For more than 400 miles, the Salmon River winds through central Idaho. As
it gathers momentum, the river passes the towns of Stanley, Challis, Salmon, and
Riggins, and several other smaller communities. The Salmon River Country is not
heavily populated; nevertheless, and perhaps because of that, these towns have
great charm and more than their share of characters.
It's hard not to love the town of Stanley, Idaho. At 6260 feet elevation, this community of a hundred hearty folks lies at the base of the stunning Sawtooth Mountain range, with a view of the White Cloud peaks across U.S. Highway 93. Stanley is the town closest to the headwaters of the famous River of No Return. It is situated in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is one of Idahos must see places.
This mile-high town got its start as a trading center for nearby mines. Mining is still an important element in the towns success. Approximately one thousand folks live in Challis, many of them connected to cattle ranching.
With a population of approximately three thousand, Salmon is the largest town along the Salmon River. It was near here that Sacagawea was born. Near here is where Lewis and Clark first entered Idaho in 1805, and met the Lemhi-Shoshone Indians (re-uniting Sacagawea with her people) and procured horses for the
rest of their journey to the ocean. The town got its start when gold was discovered in 1866, but today Salmon is a cattle town and, increasingly, a recreation center for river running, steelhead fishing and elk hunting.
Situated on Idaho's north-south highway, at an elevation of 1800 feet, Riggins is the first town one arrives at after a wilderness float trip on the Salmon. Riggins is wedged in between high mountains steep enough to deter outward growth. This gives the impression that Riggins is one long street. Today that street, Highway 95, is filled with outfitters offering a dizzying array of whitewater river trips and steelhead fishing trips. But Riggins used to be a timber town, until the mill burned down. The bridge just outside of town on the Salmon River is the state's North-South boundary; it is here where one changes from Mountain to Pacific Time zone.