Main Salmon

Explore the Iconic River of No Return

Overview

Walk barefoot on the sand. Feel the warm canyon breeze on your face. Soak in a natural hot springs. Whether you are a first time rafter or a veteran river rat, you’ll be enchanted by the Main Salmon River of Idaho. Weaving east to west through the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, the Salmon River passes blanketed wildflower hillsides, deep canyon walls, cascading side streams, and large sandy beaches. Fun, sun, and rapids for the family, a group of college friends, or the solo adventurer. Come see some of the best of what Idaho has to offer!

Trip Highlights

  • 6 days, 80 miles
  • Class II-III whitewater, perfect for families
  • Refreshing water for swimming and paddling kayaks or stand up paddleboards
  • Huge sandy beaches for great games, comfortable camping, and star-gazing
  • Rich history, Native American sites and pictographs, pioneer homesteads, miners and legends of the river
  • “Hot Tub” hot springs
  • Rich geologic history through the heart of the Atlanta batholith

In the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness flows the Main Salmon River. Class III “pool drop” rapids promise a fun and exhilarating ride in the capable hands of our seasoned guides. Relax in the oar boat, grab a paddle in the paddleboat, or captain your own inflatable kayak – you choose just how much excitement you want.

The Main Salmon is a rare outdoor adventure, pairing a perfect beach vacation with the solitude of a vast wilderness. The water is warm in July and August, which makes for great swimming and inflatable kayaking. Lounge on the beach, or grab your hiking shoes to explore historic homesteads and rocky canyon ridge tops. There’s truly something for everyone. While our veteran guides have the unique opportunity to navigate many different rivers throughout the summer, the Main Salmon is one they hold near and dear. Want to reserve an entire trip for your group? Ask us about charter trips!

Play Video

The Stats

Departure Month August, July, June, September
State / Region Central Idaho
Adventure Level Moderate, Relaxed
Price Range $2000 - $3000, Under $1500
Activities Family Rafting, Hiking, Hot Springs, Inflatable Kayaking, Native American Sites, Pioneer History, Rafting, Whitewater Rafting, Wildlife

Reviews

Logistics

The Main Salmon trip begins in Salmon and ends in Boise, Idaho.

Before the trip:
Fly commercially into Boise, Idaho, then take Gem Air into Salmon, Idaho. If you plan on driving, you can have your car shuttled with River Shuttles or All River Shuttles.

Driving: If you choose to drive to Salmon, you can arrange to have your car shuttled from Salmon to the take-out (Carey Creek or McCall) by River Shuttles or All River Shuttles.

Gem Air
Phone: 208.756.7382
Website: www.gemairflights.com
Email: [email protected]

River Shuttles
Phone: 800.831.4942
Website: www.rivershuttles.com
Email: [email protected]

Lodging Before: Make your reservations at the Stagecoach Inn (208.756.2919). Your motel will pick you up at the Salmon Airport. We will have an orientation at 6:00pm the evening before your trip begins at the Stagecoach Inn behind the hotel by the river.

After the trip:
We provide transportation to Boise from the take out. We recommend staying at the Best Western Vista Inn near the airport (800.727.5006). All trips will have a van or bus ride to McCall, then on to Boise for an early evening arrival.

Sample Itinerary

Day before the trip: Arrive in Salmon, Idaho (flights from Boise to Salmon are available through Gem Air).  Orientation meeting at 6pm riverside on the back lawn of the Stagecoach Inn. We will distribute river gear and answer any last minute questions.

Day 1: We’ll meet at 8:30am and drive roughly 2 hours to the Corn Creek put-in. When we reach the river, your guides will be ready to tie your gear down and have a brief river safety talk. Then we’re off! We’ll stop for lunch on a sandy beach a couple of miles down the river, and later maybe stop to look at some Native American pictographs. Soon everyone will start getting into the flow of the trip. After a great afternoon of a few fun rapids and quiet stretches of river we’ll find a nice campsite on a beautiful beach and make our home for the night.

Day 2-5: We like to keep our trips flexible and choose activities that suit each group. There will be opportunities to hike, fish, explore pioneer homesteads, soak in a natural hot spring, and relax around camp.  Generally, we are on the water for about 4 to 6 hours each day and the rapids are fun class II-III.

Day 6: We’ll have a fun float with one or two good rapids then continue on to the Carey Creek take out.  We provide transportation to Boise, Idaho via McCall, Idaho arriving early evening.

FAQs

Camp Life and Meals

Will we be at a new camp every day?

Yes, we do normally change campsites every day.

Will there be a campfire every night?

Yes, we almost always have a campfire every evening and morning. We do most of our cooking over a campfire and this is a focus of any WRO campsite.

What clothes should I bring for camp?

Your river and/or hiking clothes can double as camp clothes, but you are welcome to bring something else if you would like, such as a cotton shirt, an athletic dress/skirt for women, or some fiesta-wear.

How big are the tents? Do we have to share a tent with someone else?

Most of our tents are high-quality three-person tents, but we only put two people in each tent. If there is an odd number in your group we will not make you share a tent with a stranger. We offer brands like Mountain Hardware, North Face, and Sierra Designs.

