The Salmon River in Idaho is the longest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States. Spend three days floating near Riggins, Idaho, where the Salmon River meanders through the largest wilderness area in the lower 48. This trip is a great introduction to white water rafting, and the alpine scenery, excitement, and fun of the Salmon River will quickly turn you into a whitewater junkie.
Idaho Salmon River Near Riggins
The Salmon River near Riggins is one of three trips on the Salmon River operated by ROW Adventures. The Salmon River flows unimpeded through 425 miles of Central Idaho before its waters join the Snake River and journey to the Pacific Ocean. The free-flowing Salmon has incredible white sand beaches, diverse scenery, warm water and exciting rapids. This trip on the scenic Salmon is an excellent introduction to whitewater rafting and to Idaho's diverse wilderness and wild rivers.
Our three-day Salmon River Rafting Near Riggins trips run on select dates from late June to late August, when water levels are ideal for this section of the river. Beginners and veteran rafters alike will find plenty of excitement on this stretch of whitewater. Salmon River Rafting Near Riggins float roughly 40 miles, starting about 25 miles east of the town of Riggins, Idaho, known as the "Whitewater Capital of the Universe."
Highlights of this trip on the Salmon include a hike to a mountain hot spring, plenty of rambunctious whitewater rapids and stunning mountain scenery. Lake Creek, Ruby, Time Zone, Lightning Creek and Trap Creek are just a few of the exciting Class II-IV rapids you'll encounter. These rapids are known as "pool and drop" and are perfect for paddle rafts and inflatable kayaks. Between rapids you float along in the warm water, snapping a few pictures or just soaking up the sun and scenery.
While we travel on the river, our guides talk about the history of the Salmon River - the native peoples that lived along its banks, the white men that settled here and the first settlers to brave the Salmon's whitewater. There are also a few old mining sites that we'll stop to investigate. These were worked by Chinese miners from about 1850 to 1890. You'll learn about their culture and marvel at the rock houses that remain. These are some of the best-preserved examples of Chinese rock dwellings in the world outside of China. We hope that through hikes, stories and interpretation you'll gain an appreciation of the wild and historic treasures that dot the shores of Idaho's Salmon River.
Weather on the Salmon River is usually hot and sunny (80-90 degrees during the day) with water temperatures in the low to mid 60's. We camp on beautiful and expansive white sand beaches that are perfect for Frisbee, volleyball and sunbathing. Fishing and hiking are also popular campsite pursuits. Evening temperatures are mild (60-70 degrees), the sky is free from light pollution and there are no mosquitoes. This Salmon River offers idyllic camping, and you will discover why the river once dubbed "The River of No Return" is a river you will want to return to time and again.
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.
Images & Videos
Before our trip begins we meet in Riggins, a small town located in a canyon overlooking the confluence of the Salmon River and the Little Salmon River in west central Idaho. Riggins lies off of US Highway 95, and it is easily accessed by car traveling north or south along the highway. The nearest commercial airports are: Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport (two hours drive); Spokane International Airport (four hours drive); and Boise Airport (four hours drive). If you are flying into one of these airports, you can then rent a car to reach Riggins.
Once in Riggins, we recommend that you stay at either the Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge (877-957-2743) or the River View Motel (888-256-2322). Both hotels have storage facilities for your luggage while you are on the river and cars may be left in their parking lots.
We meet you at 7:30 PM Mountain Time the evening before your trip at the Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge. Once we have gathered, we have an orientation meeting to further discuss what to expect on the next day’s adventure, answer any last minute questions you might have, and provide you with waterproof bags. We'll also have some of our specialty outdoor items for sale such as ROW hats, eyeglass retainers, and T-shirts.
Unless otherwise directed by your team leader at the orientation meeting, we gather at 8:00 a.m. to leave the Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge in the ROW bus and drive about one hour to the put-in site.
We board the rafts and set off on our trip down the wilderness shrouded canyon of the Salmon River. Soon after our launch you come upon the rambunctious whitewater of Vinegar Creek Rapid found just below the confluence of Vinegar Creek and Salmon River. As we continue our paddle through the canyon for the rest of the day, you can witness the passage of the river and wilderness Lewis and Clark once wondered at.
We set up camp near some mountain hot springs around 4:00 in the afternoon. Enjoy the free time for a dip in the springs, hiking, fishing, or relaxing on the banks of the river. We reconvene for hors d’oeuvres around 6:00 before settling in for a delicious and fresh dinner. Bring the day to a close with campfire camaraderie and sleeping under the star-studded summer skies.
The morning begins bright and early around 7:00. Enjoy fresh-brewed coffee and the brisk mountain air before breakfast is served and we pack up camp. The rafts are loaded and we depart from camp around 9:30 for an adventure-packed day of rapids, magnificent scenery and fun.
