Salmon River Rafting - Riviera of the West, United States
Salmon River Rafting - Riviera of the West, United States
Salmon River Rafting - Riviera of the West:
Welcome to the Riviera of the West! A Salmon River rafting dreamland come true. This is the legendary Salmon River of No Return where beautiful white-sand beaches glisten in the warm sun. Where 70-degree water beckons swimmers of all ages and whitewater rapids splash and make everyone beam with big grins from ear to ear. No other rafting river in the West is such a perfect combination of fun, intermediate rapids, awe-inspiring western scenery and gigantic white sand beaches with idyllic camping conditions. Daytime temperatures are typically 85 to 95 degrees and this, coupled with the warm river water make for a rafting vacation like no other.
Salmon River rafting flows over 50 miles through a series for four steep-walled gorges the river has carved over the ages. Between these gorges the river opens up to a vast Western landscape. Because there are no dams on the Salmon River, sand is carried downstream from high creeks and tributaries and deposited in the form of massive beaches where the river slows down and forms eddies. Some of the beaches are over an acre in size and make for the perfect playground for volleyball, Frisbee and other games, or simply to soak in the hot summer rays. During our rafting trip, we enjoy these beaches at lunch as well as camp.
This Salmon rafting trip is on a classic "pool and drop" river meaning that at the end of each rapid is a slow moving pool of water inviting you to jump in for a swim. In the places where the river flows quietly between the rapids you gaze up to towering heights and are likely to see golden eagles soaring overhead. Other wildlife includes mule deer, river otter, an occasional big horn sheep and plenty of hawks and songbirds. The air is perfumed with the scent of pines and nature's wildflowers.
We stop during the day to explore historic sites such as Native American rock art, pioneer homesteads and Chinese rock houses that dot the Salmon River canyon. The Chinese came here in the late 1800s looking for gold and the rock houses they have left behind provide a rare glimpse into another chapter of American history.
Our camp boat rafts ahead of the group each day to set up camp replete with kitchen, dining tables and chairs and spacious tents to await your arrival. After a delicious dinner in the fresh coolness of the evening, a sunset of apricot and gold slowly turns into a dark indigo sky that is brilliant with stars. An evening campfire ends the perfect day.
This is the land of the Nez Perce and their ancestors. They found a land of plenty where salmon ran in such huge numbers there was never a lack of food. The lower Salmon River Canyons is our favorite stretch to raft of the famous River of No Return and, is truly the Riviera of the West. It's the perfect location for reunions of friends, bachelor or bachelorette vacations, even a river wedding. See our charter rates for more information.
On our last day we come to the confluence with the mighty Snake River in Hells Canyon and raft another twenty miles through the tail end of Hells Canyon to our take-out at a place called Heller Bar where the Grande Ronde River joins the Snake. We've been running Salmon River rafting trips here since 1982 and welcome you to join us for an adventure on this iconic river that is unlike any other on earth.
- Duration: 4-5 days
- Length: 56-74 miles
- Intensity: Beginner, Intermediate, Class II - IV
- Season: June-September
- Minimum Age: 5 (8 during high water)
- Begins In: Lewiston, Idaho
- Ends In: Lewiston, Idaho
- Airport: Lewiston, Idaho or Spokane, Wash.
Huge white sand beaches, warm swimming water, big mountains and western scenery, wildlife viewing, fishing, Chinese rock houses, pioneer homesteads and Native American rock art.
Salmon River Rafting - Riviera of the West
Many of the trips we run on the Salmon River Canyons are designed for families and designated as Family Magic departures. But this section of the Salmon River is also the ideal rafting trip for couples, singles, adults-only, seniors, all-men or women-only groups. We offer regularly scheduled adult departures and also welcome you to bring your own group. We can custom-design any sort of focus you might want and private charters are welcome for groups as small as 12 people.
Please click on the itinerary tab for more details and feel free to call us or request more information on this Salmon River rafting trip.
- Dates & Rates
- Below you will find all available instances of this trip. Roll over departure dates to see a complete list of departures. Roll over the demographic icons to get a brief overview of the demographic group.
