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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of December 11 - 17, 2002

Arts and Entertainment

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 calms us.

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.

photo by Matt LeideckerMatt 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.

Leidecker began 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.

"From the 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.

Wagoner’s poems 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 1980.

There are essays on the geology of the canyon and some of the history of the Native Americans who lived there.

Leidecker also includes short comments from commercial clients, private boaters and professional guides to round out the different perspectives of the river.

"Impassable Canyon" is available at valley bookstores, Silver Creek Outfitters and Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum or online at www.middleforkbook.com.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.