Arts Editor
Wild rivers have
a way of taking hold of the soul. They have a curious quality of, on one level,
changing at every instant in time, while on another, providing a constancy that
And few rivers
are as wild, pristine and, ultimately, captivating as the Middle Fork of the
Salmon. Stretching 100 miles through the wild heart of Idaho’s Frank
Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the Middle Fork is a place that manages to
change those who venture down it.
Matt Leidecker, a
photographer who has spent many years working on the river, has published a new
book, "Impassable Canyon: Journey Down the Middle Fork of the Salmon."
Leidecker will introduce the book with a slide show and talk 7 p.m. Thursday at
The Community School Theater in Sun Valley.
In some ways,
Leidecker set out on an impossible task: capturing the essence of a 100-mile
stretch of river in pictures and words. Still, he has done an admirable job. For
those who have never floated through this world unto itself, the book is bound
to intrigue. For those who have, it will rekindle a flood of memories as varied
as the river itself.
working as a commercial river guide in 1991. For the next 12 years he explored
the intricacies of the Middle Fork; the last five he has spent photographing it.
His photographs record the changing light and water, the remarkable geology, the
people riding the river’s current and the sky holding in all that beauty.
One of the more
unusual features of the Middle Fork is its varied nature. It is, in a sense,
three river ecosystems strung together—a fact Leidecker recognizes in dividing
the book into Upper, Middle and Lower Canyon sections. "Impassable
Canyon" is organized as one would float the river.
beginning, I wanted to create a book that provided a perspective beyond the
visual impact of my photographs," Leidecker said. To that end he enlisted
the services of several writers who have had close connections to the river.
Contributions in the forms of poems, essays, and first-hand accounts come from
writers Cort Conley, Peter Gibbs, Jim Harper, Greg Moore, Erik Leidecker,
William Studebaker, Clarence Stilwill and David Wagoner.
are interspersed through the book, as are essays by Studebaker. Conley writes
about the "residents" of the Middle Fork: characters like Whitie Cox,
Cougar Dave and Beargrease Falconbury. Writer and kayaker Greg Moore recounts a
kayak trip down Loon Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork, with Al Reynolds and
John Ward, Sun Valley residents credited with the first descent of Loon Creek in
There are essays
on the geology of the canyon and some of the history of the Native Americans who
includes short comments from commercial clients, private boaters and
professional guides to round out the different perspectives of the river.
Canyon" is available at valley bookstores, Silver Creek Outfitters and
Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum or online at www.middleforkbook.com.