Main Stem of the Salmon River – Idaho
**The video above is from our July 5-10, 2014 trip with C4 Waterman. Please note most trips are family focused and Stand Up Paddle boarding is completely optional.
MAIN STEM OF THE SALMON RIVER – IDAHO
“THE RIVER OF NO RETURN”
Idaho’s Main Stem of the Salmon River accesses the most pristine and untouched terrain in the US, slicing through the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, the largest roadless area in the country. The Main Stem of the Salmon River is famous for it’s large sandy beaches for camping, warm water for swimming, great trout fishing, fun and easy whitewater, and the best hot spring in the Pacific Northwest. No river displays all these characteristics quite like the Main Stem of the Salmon River. It also boasts a canyon that is deeper than the Grand Canyon. The river has recently become famous as the best stand up paddleboard (SUP) river trip in the world for it’s warm water (75+F in August) and fun and safe wave-train rapids.
Often called the River of No Return, the Main Stem of the Salmon River is chock full of historic miner’s cabins, homesteads and Shoshone Sheepeater and Nez Pierce Indian pictographs and pit houses. The early river runners called the Salmon River the “River of No Return” because the wooden scows run in the early 20th century were scrapped at the end of their journey and used to build many of the cabins you see in the canyon. But the truth be told the Salmon is in fact a river you’ll want to return to time and time again, and not want to return home at the end of your adventure.
Please arrive in Salmon, Idaho the night before the trip begins. Salmon is a 5-hour drive (1 hour flight) from Boise and a 2-hour drive from Missoula. Please see section below on getting to Salmon. We have a pre-trip orientation at the Stagecoach Inn (208-756-2919) at 7:30pm the evening before the trip begins. We will get acquainted, answer questions, and have a short orientation to show you how to pack the waterproof gear bags we provide for your personal gear.
Lodging at the Stagecoach Inn is arranged on your own.
We meet at 7:30am at the Stagecoach Inn for a 2-hour bus ride to the Corn Creek, the put-in for the Main Stem of the Salmon River. We will stop after 45 minutes to get last minute items (fishing licenses, beer, sunscreen etc.) at the North Fork Store. Upon launching our rafts at Corn Creek we journey into the pristine heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. We will encounter Killum, Gun Barrel and Alder rapids today, which are all fun class III wave trains. This river calls to adventure seekers, who can choose between the paddle raft, inflatable kayaks or stand-up paddleboards. Or you can ride comfortably on an oar raft in our luxurious “Queen of Sheeba Couch” and take in the scenery. The fishing is excellent for novice and experienced anglers alike. The warm air and water temperatures encourage frequent refreshing dips in the river and we often find guests in calm sections floating next to the rafts. Evenings find us enjoying delicious dutch oven delights, relaxing by the campfire, playing horseshoes, listening to the guides sing and play guitar and watching for shooting stars.
DAYS 2 ~ 5
Each day brings new discoveries: exciting rapids like Black Creek, Bailey, 5 Mile, Split Rock, Big Mallard, Elkhorn and Growler rapids, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill’s homestead and Jim Moore’s place (maybe you’ll find the fortune he buried in the hillside!), and the much anticipated Barth Hot Springs. Visit Barth Hot Springs, known as the best hot spring in the Pacific Northwest.
We may stop and visit with several families that live along the river year round and they will share their stories of living “off the grid” in the wilderness and take us on a tour of their homesteads. Visit with Sue and Greg Metz at Yellow Pine homestead, Doug and Phyllis Tims at Campbells Ferry homestead and Five Mile Bar, the home of the river’s most famous resident “Buckskin Bill”. There are abundant hiking options up many of the side drainages. Hike up Indian Creek to visit very rare 2,000 year old Yew trees, also called the immortal tree, which the Plains Native Americans used to make longbows from the wood. Hikes up Chamberlain or Bargamin Creeks give you another perspective of the river or hike up to Rabbit Point for amazing views.
We float for 5-10 miles this morning and run challenging rapids like Chittam and Vinegar Creek and arrive at the take-out at Carey Creek around 10am. Please see section below on “last day of trip” for logistics today.
Lodging is needed the night before your trip in Salmon. We will meet at the Stagecoach Inn (208-756-2919) at 7:30pm the night before your trip begins. The best rooms are on the river side of the hotel and a little more expensive but well worth it.
At the end of the trip, the Super 8 in McCall (208) 634-4637 has clean rooms or the Hotel McCall (866-800-1183) is a more expensive and a very nice hotel. For Boise, we recommend the Best Western Vista Inn (800) 727-5006) which is right next to the airport and has a shuttle service. There is also a nice restaurant adjacent to the hotel for dinner. Please call them directly after you have signed up for the trip.
Travel to Salmon, Idaho
Guests are responsible for their travel arrangements to Salmon. There are two transportation options to choose from, driving or flying. There is commercial air service to Boise, Idaho or Missoula, Montana. Then rent a car and drive to Salmon (5 hours from Boise or 2 hours from Missoula) or fly in a small 5 or 9 seater airplane with Sawtooth Flying Service (800-798-6105).
- If you are driving to Salmon, you can drive right to Salmon, Idaho either by personal car or rental car from Boise or Missoula airports. Please arrange with River Shuttles (208-756-4188). to shuttle your vehicle from the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon to Carey Creek, which is the take-out for the river. The cost is ~$350/car and $50 gas deposit. Please make the reservation for this immediately after booking your trip to be sure they have enough drivers to do your shuttle. Upon your arrival at the Stagecoach Inn, there is a desk with paperwork to fill out and an envelope to place your keys and place in a locked box for River Shuttles to pick up. Please be sure you bring 2 sets of car keys, one to leave with the shuttle company and one to bring with you on the river. If you have only one key, you must state on your paperwork you want the key left on the tire outside the car otherwise they will assume you have an extra key and lock the keys in the car.
- If you are flying to Salmon, you can fly into Boise, Idaho and then take the flight (approximately 1 hour and $220) directly to Salmon, Idaho the day before your trip begins. You can contact Sawtooth Flying Service (800) 798-6105) to reserve your flight. These are small 5 and 9 seater aircraft and it is a spectacular flight. When you arrive in Salmon, the Stagecoach Inn will pick you up at the airport and drive you to the hotel. If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask MFRE.
*Please note we will provide transportation from Salmon to the river put-in point on Day 1.
After The Trip
We will arrive at the take-out point at Carey Creek at approximately 10am on Day 6.
If driving, your car will be waiting for you and you can be on your way.
If flying, we can provide transportation (2 hours) to McCall, Idaho ($50/person charge), arriving by 2pm for flights (~$200) with Sawtooth Flying Service (800-798-6105) back to Boise, arriving by 3-4pm.
We can also drive you all the way from Carey Creek to Boise (5 hours), Idaho (additional $100/ person charge). Anticipated time of arrival back to Boise is approximately 6:00 p.m., but unexpected events could delay us so if you plan on flying out this evening please arrange flights for after 8pm. We recommend you stay another night in Boise and fly out the next day to avoid complications in flight connections after the trip. We recommend the Best Western Vista Inn ((800) 727-5006) which is right next to the airport and has a shuttle service. There is also a nice restaurant adjacent to the hotel for dinner.
Please let us know if you would like ground transportation on Day 6 to get to McCall or Boise, otherwise we will assume you are shuttling your car to the take-out point at Carey Creek.