Family Magic Rafting Trip
Designed by our family and field-tested by our own children, ROW's Family Magic rafting trips aren't just "family-friendly" but totally family-focused. What's our recipe? First, you can't go on these family rafting adventures if you don't bring a kid and we welcome kids as young as five. We bring an additional staff member, our signature "River Jester™", a specially trained guide who entertains children with nature hikes and games.
The pace is adjusted with plenty of stops to play on the magical Salmon River beaches, explore Indian rock art and pioneer homesteads. The level of service we provide is unsurpassed and, when you arrive at camp, your tent is set up along with our kitchen and riverside dining room complete with tables and chairs. Each evening a special children's dinner is served prior to the gourmet adult meal. Then it's time for a campfire and evening stories before settling in under the star-studded sky.
In the morning, children wake up to a world of wonder, eager to play with new friends. Parents celebrate the undistracted time spent as a family, immersed in nature and the nurturing, secure atmosphere our guides create. All these ingredients join together to create the perfect recipe for our Family Magic rafting trips that set the high watermark for meaningful, educational, and inspiring family vacations that make smiles stretch from ear to ear. All this takes place on Idaho's Salmon River, with warm water and sand beaches as big as a baseball diamond. As the pioneers of family rafting trips, with over 41 years of experience, you can trust your family's whitewater vacation to us.
To learn more about how we thoughtfully craft our family trips, read A Message to Mother's from ROW Founder Betsy Bowen!
We also have "Open Enrollment" (not specific to only families) departures every Monday on this Salmon River rafting trip. Request more info on our Family rafting trips on call 208-765-0841.
Honoring Native People and Lands: Recognizing the significance of our travels through Indigenous territory, we would like to recognize the communities whose lands we visit. It is our hope, in doing so, to honor their legacies, their lives, and their descendants. To learn more about territory acknowledgment and specific information about the Native communities of this region, please visit our Territory Acknowledgement page.
Images & Videos
See full itinerary and trip details here
Travel to Lewiston, Idaho, and meet ROW’s Team Leader and our River Jester™ at the Hells Cayon Grand Hotel at 7:00 pm PST for a one-hour orientation meeting to answer last-minute questions. You'll also receive your waterproof gear bags. Dinner is on your own.
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Meet your team leader at 7:30am for a two-hour bus ride to the rafting trip launch point near Whitebird, Idaho. On the way we'll stop briefly at the Nez Perce National Historical Park for an introduction to the native peoples who lived along the Salmon River for thousands of years. Today many celebrate their heritage by living on the Nez Perce Reservation near the Clearwater and Salmon rivers. By mid-morning we arrive at our launch point. Summer here is typically dry and hot, with daytime temperatures in the 90’s and nights in the 60’s.
Before launching on family rafting trips, ROW staff prepares you with a thorough safety briefing while personal gear is loaded. The briefing covers how to ride in a raft, how to paddle, how to swim through rapids, and other tips for the days ahead. Once this is complete everyone chooses a raft - paddle, oar-powered or inflatable kayak - and climbs aboard.
The Salmon River Canyons is a trip with “pool and drop” characteristics. This means there's a long pool of calm water followed by a rapid. Today we run great introductory rapids that give a fun, roller coaster ride.
When we stop for lunch, some guides prepare the meal while others give a “camp orientation” to explain how we minimize our impact on the river. ROW adheres to "Leave No Trace" camping ethics, so you'll learn where to wash up, how the toilet system works, where to brush your teeth, place trash, etc. Then it’s time to make a sandwich and enjoy the open-air dining experience.
Around 4:00pm we arrive at camp with plenty of free time for hiking, fishing, reading or just relaxing. ROW’s River Jester™ will have fun activities planned for the children. This might be a short nature hike, a game at the river’s edge, or an arts and crafts project. Or kids can simply build sand castles and play in the water.
Parents are welcome to join in, or to relax in their own way. Hors d’oeuvres are served around 6:00pm along with the kids’ dinner. The adult's dinner is served around 7:30 and kids are welcome to join. After dinner a campfire is lit and an evening of laughter and fun begins. As the night sky darkens we’ll offer an astronomy lesson or story to send everyone to bed with sweet dreams.
You'll wake around 7:00am to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee and tea. Breakfast is served around 7:30, and while we clean up the kitchen, you pack up your personal gear. We depart camp about 9:30 for today's rafting adventure. Plenty of rapids, sun and dramatic scenery await you on an adventure-packed day of family white water rafting. Of historic interest, we stop to visit a Native American rock art site, left by the original inhabitants of this rugged land. These were the predecessors of today’s Nez Perce tribe, and were once the most populous tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Their original homeland covered millions of acres and included settlements along the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater rivers.
From these rivers they caught thousands of salmon that were both a part of their food supply as well as spiritual nurturing. During the cooler months of the year they lived in “pit houses” along this section of the Salmon River and we see evidence of these on our journey down the river. As we visit these sites and study their art, we can only wonder what life must have been like for them in past centuries.
