Spring Rafting Trips on Salmon River

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, one of the first wildflowers of spring.
Arrowleaf Balsamroot, one of the first wildflowers of spring.

Last week I was on the Lower Salmon section of the Salmon River, with an outfitter/agency group.  Enjoying a spring rafting trip on the Salmon River is a perk, though the primary purpose of the trip was to discuss management issues on this section of river, in an on/site setting.  Developing better acquaintance with agency staff and their problems is an objective on these trips, as well as making them aware of our concerns, too.

The trip was five days, 4-8 April, Mon-Fri.  We don’t get much interest in trips this early (which is one reason the trip was scheduled at that time, before everybody gets too busy), but it is a very enjoyable time to be on the river. Monday morning was windy with scattered precip, not really a rain, but enough to put on rain gear, and wonder whether this trip was really a good idea.  Weather improved through the day, and the rest of the trip was warm and sunny, with day temperatures nearly 80 at this low elevation.  Spring was arriving in the canyon, with brilliant wildflowers on green background.  The arrowleaf balsamroot was prominent, putting a yellow cast on entire hillsides.  Serviceberry bushes were like big white popcorn balls scattered along the canyon.  Larkspur was a deep purple.  On the lower end of the trip, Snake River phlox sprinkled clumps of violet amongst the rocks.  Smaller flowers included mountain mahogany, star flowers, and some tiny things I did not recognize.  Apple trees were in full bloom along old homesteads.  We saw some wild turkeys, deer, and bighorn sheep, though not as much wildlife as I had expected–no elk were spotted.  Over the course of the trip, combined with loss of elevation, we could see spring advance.

Aggipah's Idaho rafting trips see Bodacious Bounce Rapid on the Lower Salmon.
Bodacious Bounce Rapid, Lower Salmon River.

Whitewater was moderate.  River level was around 12-13000 cfs, more than we usually run in our fall trips, but not yet high enough to create a dangerous situation at Slide Rapid.  Slide can be a concern on spring rafting trips on the Salmon River.  At flows of 20,000 or more it is a serious spot, so at this time of year, with a lot of snow waiting to melt, warm days can bring the river level up to uncomfortable levels.  At the level we had, the rapid was not a problem, just big, rolling waves–as were most of the other rapids on the trip.  There was nothing that was very difficult to run.

There is very little traffic on the river at this time.  Spring rafting trips on the Salmon River are a very attractive, and overlooked, back country opportunity that should be taken advantage of more regularly.


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