Rafting Trips on the Lower Salmon River in Idaho
Welcome to the Lower Salmon River... and a rafting trip where dreams 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 (Check out our family only trips) and whitewater rapids splash and make everyone beam with big grins from ear to ear. No other rafting river in the United States is like the Lower Salmon River. The river boasts 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, makes for a rafting vacation like no other.
This lower section of the Salmon River flows over 50 miles through a series of four steep-walled gorges (thus, The Salmon River Canyons) the river has carved over the ages. Between these gorges, this Salmon River rafting trip opens up to a vast Western landscape. Because there are no dams on the Salmon, 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 our Salmon River rafting. Guests play volleyball, Frisbee, and other games, or simply soak in the hot summer rays. During our rafting trips, we enjoy these beaches at lunch as well as at camp.
A Classic Rafting Trip in Salmon River Canyons
This Lower 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 bighorn 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 Canyons. 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 a kitchen, dining tables, 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 each perfect day of rafting.
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 Lower 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.
Honoring Native People and Lands
Recognizing the significance of our travels through the 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 trip details here
Arrive in Lewiston, ID, Orientation Meeting
Meet at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho, and be introduced to the Team Leader for your Salmon River rafting trip. There is a short, hour-long orientation at around 7:00 pm PST where any questions will be answered and you will receive waterproof bags for your personal items.
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Let's get on the Lower Salmon River! 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 deli 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 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!
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 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, who were 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 in the Lower Salmon 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. Then we'll pile back into the boats for an afternoon of mostly peaceful water and a few small Salmon river 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!
Cougar Canyon, Snowhole Canyon
On this thrill-packed whitewater rafting day on the Salmon River 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 the Salmon River Canyons 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 will 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 of the Salmon River. 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.
Cottonwood Creek, Blue Canyon
We'll have some more fun with Lower Salmon 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. He got married to Cecilia Wapshella while he worked in the Reeve's ranch and also 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 of the Salmon River, 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 Salmon rafting trip 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.
Snake and Salmon Conﬂuence
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 a beach and after several more miles of awe-inspiring river, we'll finally get to the stopping point of our river journey just below the confluence of the Snake and Grande Ronde Rivers. It'll be about 3:00 pm.
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.
Your car will be waiting if you made the drive to Lewiston. If you came by plane the hotel can shuttle you to the Lewiston airport.
ROW Inc. is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider under permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Our Lower Salmon River 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.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|Jul 04, 2022 to Jul 09, 2022 |
|Jul 25, 2022 to Jul 29, 2022 |
|Jul 11, 2022 to Jul 15, 2022 |
|Jul 18, 2022 to Jul 22, 2022 |
|Aug 01, 2022 to Aug 05, 2022 |
|Jul 21, 2022 to Jul 25, 2022 |
|Jul 28, 2022 to Aug 01, 2022 |
|Aug 04, 2022 to Aug 08, 2022 |
|Aug 08, 2022 to Aug 12, 2022 |
|Aug 11, 2022 to Aug 15, 2022 |
|Aug 15, 2022 to Aug 19, 2022 |
|Aug 22, 2022 to Aug 26, 2022 |
Idaho Rivers United Conservation Trip
|Aug 29, 2022 to Sep 02, 2022 |
- Open Enrollment Departures (family-friendly unless otherwise noted): Every Monday - prices listed above
Departures: By request for a large group - Please Call