Today we encounter Ruby and Lake Creek Rapids, two of the biggest of the river’s rapids. These rapids are thrilling examples of "pool and drop" rapids, where a series of short rapids are followed by quiet pools. Pool and drop rapids are perfect for our inflatable kayaks, or "Daring Duckies" as we call them, and provide a brief respite as you head toward the next thrilling drop. If the rapid levels are right, we might stop at Ruby Rapids to collect the star garnets that rest on the large rocks along the shore and in the sand. Between each roaring rapid, you may float alongside the raft in the warm water or soak in the sun and the alpine scenery from a drier perch. Elk, deer, moose, and mountain goats roam the river banks while eagles, hawks, and osprey can be seen swooping down from their towering roosts in search for fish.
We once again make camp in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time for you to discover wilderness adventures off the water. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and wine among nature’s sights and sounds while the evening meal is prepared. Afterward, take in the bright night sky and the relaxing sound of the river rippling past as you settle in for the night.
Today takes you from one turbulent rapid to another! We break camp and breakfast early once again before setting out on one of the best stretches the Salmon River has to offer. Today’s float brings out your intrepid spirit as you travel through the Time Zone Rapids, followed by the Tight Squeeze Rapids, Chair Rapids, Trap Rapids, and Fiddle Creek Rapids. Between chutes and pools, drops and eddies, learn more about the Salmon River’s history, its reputation as “The River of No Return,” and the pioneers and miners that tried to make their fortune along the foaming river.
Our journey along the river brings us back into Riggins, upon which we unload our kayaks and return to The Best Western Rapids Lodge before the end of the afternoon.
Dates & Rates
3-Day Rafting Trip
Departures: June 10, 17, 24; July 1, 9 & by request
Youth Price: $825
Adult Price: $895
FAQ & More
People from all walks of life and all ages join our trips. We get a mix of couples, singles, families, and friends--usually between 25 and 60 years of age.
Without exception, everyone comes to have a good time and the variety of people and interests found on each trip makes it all the more fun. Our adventure consultants know that a primary consideration may be the mix of people on the trip, so we're happy to tell you who has signed up and help you choose a compatible group.
The quality of our food reflects the quality of the wilderness environment on the Salmon River. We hand-select the freshest fruits and vegetables we can find and pack them carefully in huge ice-coolers. Likewise, these coolers carry fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients, we prepare bountiful, healthy meals.
Sustainably harvested wild Alaskan Salmon served with a fresh garden salad
Prime Rib combined with a fresh Chilean salad and Idaho mashed potatoes
Big salads of vegetables and fruit add color and variety to every meal
These are a few possible entrees. Our desserts are made each evening in our Dutch ovens and range from authentic cobbler to pineapple upside-down cake. We serve juice each morning and moderate amounts of bottled wine with dinner. We also provide two beers and two sodas or juices per person per day. There's always plenty of cold water, lemonade mix, tea, coffee, and cocoa. You're welcome to bring your own beverages or alcohol as well. We always have plenty of ice to keep your drinks cold.
One of the reasons that the Salmon River is such a fabulous trip is the incredible variety of things to do and see along the way. ROW takes pride in historical interpretation and takes advantage of as many side excursions as possible.
If you're interested we'll talk about the geology, plants, and animals that inhabit the Salmon River. We strongly believe that deepening understanding builds greater appreciation and we hope our love of this canyon is contagious.
On this stretch of river we also enjoy free time with a dip in the springs, hiking, fishing, or relaxing on the banks of 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 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.)
On many of our summer trips, frequent swimming leaves you feeling clean. For those who want to soap up, we always do so, well above the river's high water line (not even "bio-degradable" soap goes in the river). We also take sun-showers on many of our trips and the hot water is great for shampooing. Buckets of river water help with the process.
At each camp, we set up a special, private tent with a portable toilet inside, which works just like yours at home, without the flush. This is available from the time we get to camp until we leave the next morning. The views from our toilet locations are simply inspiring. Nearby we set up a hand washing system. During the day, liquid waste goes into the river by simply wading into the water or going for a swim. A day-use toilet is available too for solid waste.
If you have any other questions or concerns please call our adventure consultants. For feminine hygiene, come prepared with some small zip-lock bags. These are useful for disposal during the day while on the river and can be put into our trash containers at camp. Along with our toilet supplies, ROW will have extra pads and tampons available. Using portable toilets allows us to carry out all human waste. Please see a special letter to women from ROW co-owner Betsy Bowen.
Mosquitoes are rare or nonexistent on the rivers we run. There are sometimes bees and flies and it's a good idea to bring some repellent. If you have a bee allergy be sure we know and bring your own medication. Snakes are also rare, especially during the heat of summer when they tend to come out only in the cool of night. They fear us more than we fear them and do a good job of staying out of sight.