Soon after, the river enters “Green Canyon” and we hoot and holler through the exciting rapids of Wright Way Drop and Demon’s Drop. We stop for lunch on a big beach, perfect for swimming and beach games. The afternoon has a few more rapids, peaceful drifting and the chance of seeing soaring eagles. Tonight we camp on a huge white sand beach, and after dinner we enjoy the evening campfire and marvel at the star-studded sky.
Cougar Canyon, Snowhole Canyon
Today your rafting holiday takes you through “Cougar Canyon” and “Snowhole Canyon” for full day of whitewater rafting fun. Big, splashy rapids like Lorna’s Lulu, Bunghole, the Gobbler, Bodacious Bounce, Snowhole and China make for great stories and beaming smiles.
One of the curious bits of human history unique to Idaho and the lower reaches of the Salmon River is the story of the Chinese miners who came here around 1864. Gold was discovered in 1861 and Chinese miners worked or provided support services for the mining camps. By 1870, 25 percent of Idaho's population was Chinese. In the 1880’s some set up placer mining camps along this stretch of the Salmon River.
Using simple hydraulics and hard labor they moved tons of earth to find gold. In their camps, they built small rock houses, which remain today as amazing testimony to their skill and endurance. After a full day of learning and fun, we arrive in camp. The hot weather and warm water invite everyone in for a swim.
Our guides have a bagful of games and fun for kids and adults, and this evening we may set up a volleyball net, play horseshoes or hike up a nearby mountain for stunning views. Summer evenings in Idaho are long, with darkness arriving after 9:30pm in July and early August. The night sky, crackling campfire and fresh mountain air will help you sleep like a baby.
Cottonwood Creek, Blue Canyon
More fun rapids and incredible scenery. We may see playful river otters swimming and frolicking. At Cottonwood Creek the more adventurous might jump in and swim a rapid! We might hike to the old Reeves' homestead at Wapshilla Creek, named for a Nez Perce family who lived in the area. Jackson Sundown, a Nez Perce who was in the famous Nez Perce flight of 1877, married Cecilia Wapsheli and worked at the Reeves’ ranch. In 1916, at the age of 53, he won the Pendleton Round-Up world championship rodeo.
Those fishing will continue to find bass and trout and birdwatchers are likely to spot golden eagles and falcons. Home and worries will seem a thousand miles away. River time has settled into our rhythm and our souls.
After lunch we enter “Blue Canyon,” named for the bluish/black tone of the igneous rock that forms the dramatic landscape. Here the river is forced into a narrower channel and a long series of cascading rapids treats us. We'll bounce through Devil’s Slide, Sluice Box, Checkerboard and Eye of the Needle. These rapids are the perfect finale to your Salmon River journey. We make camp near the Salmon's confluence with the Snake River. It’s our last night on the river and we'll camp on another expansive white sand beach. These natural beaches can only be found on an undammed river where ground-up rock is free to travel as sediment downriver, settling to create these beautiful oases of glistening sand. When a river is dammed, the dam traps sediment behind its concrete walls and robs beaches of sand rather than replenishing them.
Snake and Salmon Conﬂuence
If we didn’t arrive yesterday, today we'll see the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers. This is a powerful place where the legendary Salmon “River of No Return” ends its journey and mingles with the waters of the mighty Snake River at the lower end of Hells Canyon. Once we enter the Snake we’re floating on twice the volume of water as the Salmon alone. The Snake forms state boundaries, and from this point on we have Idaho on our right and Oregon or Washington on the left, depending on location. There are some big waves and big rides and also some long stretches of flat water.
As we travel downstream, we'll see the original Nez Perce trail descending down the canyon to a ford used for centuries by the Nez Perce as they traveled east from the Wallowa Mountains (in today’s northeast corner of Oregon).
We stop for another fine lunch on a sandy beach and put on a big smile for the group photo. A few more miles of magnificent scenery and then around 3:00 pm we reach our take-out just below the Snake River's confluence with the Grande Ronde River. Gear is untied and everyone carries their personal gear to the waiting bus.
It’s a quick 45-minute ride back to the town of Lewiston, Idaho. Depart the next morning to head home, or continue on to your next adventure.
Travel information for the next morning: If you drove to Lewiston your car is waiting for you at the hotel. If you flew, take the hotel shuttle to the Lewiston airport or a taxi to the Spokane airport.
ROW Inc. is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider under permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Our Salmon River Canyons trips are operated under permit from the Cottonwood Resource Area of the BLM. ROW Inc. is bonded and fully licensed by the State of Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board.
