Salmon River Rafting
Experience the Grand Canyon of Idaho
Salmon River Rafting
Salmon River rafting trips are ideal for families and the best trips for those who have run the Rogue River and are looking for a longer adventure. During the summer, there are huge sandy beaches, pine-filled mountain vistas, and plenty of fun splashy whitewater. For those wanting more excitement, there are inflatable kayaks. Looking for even more thrills, try a June trip when the rapids and waves are on par with those of the Colorado River.
Salmon River Highlights
Trips also offer exceptional hiking, swimming, and fishing. Leave the roads and crowds behind and raft through the Grand Canyon of Idaho as it flows through the Frank Church Wilderness Area. This national wild and scenic river supports a wide variety of wildlife. While on the river, you might catch a glimpse of moose, elk, mule deer, black bears, river otters, golden eagles, red-tail hawks, and osprey. Enjoy relaxing at the natural Barth Hot Springs, a scenic soak overlooking the Main Salmon River. For those wishing for a more luxury trip, forgo some of the camping by staying in a lodge. Call us if you’d like to know more about luxury Salmon River rafting options.
$1,499 - $1,899 per person
Length: 80 miles/6 days
Price: $1,499 per youth, $1,899 per adult
Optional Rentals: sleeping bag + pad ($40/person), 2-person tent ($40/tent)
Season: June – September
Min. Age: 5 years during Low Water Levels; 12 years during High Water Levels (June – early July)
Activity: Class III/III+ Whitewater Rafting and Inflatable Kayaking
Meeting Place: Salmon, Idaho
Ending Place: McCall, Idaho
Salmon River Rafting Details
The Salmon River Rafting trips descend the second deepest gorge in North America. You will travel 82 miles downstream from Corn Creek to Carey Creek through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. The scenery begins with rugged alpine mountains, moves into enchanting pine forests interrupted by granite gorges that eventually open to high desert slopes. You will raft over 40 whitewater rapids, including Elkhorn and Big Mallard, two famous rapids of the West. Salmon River trips are best for people of all ages, wildlife enthusiasts, and anyone interested in pioneer history.
Meet at 8:00 pm the evening before the trip In Salmon, Idaho at the Stagecoach Inn. During the pre-trip meeting, the guides will distribute dry bags for packing your gear, review trip and shuttle information, and answer last-minute questions.
Salmon River Launch Day
At the time designated during the pre-trip meeting a bus will transport the group from the Stagecoach Inn 2 to 3-hours to the put-in at Corn Creek. After a short safety and orientation briefing, you will launch on the river around noon. After floating several miles and running a few rapids you will arrive at the first night’s camp. Once the rafts are unloaded there is a camp tour, and everyone decides where they will set up for the evening. Then you have time to relax and enjoy appetizers while the guides prepare dinner.
A hearty breakfast and fresh coffee get each day started on the river before packing your dry bags and loading into the rafts. Salmon River rafting trips typically float 10 to 15 miles over 5 to 6 hours with multiple stops to visit old homesteads and pictograph sites, scout rapids, dip in a hot spring, and partake in a riverside lunch. You can rotate rafts at stops so everyone has the opportunity to paddle or relax. You usually arrive at camp in the late afternoon with enough time to hike, relax, swim, or fish while the guides prepare dinner. After dinner enjoy a campfire under the stars with the sounds of the river.
After a morning of fun rapids, you take-out at Carey Creek. Here the guides de-rig the rafts and serve a last lunch before the 2-hour bus ride to the airport in McCall (arriving around 5:00 pm).
All the group camping and river-related safety equipment is included along with plenty of fresh food and snacks starting with lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day. There will be plenty of water but if you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own, (beer and soda in cans; wine in boxes or bags; hard liquor in plastic bottles).
You are expected to supply your own camping and sleep gear. However, you can also rent tents, pads, and sleeping bags for the trip (prices can be seen in the facts above). The price includes transportation from Salmon, Idaho to the put-in point, and take-out point to McCall, Idaho. The logistics on the Main Salmon make it so many people prefer to not return to Salmon, Idaho (see more information below). Depending upon the shuttle options you choose there may be additional expenses.
Guides appreciate gratuities for their efforts. Typically, tips are around 10% to 15% of the trip cost and can be given to the head guide to be evenly distributed among the crew. That being said, the choice to tip is yours and depends upon your feelings about the trip and tipping in general as well as your financial means.
