Eastern Interior Field Office
Fortymile Wild and Scenic River
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South Fork Bridge to Fortymile Bridge

 Two paddlers float past a cliff in a canoe.
South Fork bluffs
The South Fork Bridge to Fortymile Bridge section of the Fortymile Wild and Scenic River offers a relaxing two- or three-day float trip with convenient road access at both ends. At average water levels the trip takes around 13 hours of float time for 38 river miles. The water is class I and II with one class II to III rapids shortly before the end of the trip. A screen-viewable map of this trip is available here.

You will put in at the South Fork Bridge Wayside at milepost 75 on the Taylor Highway. The wayside includes a boat ramp, parking  lot and outhouse. The boat ramp is not easy to use; four-wheel drive is generally necessary. Long-term parking is permitted, but overnight camping is not. Campgrounds are located nearby in Chicken (milepost 66) and Walker Fork (milepost 82). 

About 13 miles downstream from the bridge, you will pass the abandoned mining settlement of Franklin. The stampede to the Fortymile started when Howard Franklin and Micky O'Brien discovered gold at Franklin's Bar in 1886. Gold was discovered in Franklin Gulch the following year. From 1886 to 1948 this was the site of much mining and social activity. A few partially collapsed structures are the remnants of what was once a thriving community with a post office, school, roadhouse and airstrip.

The South Fork joins the North Fork approximately halfway through the trip, and the river widens considerably. On the right bank 3.4 miles below the confluence, the historic Long Bar Cabin makes a nice lunch spot. Former Milwaukee shoe salesman Joseph Nicholas Brost staked mining claims at Long Bar and built the cabin, a barn, and several root cellars around 1910. Only the cabin remains intact.

Two miles above the Fortymile Bridge is the Falls, a class II to III rapids. Notice a large eddy that has taken a bite out of the cliffs on the left bank. It shows up clearly on the inch-to-the-mile (1:63,360) map. Generally you will run the Falls on the right at high water and on the left at low water. It can be portaged on the right bank.

Unless you are continuing on to the lower river, you will take out at the Fortymile Bridge at milepost 112 on the Taylor Highway. A steep access road that often requires four-wheel-drive leads to the river on the east side of the highway. It is difficult but not impossible to use boat trailers here. Leave your vehicle at the parking lot on the west side of the highway instead of on the ramp. Outhouses are available.

Topographic Maps

The U.S. Geological Survey inch-to-the-mile (1:63,360) maps recommended for this trip are:
Eagle A-2, B-1, B-2

Last updated: 06-09-2016