Will my tent be set up for me?

In the interest of a more genuine wilderness experience, we encourage people to pick their own sleeping sites and set up their tents. If you need assistance, we’re happy to help and always there to show you how the gear works.

What kind of food will we be eating?

Wonderful, marvelous, gourmet cooking! We are consistently told by guests that we out-do their expectations when it comes to our food’s quality that we can accomplish in the wilderness. Breakfasts always have an early option for yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola before we serve a combination of grains, vegetables, eggs, and breakfast meats, and dinners consist of culinary delights such as wild salmon and steak, many of which are cooked over open campfires and dutch ovens. Lunches are a combination of tasty salads, sandwiches, fruits, and assorted snacks. Healthy and nutritious options are always available, and meals always include fruits and vegetables (local when we can, including veggies from our own greenhouse and garden!). For more information, check out our "Sample Menu" page and our "WRO Garden" page.

Can WRO accommodate dietary restrictions?

WRO will happily provide vegetarian meals and do our best to accommodate any dietary restrictions at no additional cost! Please notify us of any dietary restrictions or allergies as early as possible by completing your online registration so that we can adjust the menu accordingly. In certain cases, individuals may want to supplement meals and snacks with some items of their own.

Does WRO provide drinks/ snacks?

WRO provides ample snacks as well as plenty of drinking water, fruit juices, and coffee, tea, and half and half in the morning. We do not provide soda or alcohol. If you feel you would like to have soda or other canned beverages on the trip, please bring what you wish and we will help keep it cold! You are also welcome to bring your own alcohol (packed in unbreakable containers whenever possible, please).

How does personal hygiene work during the trip?

We need to keep soap out of the rivers, so if you want to use soap and bathe on the trip, you need to do so above the high water mark. The guides can help carry and heat up some water if needed. Face and body wipes also work well for helping stay clean.

How does the bathroom system work during the trip?

In order to keep these places beautiful for years to come, all rivers are “pack it in, pack it out.” We bring fabulous portable toilets and handwashing stations that we place in a private location away from camp with the best bathroom view you will ever have.

On the River

How long will we be floating on the river each day?

Each trip is tailored to the desires of the guests, but generally we will be on the water a total of 5 or so hours each day (give or take a couple of hours), broken by a lunch stop and any other side adventures. We usually start floating when the sun hits the water each day and arrive in camp late afternoon. Each day will be a little different, with varying options for hiking, exploring, swimming, fishing, and great lunch stops. Your lead guide will give you an overview of the day each morning.

What will I do with items I need accessible during the day or on the boat?

In addition to the large waterproof bag issued for packing clothing and camp items, everyone is also issued a smaller “day bag” to carry items you will need access to while on the river (sunscreen, camera, extra layer, etc.). Put anything you might need during the day in this day bag, as the larger bag will usually be inaccessible until we reach camp for the evening.

How will I keep my phone/camera/other valuable items safe from the elements?

We discourage bringing any unnecessary valuables on your trip. Phones can be placed in a Ziploc bag or water proof case and put in your day bag if you would like to have it accessible for taking pictures during the day. If you are bringing a large, expensive camera, we recommend you bring a hard waterproof case in which to store it and accessories.

What kind of boat will I be riding in?

We usually have a variety of boats so that everyone gets a chance to experience each type of river craft, water level permitting. During your registration, you will note your boat preferences so we can plan accordingly. Unless you have requested otherwise, we typically bring several oar boats, a paddle boat, and a few inflatable kayaks. We recommend trying out each boat and riding with each guide as they all have something different to offer.

If we say we want to paddle, are we committed to paddling the entire trip?

Generally no, as we usually have enough boats that guests can rotate and have the option to paddle when they wish.

What will temperatures and weather be like? Will it be cold? Will it rain?

Summer temperatures in the Northern Rockies can fluctuate dramatically in a 24-hour period, from cool in the mornings to hot and sunny during the day. Mid summer sunny days can reach the upper 90's! Storms can also roll in unexpectedly, and it’s best to be prepared for anything. Rain is always possible, but trips earlier in the season are more likely to see precipitation and/or cooler temperatures than mid to late summer trips. Check out the weather section of the packing list for specific seasonal information and average temperatures for your trip, as well as checking the weather forecast at Corn Creek, ID (our put-in) and Carey Creek, ID (our take out).

Is it possible to rent a drysuit (spring trips)?

We provide wetsuits on spring trips, but we also have drysuits available to rent for added comfort. During the summer trips, you will likely just be wearing a swim wear and sun protection and won’t need or want a wetsuit or drysuit.

Clothing, Footwear, and Gear

What kind of footwear should I bring? What shoes will I wear in the boat?

For most trips you will need two pairs of shoes, one to wear in the boats and one to wear hiking and around camp. For spring trips, we recommend neoprene socks to wear on the river with your river shoes. By July, water temperatures become warmer and socks may no longer be necessary. Most people enjoy wearing water shoes or sturdy sandals with an ankle strap (popular options include Chacos, Tevas, and Keens). Old running sneakers can also work well as river shoes. Flip-flops can be nice for around camp but you need something that will stay on your feet while we are on the boats. For most trips, sneakers or a lightweight hiking boot will be fine for side hikes.

