Idaho’s Salmon River originates from and flows through the mountains of central and eastern Idaho and cuts through the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest designated Wilderness area in the lower 48 states.
The most massive river in Idaho and one of the largest in North America, the Salmon wends its way through the second deepest canyon on the continent, with its neighbor, Hells Canyon being the deepest. It passes through 85 miles of remote wilderness, and is a popular for river adventures, catering to all levels of river runners. This river is not dammed, like many others, so the water flow depends on the snowmelt and can be very high in early summer and very low in the fall. Whether rafting with a guide, or on your own, planning ahead and checking on water levels and accessibility to launch sites is very important. Sometimes high water can be treacherous on certain rapids and sometimes low water on other rapids can also pose dangers. Always wear a properly fitted life jacket whenever you are floating on the water in a boat. If you get tossed out of the boat in a wild rapid, the life jacket can save your life and help make your trip memorable for all the good reasons.
There are three trips to choose from to float the Salmon River – the Main Salmon launching at Corn Creek Campground, the Middle Fork which launches from Boundary Creek or Indian Creek, and the Lower Salmon that launches at Vinegar Creek. To float the Main Salmon and Middle Fork, you must apply for a lottery permit at Recreation.gov between December 1st and January 31st and the lucky winners will find out around February 15th. Floating the Lower Salmon does not require a permit and you can launch a trip most any day during the summer, but be aware, it may get crowded, especially on the weekends.
A trip on the Salmon can be exhilarating with giant rollercoaster rapids and wave trains and also relaxing with serene flatwater with deep green pools and rolling pillows to float over. For camping, there are beautiful and roomy white sand beaches with long, warm days perfect for swimming and playing in the water and cool nights to sleep peacefully under the night sky. The Salmon serves as the perfect opportunity to try rowing a raft, paddling an inflatable kayak, or stand-up paddle boarding for the first time. There are also plenty of opportunities to cast a rod to catch the next big fish or bring your binoculars and camera to spy on the variety of wildlife you come across.
Why do they call it “The River of No Return”? It’s not as ominous as it sounds. For more than 105 years after the first European Americans came to the area, only one-way trips down the river were possible. The most commonly used boats were wooden scows, designed to carry heavy loads and withstand whitewater. They were then dismantled and used for lumber at the trip's conclusion. It was from these trips that the Salmon's nickname, "River of No Return," originated.
For anyone seeking to disconnect from the world for a few days and reconnect with nature and your closest friends and family, whitewater rafting on the Salmon River can be your next outdoor adventure.
For more information on rafting this river, as well as many others, visit: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/234622 or https://www.blm.gov/visit/lower-salmon-river