Idaho’s Salmon River…
Is one of the world’s ultimate wilderness whitewater rafting trips. Spend day after day drifting down crystal clear water through pine-covered canyons, and camp each night beside the River of No Return. Enjoy companionship by the campfire and bare feet in the warm sand. Experience the thrill of unforgettable whitewater rafting. Watch bighorn sheep drinking at river’s edge, eagles soaring overhead, and the rise of a trout to the fly. Wonder at old cabins sinking back into the earth and ponder dreams of long-gone pioneers, and pictographs on cliffs from an even earlier era.
The Salmon River drains the mountains of central Idaho from the continental divide on the east on the Montana border to the Seven Devils mountains on the west on the Oregon border, from the headwaters in the Sawtooth mountains on the south to Clearwater country to the north, over 400 miles to its junction with the Snake, without a dam on its length. Peaks in the headwaters exceed 11,000 feet elevation; the mouth of the river is one thousand. Well over 90% of the drainage is public land, so mountainous it could not be tilled. The central portion is so rugged that it could not be penetrated by roads. Elk, deer, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, antelope, bears, wolves, and mountain lions roam the Salmon River Country. The heart of this back-country area was set aside as the Idaho Primitive Area in the 1930s and designated the River of No Return Wilderness Area in 1980. This wilderness area is over 2 million acres, and is adjoined by another 2 million acres of wilderness–and surrounded by millions of acres of mountainous National Forest that is barely penetrated by winding logging roads.
Lewis and Clark encountered the Salmon River in 1805, but could not travel the Salmon River canyon. Fur traders in the 1820s and 1830s also were unable to penetrate these mountains. In the 1860s gold was discovered, and prospectors began to learn the region. In the 1870s farmers and ranchers began to settle suitable land to support the miners. In the late 1800s, boatmen learned to float wooden boats down the river to supply mines downriver from the town of Salmon. Since the boats could not be brought back up river, the Salmon became known as the “River of No Return”.
The upper two hundred miles of the Salmon River is followed by a road, but three segments of the river, flowing through wilderness areas, provide isolated, week-long whitewater rafting trips–the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Main Salmon, and the Lower Salmon.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon is one of the premium Idaho river rafting trips, through the heart of Idaho’s back country in the River of No Return Wilderness Area. We float 100 miles in six days with technical, Class IV white-water. Rafting is the only access to this part of the Middle Fork, one of the deepest canyons in Idaho.There is very good catch-and-release trout fishing available while rafting Middle Fork Salmon, especially later in the season after the water drops. We can provide special fishing trips using McKenzie drift boats or two-person rubber boats.
Also within the River of No Return Wilderness Area, the Main Salmon has more beaches, warmer water, and more moderate rapids than the Middle Fork. The Main Salmon is an excellent white water rafting trip for families with grade school age kids. It is forgiving water for inflatable kayaks. Main Salmon River camps are mostly on sandbars, providing swimming and beach activities. We can also offer a trip on the Main Salmon River with no camping, staying in riverside lodges each night. We float 80 miles in six days. Group size is usually smaller than on the Middle Fork, and charter trips can be arranged throughout the summer.
Because of its low elevation and warmer temperature, the Lower Salmon is a very good off-season white water rafting trip. White water rafting can begin early in the spring on this section of the Salmon River with late August and September being the best times to be on the Lower Salmon River. Early summer high water and mid-summer heat restrict trips during the usual summer months. Whitewater on the Lower Salmon River is similar to the Main Salmon River in lower flows, though rapids are less frequent. Beautiful sand beaches and warmer water temperatures are ideal for swimming. Small mouth bass fishing is good in late summer and early fall. The Lower Salmon is not designated wilderness, but flows through remote, roadless, ranch country.
The Lower Salmon in September is one of the most under-rated and over-looked of all the Idaho white water rafting trips. September trips are Friday through Monday, so a trip can be a long weekend rather than a major vacation–especially over Labor Day. Because the trip is only four days and shuttle distance is less, this river trip is a great rafting vacation at a great bargain.
Our fall CAST AND BLAST Chukar hunting / Steelhead Fishing Trips are on the Lower Salmon River, where we find more birds than upstream river sections.