Whitewater rafting on the Main Salmon River
The River of No Return section of the Salmon River offers excellent white water rafting intermingled with placid pools, magnificent mountain scenery, beautiful sand beaches, and frontier history. Elevation is moderate, beginning at 3000 feet, so summer temperatures are warm, ideal for family white water rafting. We float 80 miles in six days. With a gradient of 12 feet per mile, rapids are moderate compared to other on-the-edge Idaho whitewater rafting trips. Rapids are less technical than the Middle Fork, and more frequent than on the Lower Salmon. Because it is a relatively large volume river, in low water the Main Salmon River provides some of the best white water rafting in Idaho. Late summer trips are fine. Because rapids are simpler than on the Middle Fork, with deeper pools below rapids for gather-up, it is great water for inflatable kayaks. Most of the Salmon River gorge is timbered, reaching 5000 feet or more to the ridges above.
Wildlife, hot springs, swimming
We see bighorn sheep and sometimes deer or bear. We usually stop at a hot spring. We do some fishing, but this is not primarily a fishing trip. Water temperature is warmer than the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, with more sand beaches, so swimming is a more popular family river rafting activity than on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Family white water rafting vacations on Idaho’s Main Salmon River
With more beaches, warmer water, and moderate rapids compared to the Middle Fork, the Main Salmon River is an excellent rafting trip for families with grade school age kids. Our nicest camps are on the Main Salmon River, mostly on sandbars. Group size is usually 8-12 people. Charter Main Salmon rafting trips can be arranged throughout the summer.
We can also offer white water rafting trips on the Main Salmon River with no camping, staying in riverside lodges each night. Most of these lodges are on inholdings of private land dating to homestead days, so have very interesting histories. Others are used as steelhead fishing facilities during late fall and early spring.
Main Salmon whitewater adventures in the spring
We can offer trips on the Main Salmon in April and early May, before high water. Because the road access is low elevation, we don’t have to worry about whether it is snow-free, as is the case on other rivers such as the Middle Fork. Spring trips provide teh greatest sense of wilderness. There are few people on the river. You are likely to float an entire day, or maybe an entire trip, without seeing another raft. In the spring big game animals move down to lower elevations to get the first green grass. Wildflowers are at their peak. Weather can be beautiful, or there can be rain. This is a time of year when lodge trips are attractive, providing the security of a roof instead of a tent if the weather turns damp.
Blending the old with the new: we are keepers of Salmon River tradition
Gold prospectors and homesteaders began to penetrate this area of Idaho in the 1860’s and 70’s, and rugged characters they were. Supply was infrequent, by wooden sweepboats or pack mules. Winters were long in the Salmon River canyon, snow and ice-bound. No corner store, no 911. Snowshoes were the only way out, over the mountains. We stop to examine their decaying cabins and sample fruit from the trees they planted and wonder at a way of life gone forever. Even today, winter residents in the Salmon River canyon rely on ski planes landing at back-country airstrips for supplies.