Idaho whitewater rafting means exploring more than three thousand miles of rivers — more than any of the other lower 48 — through trips easy enough for a five-year-old and trips that will challenge the best whitewater rafters on the planet. The mighty rivers of Idaho can be tamed in rafts, kayaks, canoes, drift boats, jet boats or whitewater dories. Idaho also offers hundreds of experienced guides and licensed outfitters to help you get your whitewater on no matter what level you’re at.
The trips can last anywhere from six hours of drifting down a river, to week-long camping trips that stop at some of the most astounding natural tourist attractions in the United States. The longer trips involve everything you associate with traditional camping, from gourmet fireside cooking to fishing for your supper.
Here are some of the best Idaho river journeys the Gem State has to offer:
The flatlands in southern Idaho lull you into a false sense of security as you watch the beautiful scenery float by…and then, the Snake plunges you into Hell’s Canyon. The South Fork will show you some top-notch fly fishing and pleasant rafting trips until you hit the rough-and-tumble Murtaugh area just east of Twin Falls.
Just north of Boise, the Payette offers fairly easy paddling, with the South Fork fairly calm and the North Fork offering up Class III rapids at the worst — an area known as the Cabarton Run. The Payette also offers top-tier half-day trips for beginners and families.
The Salmon River is by far the best. Known as the “River of No Return” for some of its dangerous stretches, the Salmon also offers long, beautiful stretches of easy drifting if that’s your speed. Famous as one of the best catch-and-release trout fisheries in the world, the Salmon runs through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the single largest designated wilderness areas in the lower 48. The Middle Fork of the Salmon offers trips of 3, 5, and 7 days that explore this heartstoppingly beautiful area.
No matter which river you pick — even one of the dozens that aren’t mentioned here — a single Idaho whitewater rafting trip will etch its mark upon your heart for the rest of your life.