The Salmon River

Salmon River The Salmon River (the Main and the legendary Middle Fork) is the most famous of Idaho's many whitewater rivers.

The Main Salmon originates in the Sawtooth and Salmon River mountains and slices through the true heartland of Idaho. It is one of the longest undammed rivers in the lower 48 and qualifies as the longest river entirely within a single state.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon has long been considered the crown jewel of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system by the U.S. Forest Service. This week-long float takes boaters through the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, a roadless area with forested mountains, a deep canyon, and bighorn sheep.

Salmon River Permits are required to run both the Main, an 80 mile trip, and the Middle Fork, a 100 mile trip. The Middle Fork is technically more demanding than the Main, with more than eighty rapids, like Velvet Falls, Powerhouse, Pistol Creek, Tappan Falls, and Rubber.

The waters of the Main, however, are bigger and pushier, creating more than forty memorable rapids, like Salmon Falls, Big Mallard, Elkhorn and Chittam.

Both the Main and the Middle Fork are steeped in human history, dating back 8,000 years. William Clark studied the Salmon in August of 1805 before reporting to Meriwether Lewis that "the river...is almost one continued rapid...the passage with canoes is entirely impossible."

The first known account of people running the river occurred in March of 1832. Four Hudson's Bay Company trappers attempted it in a small hide canoe. Two men drowned; the two survivors were forced to travel overland, and arrived at the Snake-Columbia confluence "quite naked" a month later.

By the end of the nineteenth century wooden scows were descending the river. Once at their destination, the boats would be dismantled. The nickname "River of No Return," which appeared in the 1920's, referred to these one-way trips on the Main Salmon.

Jet Boat on the Salmon River

By the 1930's, surplus military rubber rafts were successfully descending the river. Today, more than 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and another 5,000 enjoy the rapids of the Main.


 

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