Stephanie and I spent last week rafting the Main Salmon River with a group of outfitters and personnel from the Forest Service and other agencies. The trip was an opportunity to discuss a number of management issues, including dealing with rafting trips during wildfire, and campsite reservations. A couple of Forest Service archaeologists provided cultural background about the Salmon River corridor, both prehistoric and historic. Many times conferences accomplish more in the hallways than in the meeting rooms, and there is a major element of that on these trips. There were organized discussions, but many more unstructured conversations around the campfire and on the boats each day as we floated down the Salmon River. It is far better to discuss issues in the actual setting, rather than in a meeting room, and to have the time to share ideas over days rather than during a structured meeting. We had the opportunity to get better acquainted with the river managers, and they had an opportunity to better understand issues that affect all of us. Hopefully that results in increased trust, understanding, and cooperation as managers and users work with river issues. As one example, most of the group returned up river to Corn Creek on jet boats. Many of those people had never been on a jet-boat before. Jet boats have been controversial on the Salmon River, but this was an opportunity to broaden perspective on the issue.
This was a preseason trip, before outfitters and agency staff were immersed in the demands of the summer season. There were few other boaters on the river. The river was at about three feet on the Corn Creek gauge, a medium flow. The Salmon River canyon was spring-green, with balsam root flowers still blooming yellow. We did not see much wildlife on this trip. Bighorn sheep were beginning to lamb, so were off in discrete locations. We did not see any elk on this trip through the River of No Return wilderness, yet ironically after I got home there were elk fifty yards from my house.