You'll find a wide variety of weather during the season although, in general, the trips we run are warm and sunny. In June, the weather is more variable and can range from short snowstorms, rain and sunny blue skies--with temperatures from 40 to 80--all in the same day. The same is true in the fall. July and August do have the most consistently good weather with daytime temperatures averaging 80-90 degrees during the day and cooling to 60-70 degrees during the evening. However, a rainstorm can happen any time and it's important to bring a two-piece rain suit and follow our suggested packing list for each river.
The level of fitness required depends on the river you choose. On ROW's trips lasting three or more days you have a choice of craft. Oar-powered rafts are those where the guide rows and you simply relax (or hold on in the rapids) and these require very little effort. Paddle rafts and inflatable kayaks require more effort as you will have a paddle in your hands and will be paddling during the rapids.
On ROW's one- and two-day trips we only offer paddle rafts unless a specific request is made in advance. You should be reasonably healthy and must be able to fit into the PFD (personal flotation device) we provide. (Any person weighing more than 260 pounds or having a chest size greater than 52" should contact our office before signing up for any trip.) On some of our more challenging rivers where unintentional swimming, long hikes or high elevations are a possibility, a higher level of fitness is advised. Always discuss with our staff if you're unsure what's acceptable for you.
If you're still in doubt about your ability to go rafting, or your fitness, check with your doctor before you go. While many trips require little physical fitness, being in good shape will enhance your vacation.
Yes! ROW has taken people in their nineties on our trips. It's important that you're fit and active and choose an appropriate trip. Many grandparents bring their grandchildren on our Family Magic trips. Special "Elder Rafting" and "Elder Canoeing" trips, exclusively for seniors, are offered as well.
Yes! Everyone on a ROW trip wears a Coast Guard approved PFD (personal flotation device). These are designed to keep you afloat in the event that you find yourself in the river. Many non-swimmers go on rafting trips and they have a great time. It is more important that you are not afraid of the water. Non-swimmers should not go on class IV+ or class V trips. Please call us if you have any concerns about this.
All our guides are certified in first aid and river rescue. Many have had advanced training specific to the wilderness environment in which we operate and are certified as Wilderness First Responders or Emergency Medical Technicians. Thus we are able to cope with most on-river accidents. If, in our judgment, evacuation is deemed necessary we have several options depending on weather and our location. Sometimes we are near remote ranches or roads that we can use to evacuate.
We carry a satellite telephone along with a GPS on trips lasting three or more days. (Cell phones don't work in the remote areas where we travel.) We can use these to contact emergency transport, including helicopters. Evacuation, if needed, can take from as little as a couple of hours to as many as 24 hours, or in extreme cases, longer than this depending on the situation, weather, and location.
Before you go on any trip you'll be given extensive instructions on what to do if you fall in and how to float in the river. Believe it or not, many people love falling out of the boat. It's exciting. However, it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming at first. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fallen into the river. Some people fall out of the boat on their first trip. Follow your guide's instructions and your "swim" could be the most exciting part of your trip!
ROW provides camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, pads, chairs and much more. You're only responsible for bringing your clothing and personal items such as toiletries, camera, etc. As for clothing, most people already have what they need. Some may need to purchase rain gear or other items. A complete list is provided along with suggested places to buy any gear you may not already own.
It's important to drink plenty when you're outdoors so ROW provides fresh drinking water at all times. In camp, there's also juice, herbal tea, black tea, coffee and cocoa. We provide two complimentary sodas and two beers per person per day as well as complimentary wine with dinner. If you wish to bring more sodas, beer or other alcoholic drinks to enjoy in the evening, bring them along. We'll have cocktail ice.
If you're riding in an oar-powered raft on one of our multi-day trips then you can fish between the rapids during the day. We also offer special fishing trips through our fishing division, ROW Fishing Adventures.
Most trips include at least ten guests and a maximum of 14 to 28, depending on the trip. One-day trips may have 30-42. Our average trips size is 16, but trips in May, early June and September are generally smaller with 8-12 guests. Let us know what size group you'd like to be with and we can tell you which trips are likely to be full and which are likely to be smaller.
While a few rivers we run get too low to float after the spring snow melt is gone, most have plenty of water all summer long and into the fall.
While there is no lack of exciting whitewater throughout the summer, it is generally true that the high water of May and June creates the season's most thrilling rapids.
September is also a great time as there are fewer people on the rivers and fall colors are beginning to show.
We offer the Salmon Near Riggins rafting trip in late June, early July, and August when the levels are too high in the Salmon River Canyons to run rafting trips.