What clothing should I wear in the boat?

This will depend on the time of year, but usually Main Salmon trips are hot and sunny during the summer. For spring trips, we provide wetsuits, underneath which you can wear long underwear or swimwear. For cooler early-season days you can also wear long underwear, synthetic pants with rain pants over them, and a fleece or other warm layer with your raincoat on top. As temperatures warm up, we might just wear a pair of shorts over a bathing suit, or light pants and a sun shirt. Quick-dry synthetic clothing, layers, and sun protection are the most important things to keep in mind.

Why do you recommend synthetics instead of cotton?

While on the river you will get wet going through rapids (what fun would it be if you didn’t?!). Synthetic materials are lightweight and dry much quicker than cotton. They also keep you warmer if wet. Comfort is essential to having fun!

What size and type of sleeping pad does WRO provide?

We provide deluxe, self-inflating basecamp “Therm-a-rest” pads. These are very comfortable and fit very nicely in our gear bags.

Can I bring my own sleeping pad/bag/tent/other gear?

You are welcome to bring your own sleeping gear if you wish, but if you do, please bring your own complete sleep kit and let us know ahead of time. Our sleep kits consist of a "Therm-a-rest" pad, a 20 degree sleeping bag, a sheet, a pack-able pillow, and a ground cloth that acts as a sand mat. We can provide an empty dry bag to store your sleep kit in.

How big are the waterproof bags and how much stuff can they hold?

Everyone is issued a waterproof “day bag” to carry items you will need access to during the day while on the river. This day bag is 9 inches in diameter and 20 inches tall. Everyone is also issued a large waterproof bag for your personal gear and clothing. This bag should be plenty large enough for everything listed on our suggested packing list. We recommend limiting your personal gear to 35 pounds.

Logistics

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in Salmon, ID the day before your trip is scheduled to begin around 5:30. There will be an evening orientation with WRO guides and guests, where we will go over trip details, answer last-minute questions, and hand out Hydroflask coffee mugs and waterproof bags to repack your gear into. You will head to the river the next morning (the official starting date of your trip).

Is there a place to store our non-river luggage while we’re on the river?

Yes, we will store your extra bags and make arrangements for them to be transported to meet you at the end of the trip. However, we do recommend that you leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Your wallet & cash should be placed in a Ziplock bag and taken with you on your trip.

How, where, and when do we get our fishing licenses?

If you want to fish, an Idaho fishing license is mandatory, and can be purchased just before you arrive if it is an in-person purchase. If you look at Idaho Fish and Game’s website, it will direct you to options for online purchases that can be mailed to you (allow 3-4 weeks for this option), or also in-person vendors in Lewiston and around Idaho. Idaho also has the option to purchase a fishing license just for the time you are on the river.

Is there somewhere to purchase last-minute items before the trip?

Yes, there is an outdoor store located on the way to the river for last minute gear, or a grocery store in town for other items.

Can I stay at a different hotel than your recommended options before the trip?

You are welcome to stay wherever you’d like as long as you are at 1) orientation the evening before your trip and 2) your trip’s designated pickup location ready for departure the morning your trip begins. We try to recommend the most convenient lodging, which is usually where orientation is held and where group transportation will pick up and drop off guests before and after the trip. There are not taxi or ride share options in Salmon, so take your transportation to orientation and the morning of departure into consideration.

Miscellaneous

When do we need to be there?

You should arrive in Salmon, ID the day before your trip is scheduled to begin around 5:30. There will be an evening orientation with WRO guides and guests, where we will go over trip details, answer last-minute questions, and hand out Hydroflask coffee mugs and waterproof bags to repack your gear into. You will head to the river the next morning (the official starting date of your trip).

Is there a place to store our non-river luggage while we’re on the river?

Yes, we will store your extra bags and make arrangements for them to be transported to meet you at the end of the trip. However, we do recommend that you leave any unnecessary valuables at home. Your wallet & cash should be placed in a Ziplock bag and taken with you on your trip.

How, where, and when do we get our fishing licenses?

If you want to fish, an Idaho fishing license is mandatory, and can be purchased just before you arrive if it is an in-person purchase. If you look at Idaho Fish and Game’s website, it will direct you to options for online purchases that can be mailed to you (allow 3-4 weeks for this option), or also in-person vendors in Lewiston and around Idaho. Idaho also has the option to purchase a fishing license just for the time you are on the river.

Is there somewhere to purchase last-minute items before the trip?

Yes, there is an outdoor store located on the way to the river for last minute gear, or a grocery store in town for other items.

Can I stay at a different hotel than your recommended options before the trip?

You are welcome to stay wherever you’d like as long as you are at 1) orientation the evening before your trip and 2) your trip’s designated pickup location ready for departure the morning your trip begins. We try to recommend the most convenient lodging, which is usually where orientation is held and where group transportation will pick up and drop off guests before and after the trip. There are not taxi or ride share options in Salmon, so take your transportation to orientation and the morning of departure into consideration.

Book Now

Base code embed: