Main Salmon River of No Return Trip
Main Salmon River Trip Summaries
The Main Salmon River or, “River of No Return” as it is known; is the perfect juxtaposition of relaxing vacation and thrilling adventure. The numerous class III and occasional class IV rapids are certainly exciting for anyone, but they are also manageable for the first time inflatable kayaker or rafter. The charter plane flight into small-town Idaho add’s a unique sense of adventure. Floating through the continental United States largest wilderness area and second deepest canyon gives an unparalleled feeling of escape and remoteness not attainable in most other places of the country.
Simply everything about the Main Salmon River makes it America’s premier rafting vacation. On a typical trip it’s common to see big horn sheep, deer, black bears, and even the occasional moose. We hike trails near side streams full of fishing opportunities, we explore historic homesteads and enjoy fruit from their feral orchards, we sleep on large beaches under bright stars and all of this while we travel down a beautiful wilderness river. Nestled in the canyon of the, “River of No Return” you will find new friends, connect with old friends, bond with your kids, and ultimately go home rejuvenated from your time in the wilds of Idaho. Sign up today and join us on this river that holds a very special place in our hearts.
Our standard summer trip here is a 6-day, 6 night trip. It starts off with charter plane flight from Boise Idaho to Salmon Idaho. From Salmon it’s a bus ride to the put-in and our lodge for the night. From here it’s 84 miles of whitewater and wilderness adventure ahead. We have options for all camp or trips with a lodge in the middle. Check out the itinerary tab for details on each. Join us on the Salmon River, River of No Return, for one of America’s premier wilderness river trips.
Fall – hiking and trail running oriented trips are also 6-day trips but with a different itinerary prior to the trip and include a flight out of the canyon. On the fall trips we will meet you in Salmon Idaho the night before your trip. You are responsible for getting to Salmon Idaho and we will return you to Salmon Idaho at the conclusion of the trip. This is an incredible time in the river canyon. Far fewer people, great fall weather, potentially spectacular fishing, and we design the trip around offering as much hiking or trail running as possible. Fall trips are raft only, kayaks are not available. These trips are also adult only for those looking for that experience.
June 23, 2018 launch will be an – all adult trip. So if you are looking for a trip without the kids and a bit more adventure during high water June 23 is your trip!
August 26, 2018 – Docent led interpretive trip.
Get the most out of the Main Salmon! The “River of No Return” is arguably the most historically and culturally rich wilderness river trip in the U.S. along with being a place so naturally beautiful and wild the federal government has protected it as an enormous Wilderness area, the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states actually. This remarkable place comes to life in our special interpreter-supported trip with daily conversations on Native American and pioneer life, river ecology and the vast diversity of wildlife that call this place home.
August 26th, 2018. 6-day all camping trip with a docent who will help open your eyes to the hidden treasures of the canyon, treasures that one can easily float past without noticing if they are not highlighted. This trip will run all the great whitewater and see all of the incredible sites, but travelers on this specific trip will experience every aspect of the trip with an extra richness which comes from more fully seeing the place you are. As you roam around the homesteads of early pioneers you will hear their stories, as you stand where they stood, and see the world as they saw it. You will hear about the indigenous people who called the canyon home while sitting in their former camps, feeling the same wind on your face they felt when they sat there thousands of years before. You will hear about big horn sheep as the group watches them scamper the cliffs above. On this trip, even more than our others, the incredible depth and diversity of the canyon will be opened up for you to take in and experience, an experience which will only make the place more breathtaking. So join us on this adult oriented trip to fully immerse yourself in the natural history, wildlife and human history of the Grand Canyon of the Salmon River.
Our docent for trip is Amy Neiblum. The one constant in Amy’s life has been a relentless interest in the great outdoors and an insatiable desire to be in wilderness. This was but a passionate hobby, until she landed a job with California State Parks where she helped develop and run a region-specific, multi-disciplinary, naturalist training program for 180 volunteers at Año Nuevo Preserve, an Elephant Seal rookery on the California coast. Her ten years working as a naturalist in the field and training docents with State Parks deepened her passion for learning and sharing about the many wonders of the natural world. Having run some of the best Wild and Scenic Rivers in the US, the Salmon River stands alone as her favorite, and she is thrilled to be bringing her experience and skills as an interpreter to this special place.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968.)
What our guests have to say...
Reviewed by OccasionalPosterM on August 15, 2014
“Great trip for fit newbies”
"Went on the main Salmon with group of friends (most were fit, 50, and inexperienced). The guides were great - friendly in camp, professional on the water. It was challenging, but doable. Had a blast."