If you drove to Lewiston your car is waiting for you at the hotel. If you ﬂew, take the hotel shuttle to the Lewiston airport or a taxi to the Spokane airport.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jul 10, 2022 to Jul 14, 2022 |
|Jul 11, 2022 to Jul 15, 2022 |
|Jul 17, 2022 to Jul 21, 2022 |
|Jul 18, 2022 to Jul 22, 2022 |
|Jul 24, 2022 to Jul 28, 2022 |
|Jul 25, 2022 to Jul 29, 2022 |
|Jul 31, 2022 to Aug 04, 2022 |
|Aug 01, 2022 to Aug 05, 2022 |
|Aug 07, 2022 to Aug 11, 2022 |
|Aug 08, 2022 to Aug 12, 2022 |
|Aug 14, 2022 to Aug 18, 2022 |
|Aug 15, 2022 to Aug 19, 2022 |
|Aug 21, 2022 to Aug 25, 2022 |
|Aug 22, 2022 to Aug 26, 2022 |
|Aug 28, 2022 to Sep 01, 2022 |
|Aug 29, 2022 to Sep 02, 2022 |
- Family Magic: Every Sunday- prices listed above
- Open Enrollment (not specific to only families although family-friendly unless otherwise noted): Every Monday - Prices listed above
Departures: By request for a large group - Please Call
FAQ & More
As the Salmon River Canyons can be too high to float in June, our season starts around July 6 and goes through September. (Note our special 3-day departures offered throughout the season on the “Salmon near Riggins.”) Generally our 5-day family rafting trips start on Sundays. 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.
In addition to the cargo boat that carries all the camping gear, we use two other kinds of river craft.
The traditional raft is a 16-foot self-bailing, oar-powered raft which a guide controls with two large oars. (Many companies use 18-22 foot rafts, which take a good deal of the fun out of the rapids.)
We also offer smaller 14-foot paddle rafts. Four to six people paddle while a guide steers.
Many people enjoy rotating between crafts during a trip. On some stretches of river, we can add inflatable kayaks to the mix. You have the choice to ride in any of these boats, and many people enjoy trying all three during a trip. On the few trips we operate with less than 13 guests, we may not have enough people to support a paddle raft. (We will still have inflatable kayaks on smaller trips if requested.)
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.)
Special to these family rafting trips are ROW's River Jester™, a guide specially trained to interact with children. Each Jester is trained in nature-oriented educational games. So rather than just play tag, the River Jester™ adds a twist to the game for an element of environmental education. For instance, on the Family Magic trip we stop to explore some Native American pictographs. That afternoon in camp the Jester has each child find their own rock. Using natural pigments, they draw their own rock art while the Jester explains why Native Americans used to draw on rocks. Then, once each child has finished and shared their work, they receive a lesson in "Leave No Trace" camping ethics by going down to the river to wash off the all-natural art and to put the stone back where they found it.
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 takes pride in historical interpretation and takes advantage of as many side excursions as possible. Also, on this trip, we have a Jester that has planned activities for the children to enjoy.
We share stories of the early pioneers and hike to at least one old homestead cabin.
We explore at least two different Native American rock art sites. If the group wants more we know a couple dozen other points of interest along the way. Not only do we show you these places, we help you understand them.
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.
Our campsites are beautiful white sandy beaches with great swimming holes to cool off in. You can also fish and explore the beautiful rock areas available.
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 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.)
ROW makes this easy... You bring the clothes you want to wear at camp and on the river. Then, once you make a reservation ROW will send you a complete packing list. ROW provides the camping equipment, food, and beverages.
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 and taking a sponge bath. 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 handwashing system. During the day, liquid waste goes in 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.
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.
Wilderness travel and whitewater rafting have inherent risks and ROW does a number of things to manage these risks. It begins when you first contact us. We'll help you select a trip that matches your experience and abilities. On the river you will find that our guides are carefully chosen, skilled professionals with the appropriate training and experience. We use the best available equipment and give a thorough safety briefing prior to all departures. If you're nervous about whitewater, you might want to start off on our Missouri River canoe trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail in Montana or a milder whitewater trip such as the Grande Ronde.
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.
What should I do if I fall out of the boat? 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. But it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming at first. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fallen in. Some people fall out on their first trip. Follow your guide's instructions and your "swim" could be the most exciting part of your trip!
Full course meals from lunch the first day through lunch the last day. Trips lasting four or more days, except lodge-based trips, include a post-trip dinner as well. One-day trips include lunch only. Professional river equipment including rafts and their accessories, Coast Guard-approved life jackets, waterproof bags for personal gear, waterproof boxes for cameras, sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners, pillows, thick foam self-inflating mattresses, tents and ground cloths. Wetsuits and booties are provided on all cold water trips in May and June. Also, transportation to and from the river from a designated meeting place as indicated on the trips schedule. Prior to your trip we'll send you a complete packing list of appropriate clothing and optional items such as cameras, water bottles, etc.
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 and 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.
Absolutely! You will want to capture the stunning scenery. A waterproof camera with extra batteries and a memory card is highly recommended. While many guests use their smartphones, please realize you will not have cell service or power source for charging and we highly recommend a waterproof case. Portable power banks are a great source for recharging.