Lower Salmon Kayaking

Paddle Through the Heart of Idaho


The Lower Salmon is a perfect beginner/intermediate kayak trip, while also having tons of options for fun for the whole family. While traveling through Idaho Mountain Backcountry landscapes, this is an awesome section to develop as a paddler, hone in on basic skills, have lots of recovery pools after big, fun, pool-drop rapids that will test your skills and boost confidence in a safe and manageable manner. Think of a smaller scale of “Grand Canyon” style of paddling with sections of flatwater interlaced with big, playful hydraulics. This trip offers big water pool-drop class III rapids with warmer water and weather than many other western rivers. (See WRO’s beginner/intermediate skill requirements overview.)

Trip Highlights

  • 5 days, 75 miles 
  • Big “pool drop” class III whitewater
  • River character: pool drop, wave train, playboating
  • Idaho mountain/ open Snake Plains landscape
  • Great beginner/ intermediate river for paddling development and confidence boosting 
  • Refreshing water for swimming and skills practice
  • Huge sandy beaches for great games, comfortable camping, and stargazing

On the Canyons of the Salmon, it’s all about the beaches and family time. You’ll find some of the largest sandy beaches inland of the coast in the middle of the Idaho backcountry, which makes for easy camping, great family trips, and an awesome way to get out and paddle. Join the kids as they play in swimming holes at camp, do some roll practice, or enjoy some personal time with a cold drink and a book from the comforts of a shade tarp. Roomy beaches make for plentiful games, and the camp eddy is an excellent spot to cool down on a hot summer day or try your hand at paddle boarding! 

The Canyons of the Salmon gets its name from the several canyons you will float through on this stretch of river: Green Canyon, Snow Hole Canyon, and Blue Canyon. Unlike some of the other Salmon River trips offered by WRO, this float is not through a designated wilderness area. But despite the signs of humans and roads you will encounter, the scenery in this section is still beautiful–you will cruise through narrow canyons, camp on sandy river beaches, and watch the Ponderosa forests of the upper Main Salmon begin to give way to the grasslands of the Snake River region.

The rapids are big, “pool drop” class II-III whitewater that are perfect for beginners and intermediates to practice skills, gain confidence, and have fun in some amazing backcountry Idaho scenery. With warm water and forgiving pools, fear of making mistakes and swimming rapids can be lifted, and it is a great chance to shift panic into a sense of humbleness and learning. Also, with back to back days on the water on this style of multi-day trip, it is super helpful for paddling muscle memory, dedicating focus to kayaking, and leaving behind the stressors of everyday life for a vacation of full backcountry immersion! Lastly, if the 5 days of kayaking wasn’t enough, some of the most epic-road side surf waves in Idaho exist along the Main Salmon near Riggins, ID, which this trip is very close to if you are traveling in your own vehicle and have the time.

Why Raft Support?

When self-support kayaking, you often have to be a minimalist. When traveling with raft support, you are able to bring all your heart desires, and probably more! Our rafts carry all of your personal things (costumes and dry shoes anyone?), and other items that self-support boating does not allow for such as coolers for gourmet food prepared for you (no more ramen and MREs!), beer, extensive safety supplies, a full-sized firepan with a daily fire, latrine facilities, logistics taken care of, etc. Without the bulky weight of your gear in your kayak, it allows for quicker, more responsive (and fun!) paddling, and also opens up possibilities for more low-volume styles of boats for those looking to spice up the class IV. 


If running this type of river without ever seeing it makes you nervous, or you are traveling alone, having a safety kayaker/ kayak guide is a great way to travel. Traveling with one of our knowledgeable safety kayakers is a great way to gain confidence and expertise through this technical run. Lastly, this type of trip also allows for you to bring non-kayaker family and friends to also be able to enjoy a perfect river vacation for everyone involved. 

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The Stats

Departure Month July, August
State / Region
Adventure Level Relaxed, Moderate
Price Range $2000 - $3000
Activities Inflatable Kayaking, Hard Shell Kayaking



This trip is relatively simple logistically for your travel plans as it begins and ends in Lewiston, Idaho. 

WRO Kayak Rentals

WRO has a wide range of playboats, half-slices, and river runner/ creek boats to reserve for the week in a variety of sizes. WRO does not provide paddle, skirts, helmets, PFD’s, or personal dry gear. For more information, contact Seth, [email protected]. (Reservation website coming soon.)

Before the trip:

Travel to Lewiston, Idaho (LWS) no later than 5:30 pm one day prior to your trip’s launch date, with lodging arranged for this first night. We recommend staying at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel for logistic simplicity. The hotel has a free airport shuttle or parking available to leave your car if you plan on driving to Lewiston. 

Plan on meeting for orientation at 6 pm the night before the launch at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel (208-799-1000). Here you will meet your trip leader, other guests that will be on your trip, and we will hand out dry bags, discuss the trip details and answer any last minute questions. 

The next morning we will depart the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel and drive as a group to the river put-in at Hammer Creek, about an hour and 45 minute trip.

After the Trip:

We provide transportation to Lewiston from the Heller Bar take out. It is about a 1 hour drive and we usually arrive by late afternoon. 

Sample Itinerary

Day Before: Travel to Lewiston, Idaho (LWS) no later than 5:30 pm one day prior to your trip’s launch date, with lodging arranged for this first night.  Plan on meeting for orientation at 6 pm the night before the launch at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel (208-799-1000). Here you will meet your trip leader, other guests that will be on your trip, and we will hand out dry bags, discuss the trip details and answer any last minute questions. 

Day 1: We will depart Lewiston from the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel around 8 am and have about an hour and 45 minute drive to the Hammer Creek launch site. You will then meet the rest of your guides, who will have the boats and gear ready to go. A general river orientation and safety talk will be given, and PFDs (lifejackets) will be custom-fitted before getting on the water and starting the adventure! 

Day 2-4: We’ll be relaxing on the water and on sandy beaches, running rapids, doing side hikes, exploring historic sites, and anything else you’d like to do! Our schedule is flexible so we can customize the trip to your interests.

Day 5: Once we reach the confluence of the Snake River we will strap the boats together and motor the trip 20 miles to our takeout, Heller Bar, where we will do lunch. You will say goodbye to the guides, who will stay at the takeout to break down the trip. Your trip leader will accompany you on a roughly 1 hour drive back to the Hells Grand Hotel in Lewiston, usually by late afternoon.


Kayaking/ Miscellaneous

We generally ask that if people sign up for a trip as a kayaker that they plan to paddle the entire trip. This is mainly because we base our number of rafts, guides, and gear distribution off of planning on having people in their kayaks. That being said, we can absolutely make accommodations for individuals in certain situations, (Not wanting to run a particular rapid, medical situations, etc.)
All and all, this is your trip and we are here to ensure you have the best trip possible.

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