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 makes 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 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, makes for a rafting vacation like no other.
This lower section of the Salmon River flows over 50 miles through a series for 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 camp.
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 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.
Extend your stay in Idaho after your Salmon River trip by visiting our own River Dance Lodge just two hours from Lewiston, Idaho where your rafting trip ends. Stay in a traditional log cabin with a private hot tub, go hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking or just relax and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery.
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 acknowledgement 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 11, 2022 to Jul 15, 2022 |
|Jul 18, 2022 to Jul 22, 2022 |
|Jul 25, 2022 to Jul 29, 2022 |
|Aug 01, 2022 to Aug 05, 2022 |
|Aug 08, 2022 to Aug 12, 2022 |
|Aug 15, 2022 to Aug 19, 2022 |
|Aug 22, 2022 to Aug 26, 2022 |
|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
FAQ & More
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.
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.
Cargo boat travels ahead to set up camp, including your tent and a complete kitchen with tables and chairs. Few outfitters do this and it allows you more time to spend with your family not having to worry about setting up tents, helping with the kitchen, fetching water, etc...we take care of it all!
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 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.
For groups, If we don't have scheduling conflicts, 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 gear 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 this stretch 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 trips, the guides are the most important factor for your safety, enjoyment and the success of the trips. 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 challenge you to a fun game of horseshoes, give you historical information on the river (ROW has an on river library) or just 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.)
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.
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, but we also 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 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.)
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.