What to Expect
Making the most of your rafting trip
We find people have the most fun when they are flexible. Rafting trips provide an adventure with the guides continually adjusting the plans to make the most of each day. It can be nice to leave your watch behind.
Salmon River Canyon Weather
Idaho’s summer weather sees highs ranging from 80°F – 100°F while dropping into the 60’s°F at night. There can be afternoon rainstorms that are typically done before camp is reached. Being prepared with layers and good rain gear makes any experience of rain an enjoyable part of the trip.
Boats & Group Size
Your main forms of transport will be oar rafts, a paddle boat, and inflatable kayaks for those who wish for a more interactive experience. Oar powered rafts are about 18 feet long and carry three guests plus the guide, who maneuvers the raft with a set of oars mounted on the raft. Normally three to five boats travel together, and group sizes can be up to 22 guests, maximum.
The 14-ft long paddle raft carries six people plus a guide. Each person paddles as a guide calls out the paddling commands. When water levels are suitable, single, and two-person kayaks let you challenge the rapids on your own terms. Please note that space in a paddle raft or inflatable kayaks is not guaranteed. When there are more people wishing to paddle than spaces, paddlers rotate so that everyone gets a chance to participate.
Whether you’re an experienced camper or it’s your first time under the stars the beaches of the Salmon River are an enjoyable and relaxing camping experience. Everyone gets to select their own tent spots and guides assist those who would like help setting up tents. A clean, private camp toilet is set up first thing upon arrival at camp and it is the last thing to be dismantled the next morning.
There will be plenty of healthy tasty food on the trip. A full breakfast with cowboy coffee gets the day going. A riverside picnic sets the scene for lunch. Dinners can be anything from a steak, grilled filet of salmon, or a Mexican feast and may be followed by a hot, Dutch oven dessert. There are plenty of snacks and water available throughout the day. Alcoholic beverages are not included, but you are welcome to bring your own. When signing up for the trip you will have an opportunity to share any special dietary requirements.
Packing for your trip
You will be provided with a suggested packing list after signing up for the trip. The key equipment is good river footwear and clothing that protects you from the rain and the sun. While rain rarely falls in the summer, proper rain gear will make it a much more joyful experience if it does. We have recommended rain gear, footwear, and other clothing options.
Salmon River Fishing
Fishing on the Salmon River is good and usually gets better after the water levels drop in mid-July. Poles should be protected in sturdy cases, and only a small amount of tackle is needed. Dry flies and small spinners with single barbless hooks work well; you do not need waders or nets. Those wishing to fish can purchase an Idaho License on-line through Idaho Fish and Game.
Getting There and Away
Drive your vehicle to Salmon, Idaho. While on the river have it shuttled to McCall, Idaho by River Shuttles (208/756-4188 or rivershuttles.com). Arrangements are best made in advance or you can fill out a form at the pre-trip meeting. Your car will be shuttled from the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon to the airport in McCall (or directly to the Carey Creek take-out point) during the trip. The cost of the shuttle is around $300 per vehicle, plus $80 for gas, plus a full tank of gas.
Fly into Boise and then fly via Gem Air (small propeller planes) from Boise to Salmon the day before your trip launches (best to depart Boise before 5 pm). At the end of your trip fly from McCall back to Boise. Due to the potential for delays DO NOT plan on flying out of McCall the evening the trip ends. Instead spend the night in McCall and fly to Boise in time for your flight the following morning, (after 10:00 am departure from Boise is best). The round trip airfare costs $360 per person through Gem Air (208/756-7382 or gemairflights.com).
Fly into Boise and rent a car for the 6-hour drive to Salmon, then have your car shuttled to McCall during the trip (see shuttle details under Drive above). If you rent a vehicle, you will need to get an “Additional Driver’s Form” from the rental agency (Avis and Budget have been the easiest to work with in the past), fill it out and FAX it to River Shuttles at 208/756-4188. River Shuttles will fill in their part and FAX it to the rental agency before rental. This enables River Shuttles to drive the rental car. Car rentals cost about $200 to $300 for the week.
Another option is to drive to McCall, leave your vehicle at the airport and fly to Salmon before the trip. Or drive to Salmon, leave your vehicle at the Stagecoach, and fly back to Salmon from McCall at the end of the trip. One-way flights between McCall and Salmon are about $180 per person via Gem Air (208/756-7382 or gemairflights.com).
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