- Why ROW
Salmon River Rafting - Difference
The ROW Differences that separate our Salmon River trip from others:
- Itinerary is designed to visit many different points of interest, taking advantage of rock art sites, pioneer homesteads, Chinese rock houses/mine sites, and natural wonders in the river canyon.
- Your trip is enriched by knowledgeable guides who share the canyon's cultural and natural history. We specifically train our guides in this area and most are Certified Interpretive Guides through the National Association for Interpretation.
- Visit the Nez Perce National Historical Park on the first day.
- Cargo boat travels ahead to set up camp, including your tent and a complete kitchen with tables and chairs.
- Your choice of river craft - we do our best to bring the type of river carft-best-suited to the group including oar rafts, paddle rafts and inflatable kayaks (affectionately called 'Daring Duckies').
- Includes festive, hosted farewell dinner.
- ROW is an award-winning, experienced outfitter in business under the same ownership since 1979 and operating trips on the Salmon River since 1982.
- We carry satellite telephones on all trips - for emergency use only.
- Pre- and Post-trip hotel reservations are handled by our competent office staff (hotel costs are not included in your basic trip cost).
- Guide-to-Guest ratio is 1:3,4. Meaning one guide for every 3-4 guests.
- ROW guides split into two crews once you reach camp - one will prepare delicious meals and appetizer for you; while the other is available to lead hikes and other activities from camp.
- Guides join you at all meals, sharing conversation and laughter at meal times and around the campfire.
- Luxury-style camping where all camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags and thick, self-inflating mattresses is provided. All rafting gear is also included.
- Complimentary beer, wine, juice and soda, all in moderate quantities, is provided. We are proud to serve fine local Northwest wines. We always have plenty of ice!
As you compare rafting trips on the Lower Salmon, be sure to see if other outfitters offer everything we do!
Salmon River Rafting - FAQs
When is the best time to go?
As the Salmon River Canyons can be too high to float in June, our season starts around July 5 and goes through September. (Note our special 3-day departures offered throughout the season on the “Salmon near Riggins.”) Generally our 5-day trips start on Sundays or Mondays. However, our permit on the Salmon River Canyons allows us to launch any day we want and if we don't have scheduling conflicts, for groups we may be able to be flexible if your schedule requires a different start date. As well, we're able to accommodate groups as small as 18 (or smaller during our shoulder season in September) who want their own private charter.
What type of rafts do you use?
In addition to the cargo boat that carries all the camping gear, we use three other kinds of river craft. The traditional raft is a self-bailing oar-powered raft, which we row, using two oars. These are 16-17 feet long. We also offer a smaller, self-bailing 14-foot paddle raft, where 4 to 6 people paddle along with our guide. And, the Salmon River Canyons is a great place to paddle an inflatable kayak, or Daring Duckie, as we call them. You have a choice of riding in any of these river craft, and many people enjoy trying all three during the course of the trip. We encourage you to bring a camera, which will be easily accessible on the oar-rafts from the waterproof camera boxes we provide.
(Note: On the few trips we operate with less than 13 guests, we may not have enough people interested in paddling to have a paddle raft along. This decision is based on exactly how many guests want to paddle, what percentage of time they want to paddle, and possible logistical constraints based on water levels and other factors. We will still have duckies on smaller trips, if requested.)
Who guides your trips?
On any river trip, the guides are the most important factor for your safety, enjoyment, and the success of the trip. ROW guides are exceptional people with years of river experience. We maintain a tobacco-free policy and most of our guides have taken interpretation courses from certified instructors. We look for guides who are willing and eager to share, teach, listen, learn, laugh, play, discuss, and, above all, work hard to provide a safe, relaxed and spontaneous adventure.
While in camp, two or three guides are preparing dinner while the others are free to spend time with you. They might show you the way to a nearby hot spring, give a fly-fishing lesson, or just to sit and visit with the group. Our guides are the main reason many of our guests return to ROW time and time again. (References gladly provided.)
What do we do when we're not floating the river?