Main Salmon Whitewater Rafting Itinerary
Trip Logistics Overview
Standard Trip: For the full Main Salmon Trip all trips are ALL-INCLUSIVE from Boise and back to Boise Idaho. You need to be in Boise by 1pm the DAY BEFORE your trip launch. So if you have a July 9th trip you need to be at the Boise airport on July 8th. Your trip includes a flight from Boise to Salmon, bus ride from Salmon to the lodge at the put-in. Float from the put-in to takeout, and bus ride from the takeout back to Boise. The final day you will not get to Boise until sometime around 7pm so we recommend not trying to fly out that evening.
Your luggage will come with you to the put-in. At the lodge the night before we start floating you will be supplied with a drybag to pack in for the trip. Everything going on the trip will go into this drybag. Your luggage will then be stored in our vehicle which will meet us at the takeout at the conclusion of the trip.
The Salt Lake City Special: If you are coming from Salt Lake City it is just a short five hour drive to Salmon Idaho so come and meet us there. We will meet you at the Salmon Airport where you will be able to leave your car. From there we transport you to the launch point at Corn Creek where we stay at a lodge. At the conclusion of the trip we will transport you the 90 minutes to McCall Idaho where we will have a charter flight ready to fly you back to Salmon where your car is waiting. If you live in Salt Lake City, UT. this is the perfect rafting vacation.
Arrive at the Boise Idaho airport the day BEFORE your trip launch and meet at the GEM AIR desk at 1:45 PM MST. We will have a charter flight to fly you from Boise to Salmon which takes about 1.5 hours and is a beautiful flight over the sawtooth mountains. When you land in Salmon a bus will be waiting to take the group to the trip launch point at Corn Creek. This is about a 2 hour bus ride paralleling the Salmon River the entire way. The bus will make one stop at the North Fork store for any last minute provisions and bathroom stops. The store does have a small liquore store for those last minute needs (liquor portion not open on Sundays) The group will drive past the point where Lewis and Clark left the river and headed north deciding the river was too treacherous.
When you arrive at Corn Creek the guides will be waiting for you and a jetboat will be waiting to pick up the group and ferry everyone across the river and to the lodge for the evening. A delicious dinner will be served at the lodge and there will be plenty of time for the groups first horseshoe tournament, card games, or swimming down at the beach. After dinner is the trip orientation where you will receive dry bags, ask any questions you may have, and learn about how you will be spending the next five or six days. The following morning the group will launch after breakfast and begin the journey downstream.
Detailed Itinerary for 6-day Camp with two Lodges
This is a great way to experience the river. Stay at the lodge the night before the trip launch and then camp on nights one, two, four, and five. Smack dab in the middle get a hot shower and soft bed which feels pretty special after a couple days out camping. Below is a rough description of the trip as where groups will camp exactly varies on available sites, water levels, weather, group size etc.
Day 1: Launch from corn creek and look forward to a GREAT DAY of warm up rapids. Floating away from Corn Creek into the rugged and foreboding landscape of the Salmon River Canyon one cannot help feeling the excitement of heading into the wilderness and away from civilization. There is something special about this canyon that overtakes people at this moment. Around the first couple corners brings the group to Killum Rapid and the first whitewater challenge of the Salmon River. This class III is mostly down the big waves in the middle and leads to lots of hooting and hollering. This will set the tone for the thrilling river challenges for the next couple of days. Day one continues with Alder Creek, Lance Bar, Devils teeth and and a number of other thrilling whitewater challenges. Most trips break up the day with a stop at Lance bar to walk amongst the homesteader cabins and roam through the orchard. Try and picture living here, alone, 70 years ago. Look around and feel the isolation and the independence. It’s an experience hard to picture in our modern world.
Sometime in the afternoon the group will float into a riverside camp on a big beach with opportunities for swimming, relaxing, and possibly hiking. Guides will show the group how to set up their tents and begin making appetizers and preparing dinner. Grab a beverage, kick back and enjoy just being away from your phone, your work, your tv. Enjoy being with your friends and family in the middle of the lower 48’s largest wilderness area.
Day 2: Start off with some Native American pictographs and then more rapids and beautiful scenery. Probably just before lunch the group will arrive at Black Creek rapid in the heart of the black canyon of the Salmon River. This granite gorge is a beautiful part of the river that culminates in one of the premier rapids of the trip. Black Creek is a newer rapid created by a land slide in 2011 which damned the river and created what is now the steepest drop on the river. Shortly after everyone paddles this exciting rapid Barth Hotsprings arrives on river left and it’s time to soak for a bit.
When everyone is done soaking in this scenic hotsprings it’s down river towards camp. The afternoon likely includes a couple great rapids and maybe a few hikes if the group is up for it.
