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Embark with me on a journey down the Salmon River, affectionately known as “The River of No Return.” As an impassioned boating enthusiast, I’ve traversed many rivers, but the Salmon River stands out as a pristine spectacle of nature’s beauty. This river, with its whopping length of 425 miles, holds the prestigious title of the longest unobstructed, free-flowing river confined within a single state in the lower 48 states of the U.S.
It traces its origin back to the heart of Idaho, more specifically, the Sawtooth and Lemhi Valleys. As it snakes its way through the central and eastern portions of Idaho, it presents an unparalleled opportunity for whitewater rafting, kayaking, and fly fishing.
The Salmon River, a gem of Idaho, effortlessly carves its path through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Its lower segment further delineates the southern border of the Gospel-Hump Wilderness. Boating enthusiasts often marvel at the five “forks” of the river – the Upper Main, Main, Lower Main, Middle Fork, and the South Fork – each one offering unique challenges and excitement for rafters, kayakers, canoeists, and drift boat users.
While navigating the Salmon River, be ready to witness a flurry of wildlife sightings. From deer and elk to black bears and mountain goats, the river’s sandy shores and granite-walled canyons serve as a natural canvas teeming with life.
As an added bonus, the main stem of the river is a sanctuary for several species of fish, including cutthroat trout, bull trout, rainbow trout, and several species of salmon, making it a hotspot for fly-fishing enthusiasts.
While journeying down the river, you will see vestiges of Native American sites as well as remnants of old mining ruins, infusing the river’s course with historical significance. Since 1976, controlled permits have been required to float certain sections of the river between June 20 and Sept. 7, a testament to the river’s popularity among outdoor enthusiasts.
Planning to undertake this adventure? Here are a few reputable outfitters to help you plan your unforgettable boating trip down the Salmon River:
Idaho River Adventures
Whether you yearn for a serene river float with your family or a thrilling whitewater adventure, the guide service at Idaho River Adventure has got you covered. Known for their sumptuous food, particularly their fresh salmon, seasoned guides, and unwavering focus on passenger comfort, they offer a unique blend of adventure and luxury.
They guide whitewater rafting and fly-fishing trips on the Main and Middle Forks of the Salmon River, starting from the remote Idaho River Adventures riverside guest lodge and moving on to camping spots on sandy beaches.
Idaho River Adventures, Inc.
16 N Cherokee Rd, Salmon, ID 83467
+1 (208) 746-2221
Home to a plethora of Rocky Mountain Cutthroat and Rainbow trout, the crystal-clear waters of the Salmon River have attracted fly-fishers from across the nation. Tight Lines offers six-day drift-boat trips on the Middle Fork of the Salmon.
For those seeking a surge of adrenaline, they also host 4- to 5-day whitewater rafting trips from July through August. True outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss their unique “Cast & Blast” combo of Chukar bird hunting and fly fishing, a five-day, 73-mile river journey.
Tight Lines Inc.
Fishing and Rafting, Jeff and Laura Helfrich, P.O. Box 117, Vida, OR 97488, 877-855-6270
Wet Planet Whitewater
The Salmon River is an excellent training ground for novice kayakers, thanks to its forgiving Class II-III whitewater. After Wet Planet’s five-day kayak course on the Lower Salmon, you’ll emerge with newfound confidence and skill. The course includes camping equipment, meals prepared by instructors, and daily raft support throughout the length of the trip.
Wet Planet Whitewater
860 Highway 141, Husum, WA 98672
With summer upon us, now is the perfect time to plan an unforgettable adventure on the Salmon River. Whether your vessel of choice is a raft, kayak, or drift boat, residents and visitors of the northwest can’t afford to miss this extraordinary opportunity.
Join us and experience the wonders of Idaho’s most majestic waterway, the Salmon River.