One of the reasons that the Salmon River Canyons is such a fabulous trip is the incredible variety of things to do and see along the way. ROW makes a point of stopping and taking advantage of as many of these things as we can. As we float we tell you about the early pioneers who lived here. We stop to hike to at least one of the Chinese rock house sites along the river. We talk about the native peoples and take you to see their rock art and settlement sites. All in all, we try to share as much about the river canyons as we know. Not only do we show you these places, we help you understand them better. If you're interested, we'll tell you about the geology and plants and animals. We believe strongly that deepening understanding builds greater appreciation. And we're hoping our love of these canyons will be contagious.
What is camping like on the river?
Forget those images of leaky tents and camp food out of a can. You’ll be amazed how comfortable camping can be when done the ROW way. On trips with 13 or more guests, we use a large 22-foot cargo raft to carry the bulk of the camping gear, food, etc. This allows our smaller oar-powered rafts to be lighter and more maneuverable. The cargo raft, along with two- support crew, arrives at camp ahead of the group and gets the kitchen set up including dining tables and chairs. The crew also sets up the spacious two-person tents that ROW provides. When we arrive in camp all you have to do is carry your personal gear (stored in a ROW-provided easy-to-use waterproof bag) to the tent of your choice and roll out your sleeping bag, flannel liner and thick, self-inflating foam sleeping pad (also provided by ROW). This gives you an extra half-hour of time for doing something you'd enjoy rather than setting up a tent. (Note: In rare circumstances we may have a trip with less than 13 guests. In this case, due to economic and logistical reasons, we may not run our cargo raft. On these smaller trips guests and gear travel together down the river. Our guides are still happy to set up your tent if you like, or you may enjoy doing it yourself.)
Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Also visit our Whitewater Resources page for additional information.
Salmon River Rafting - Itinerary
DAY 0- Meet at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho and be introduced to the Team Leader of ROW. There is a short, hour-long orientation at around 7:00pm PST where any questions will be answered and you will receive waterproof bags for your personal items. Dinner is not hosted on this day.
Day 1- At 7:30am you'll meet with your Salmon river rafting team leader and take a bus ride up to the launch close to Whitebird, Idaho. Bus ride is two hours. We'll make a quick stop on the way for a tour of the Nez Perce National Historical Park and receive a short talk about the native tribes who made their homes on Salmon River. Their rich heritage has been preserved in the Nez Perce Reservation near the Salmon and Clearwater Rivers. We'll get to the launch point mid-morning. The summers in this area are hot and dry; highs in the daytime can reach 90 degrees and nights can get down to the 60's.
Before we launch, ROW staff will give you a thorough rundown of all safety procedures while the gear is being loaded. Some main points will be the proper way to paddle and ride, how to swim safely in rapids, and several other tips. After this you will choose between paddle or oar driven rafts and inflatable kayaks, and we all hop aboard.
The Lower Salmon River is a “pool and drop” style trip, which means that there will be a long stretch of calm river punctuated by periodic rapids. At first we'll have some great beginner rapids that will be a fun way to learn how to maneuver.
At lunchtime, we'll stop and have a quick orientation on how to lessen our impact on nature and on the river while the crew prepares lunch. ROW follows the ethical standards of “Leave No Trace,” and you'll learn the proper place to dispose of trash, how to use the bathroom, and where you'll be able to wash. This will be followed by sandwiches in the beautiful open air.
At roughly 4:00pm we'll finish our first Salmon River rafting day and set up camp where you can hike, swim, fish, read, or just relax.
At 6:00 we serve hors d'oeuvres and a meal for the kids, then dinner is at 7:30pm. We'll light a campfire and enjoy the evening with each other. We might have a little lesson in astronomy or share stories of the wild!
DAY 2- Tea and coffee is available at 7:00am, followed by a hearty breakfast at 7:30am. We'll clean up, pack the gear, and set out for today's adventure at 9:30am. There will be gorgeous scenery, sunlight, and exciting Salmon river rapids on this day of the Salmon River rafting trip. We'll have a quick stop at a historic Native American rock art location, made by the predecessors of the Nez Perce and once the largest tribe in the Northwest. They populated millions of acres and built settlements along the Clearwater, Snake, and Salmon Rivers.