Day 3: Whitewater Day: Today may include a hike or two, but it’s primarily about running rapids. Today will have some of the greats of the river including Bailey, Five Mile, Split Rock (A favorite rapid of numerous guides when asked for favorite rapid from any river) and the exciting Big Mallard. These rapids combine to make day three a highlight day on the Main Salmon combining great scenery with plenty of excitement. At the end of day three the group will float into Whitewater Ranch and our lodge for the night. A small tractor will be waiting to take all the gear up to the lodge and it’s a short 1/4 mile walk up the property. When we arrive you can hop into a hot shower before you head out to explore historic cabins, walk down to the pelton wheel and see first hand how they produce their electricity. Visit the garden and see where tonights veggies are coming from or relax with good book. Whitewater Ranch is a special place where you will quickly feel at home. The owners are hosts in a way that only folks living in the backcountry can be and you will quickly fall in love with them and their beautiful home. After a delicious home cooked meal its out to relax around the bonfire and re-live the stories from the trip thus far. When you have seen enough stars and laughed enough with your trip-mates it’s off to a soft bed for a great nights sleep.
Day 4: Today starts off with a bang. Another of the great rapids of the Salmon River is just around the corner. Elk Horn rapid is the longest rapid on the river at almost a mile in length. At any river flow this rapid is a highlight of the trip sure to challenge everyone in it’s 3 different sections. Pass the elephant rock and it’s home free and onto more relaxing rapids for the rest of the day.
The afternoon brings the group into a favorite trip stopping point, Buckskin Bills. Buckskin was one of the last great american mountain men this was his homestead on the river. The group will watch the short documentary highlighting the weapons he made by hand before taking time to sit in his cabin and climb his turret which he made to fight off the government. It’s also a great place to grab an ice cream, sit in the shade and watch the river float slowly past. After buckskin bills it’s probably not far to another great riverside camp.
Day 5: Into the heart of the Grand Canyon of the Salmon River. The second deepest canyon in the United States, deeper then the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. The Salmon River canyon is an ideal place to put your feet up and float while taking in the steep rock walls and the mountain sheep climbing the pinnacles above you. Whitewater is reasonably mellow today but swimming holes are abundant as the group floats to a wonderful, white sand beach camp for the night. Tonight will be a delicious dinner to celebrate a wonderful trip down the beautiful Salmon River. Stay up late and take in the stars, because you won’t see them anywhere else like you will see them on the Salmon River.
Day 6: End the trip with a bang. This morning is great! Rapids including Dried Meat, Chittum, Vinegar, and Carry Creek Falls to bring the group to the trip takeout sometime around mid-day for a late lunch. After transferring your gear from our drybags back to your suitcase it’s into the van for the ride out to Boise. This ride takes a little over 5 hours, but the scenery is incredible. You will be returned to the Boise airport or a nearby hotel sometime typically between 6 and 7 pm.
Detailed Itinerary for 6-day All Camp Trip
The same itinerary above except no lodge on night three. This typically adjust things a little so camp three would be further down river, but the basic idea is the same. We love this trip. When we don’t have a set destination in the middle of the trip we can coordinate camps around hikes or whatever else the group is interested in. The added freedom opens up different opportunities.
Main Salmon River Travel Information
Where to Meet Orange Torpedo Trips
Standard Trip: You need to check into the GEM air desk at the Boise Airport at 1:45 pm MST the day BEFORE your trip launch. Their desk is the baggage claim terminal outside of airport security. A guide from OTT will meet you when you land with the rest of the group in Salmon Idaho. Note from GEM Air: “We ask that each customer come with no more than one medium- or two small-sized bags that weigh no more than a total of 35 lbs. Large hard-sided luggage will not fit.”
Salt Lake City Special: Coming from Salt Lake City? Drive the 5 beautiful hours to Salmon and meet us at the Salmon Airport around 3pm the DAY BEFORE we actually launch on the river. We will fly you back here after the trip and you can start the easy drive home.
If you fly in the night before you need to meet us or decide to stay the night trip concludes there are a variety of hotels near the Boise airport that offer complimentary shuttles.
One that we have used is:
- Holiday Inn Near the Boise Airport 800-238-8000
No great camping options exist right in the Boise area.
Please fly into and out of the Boise Idaho airport.
- June · High 75 F Low 45F
- July · High 90 F Low 60 F
- August · High 88 F Low 58 F
Main Salmon FAQ's
Q: Gratuity, is it common to give tips and how much?
Gratuity is certainly appreciated but by no means required. At the conclusion of a trip please just give any gratuity to the head guide who will divide it evenly among the crew. Standard restaurant gratuity percentages tend not apply on these trips, so what we have seen over the years on the Main Salmon is an average of approx: $75-$100 per person in a group. So a group of four would be about $300-$400. That is what we typically see on this trip as an average, please don’t feel obligated. Also, when thinking about gratuities, please feel free to tip the staff at the lodges during your stay.
Q: How much is the deposit and when is the balance for my trip due?
As on all OTT trips, this trip requires a 30% deposit. The remaining balance is due 30 days before the trip launches. