Raft & Ranch: Ultimate Western Vacation

The ultimate Western vacation is our Raft and Ranch holiday package!  On this fabulous Rocky Mountain adventure, you stay at our own River Dance Lodge for three great days of guest ranch fun, then head to the splashing waters of the legendary Salmon River.  On the Salmon River you enjoy four days of rafting on warm water with hot sun and camping on vast white sand beaches.  We provide all transport to and from Lewiston, Idaho to make this a stress-free, logistically simple vacation for you.

River Dance Lodge is an award-winning resort with eight cabins and three glamping tents.  Set on the edge of the Clearwater National Forest and the banks of the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, the lodge is surrounded with forested views.  Just ten miles away is the border of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area and thousands of acres of pristine land.  The waters here are pure and clear.

At the lodge we offer a wide variety of activities.  While we don’t keep horses on property, we partner with a horseback outfitter just five miles away.  This trip offers horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing and rafting, all wrapped into a seamless Rocky Mountain vacation.

Itinerary

Meet us in Lewiston, Idaho (served by several airlines) at 9:00 am at the Red Lion Hotel.  After an orientation meeting we board our vehicle and head to the Nez Perce National Historical Park in Spalding, Idaho, to learn about the history and culture of the Nez Perce Tribe.   Children particularly enjoy the interactive elements of this National Park, while all ages will appreciate the quality of the museum exhibit that features an outstanding collection of tools, clothing, weapons and ceremonial objects.  Afterwards we walk to the old Spalding Mission and have our first picnic feast under the shade of cottonwood trees.

We continue our travels east, next stopping in Orofino to visit the world’s largest fish hatchery at the Dworshak Dam and learn about the story of Pacific Northwest salmon and steelhead.  Then it’s on to the Heart of the Monster, another site of the Nez Perce National Historical Park and sacred to the Nez Perce.   As we travel through the Nez Perce Reservation we learn about the rich history of the people who have lived here for thousands of years. 

We arrive at River Dance Lodge by 4:00 pm and you check in to your own rustic-lux log cabin with private hot tub.  After you settle in and stretch your legs, come to the lodge dining room for appetizers and scrumptious dinner.  Once dinner is over, the night sky welcomes us outside for a campfire and star gazing.

Today we saddle up for a ride in the Clearwater National Forest.  Our ride takes us through forests of pine, fir and cedar as our wranglers spin a yarn or two about the local area.  We stop for a picnic lunch beneath the trees and perhaps a dip in a creek.  The ride continues after lunch.  Few people live in this area where most of the land is public and managed as National Forest.  There are some fascinating stories here, including the history of Canyon Creek where there was once a prison, CCC Camp and Japanese Internment Camp.  The intrigue of these stories will keep your mind engaged, as the fresh mountain air stimulates your body and sets you at ease.

Today you have your choice of another horseback ride, or your choice of biking, hiking or fishing.  A total of two different activities will be offered depending on the group’s interests.  By late afternoon return to the lodge.  You might want to walk to the river for a swim, or sit on the porch of your cabin to read a book.  As the afternoon turns to evening, come to the lodge for dinner followed by an evening campfire.

After an early breakfast we drive about two hours to our put-in on the Salmon River.   The Salmon River is the longest undammed river contained in a single state in the lower 48 U.S. states.   It flows from the south-central Idaho through some of the most remote country in the American West with clean, clear waters surrounded by an immense, wild landscape.  On this trip you float the last 40 miles of the Salmon followed by 20 miles on the Snake River through the tail end of Hells Canyon. 

Once we arrive at the river’s edge,  meet your rafting guides for a safety orientation.  Then we put on personal flotation devices and start our rafting adventure.  For the next three days we raft some 40 miles on the Salmon  and on the last day we continue about 20 miles on the Snake River through the lower end of Hells Canyon.  The rapids are fun, intermediate rapids suitable for a wide range of abilities. 

After a few introductory rapids, we stop for lunch on one of the many expansive white sand beaches.  While our guides prepare lunch, enjoy a swim in the river, or a short walk to a site of interest.  After lunch we continue rafting several hours through the dramatic canyons of the Salmon River.  Between the rapids the river is calm and invites you to jump in for a swim, or to simply sit back and soak in the endless vistas of this Western paradise. 

By late afternoon we arrive at camp.  Set on a beach,  our camps are very comfortable.  Typically there’s a calm area for swimming, plenty of room for playing games such as volleyball or Frisbee,  and a bit of shade where you can relax with a book.  Soon it’s time for dinner, then the night sky replete with the Milky Way or a shining moon.

Nights on the Salmon are warm and mosquito-free and while tents are provided, many prefer to sleep out under the open canopy of starlight.

Continuing downstream we enter Snowhole Canyon where we find numerous raft-tossing rapids and boatloads of laughter.  Sometime during the day we stop to visit an ancient Chinese rock house and learn about the Chinese miners that lived here in the mid to late 1800’s.  We may see deer, soaring eagles or playful river otters.  After a full day of fun on the river we arrive at another idyllic beach camp for the evening.  Play, dinner, campfire, sleep - the perfect routine!

More majestic mountain scenery, warm water, run rapids and discovery.  By now everyone is settled into the natural rhythm of the river, fully relaxed and fully unplugged from the worries and stresses of daily life.  Part of the magic of a river trip is connecting with others – both those you know and new friends.  The spell has taken hold.

Most of today is spent on the Snake River with towering canyon mountains on each side – Oregon to the west and Idaho to the east.  We have a few more rapids, time for a swim and more strokes in the river’s water and, time to reflect upon the week’s adventure.

We arrive at our take-out in the mid-afternoon and transfer about one hour to the town of Lewiston where our voyage began.  After showers and a change of clothes, we meet for a ROW-hosted farewell dinner.

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Dates: August 26 - September 1
Rates: $1738 per person (Based on 4 people in the small, 2 bedroom cabin)

Images & Videos

FAQ & More

What do we do when 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's camping like on a river trip?

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.)

What is the camping like?

The ROW style of camping is very comfortable. On most trips a cargo boat travels ahead to set up your spacious tent and a complete kitchen area. We provide thick sleeping pads, nice sleeping bags, flannel liners and pillows. Meals are served at tables with chairs and we do the dishes. Solar showers offer the chance to wash up during the trip. Summer nights in Idaho, Oregon and Montana are typically warm and some guests enjoy sleeping under the stars. If you're still concerned give us a call.

ROW is firmly committed to the responsible stewardship of the rivers we run and the earth at large. In our office, at our warehouses and on the river we abide by the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. On the river we take every possible precaution to minimize our impact. Everything we carry in, we carry out. We build our fires in metal fire pans and carry out the ashes.

What about bathing and toilets on the river?

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 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. Please see a special letter to women from ROW co-owner Betsy Bowen.

I can't swim. Can I still go rafting?

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.

Is rafting dangerous?

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.

What special gear do I need to bring?

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.

Does ROW provide beverages?

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.

I have a family with young children, can they go?

Absolutely!  Children as young as five are welcome on these trips. Older children may also enjoy our Snake River in Hells Canyon, Rogue River and Middle Fork of the Salmon trips too.  Few vacations offer the opportunity for uninterrupted, quality sharing as does a river trip.

What is the horseback riding like?

It is a full day trip with lunch included.  A gentle trail ride welcoming kids as young as 5 years old.

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