These rivers fed the Native Americans with fish and provided spiritual inspiration for the tribe. In the cooler months they made their homes in “pit houses” that we'll be able to view on a short hike. Looking at these sites one can only imagine what their lives must have been like so many centuries ago.
Next, we'll pass into Green Canyon which is home of the famous Demon's Drop and Wright Way rapids that will have you shouting with excitement. At lunch we'll stop at a large beach where you can swim and play some games, and then we'll pile back into the boats for an afternoon of mostly peaceful water and a few small rapids. With luck we'll even see some eagles soaring high overhead. At night we'll make camp, have dinner, and then gather around the campfire or do some stargazing!
DAY 3- On this thrill-packed whitewater rafting day we'll make our way through Snowhole Canyon and Cougar Canyon. We'll hit some larger rapids like Snowhole, Bodacious Bounce, China, the Gobbler, Bunghole, and Lorna's Lulu, which are sure to give you some great stories to take back home.
An interesting bit of history about Idaho's Lower Salmon River is the tale of the Chinese who came to mine gold in 1864. The discovery of gold happened in 1861, and soon the area was full of Chinese miners setting up camps. By 1870, Idaho's population was 25% Chinese. Through the use of manual labor and archaic hydraulic systems they moved hundreds of tons of rock and earth looking for gold. They built rock houses that still stand as a monument to the camps and the endurance of the miners.
As we get to camp, the guides always have games for either kids or adults, and we'll be able to play horseshoes, rig a volleyball net, or just hike the nearby hills for breathtaking views. Evenings are long, and night won't fall until 9:30pm in the summer. You'll fall asleep to the comforting crackling of the campfire and the fresh summer breeze blowing across your face.
DAY 4- We'll have some more fun with the whitewater rapids and the gorgeous scenery, and we might even see some river otters frolicking in the shallows. Adventurous explorers will have a chance to swim through a rapid as we go through Cottonwood Creek. We may take a hike to the Reeves' homestead near Wapshilla Creek for another intriguing history lesson about a Nez Perce named Jackson Sundown got married to Cecilia Wapshella while he worked in the Reeve's ranch. He won the Pendleton Round-Up, a famous rodeo, in 1916 when he was 53 years old.
By this time we'll be in tune with the rhythm of the river and home will seem millions of miles away.
After a filling lunch we'll get to Blue Canyon, so named because of the dark bluish igneous rock covering the striking landscape. The river gets narrower at this point and turns into one long stretch of wild rapids. We'll tear through Eye of the Needle, Checkerboard, Sluice Box, and Devils Slide, ending your Lower Salmon rafting journey in a wild finale of excitement. We'll camp where the Salmon merges with Snake River at another gorgeous sandy beach. Natural beaches like this are only seen on undammed rivers where sediment can freely travel down the river and finally come to rest to forming comfy white-sand beaches. Dammed rivers slowly lose their beaches because the sediment that would normally replenish them is trapped behind the walls of the dam.
DAY 5- If we didn't make it this far yesterday, we'll see the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers. There is a powerful energy here where the mighty Salmon, the “River of No Return,” joins with the Snake at the bottom of Hell's Canyon. After we get onto the Snake we'll be pushed by twice as much water. The Snake River flows as the boundary between states, so on the right side will be Idaho, and the left side will be Oregon followed by Washington. The river is bigger, so the rapids are grander and the calms are more serene.
We'll have a tasty final lunch on another Salmon River beach and after several more miles of awe-inspiring river we'll finally get to the stopping point of our river journey just below where Snake River runs into the Grande Ronde River. It'll be about 3:00pm. We'll load the gear into the bus and take a 45-minute bus ride back to the hotel, where you can grab a hot shower and then meet the guides for a farewell dinner at roughly 7:00pm. The dinner will be hosted by ROW to thank you all for coming on our Salmon River rafting trip.
DAY 6- Your car will be waiting if you made the drive to Lewiston, and if you came by plane the hotel can shuttle you to the airport.
Permits & Licenses:
ROW Inc., doing business as ROW Adventures, is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider under permit from the Cottonwood Resource Area of the Bureau of Land Management. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-discriminatory basis. ROW Inc. is bonded and fully licensed by the State of Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.
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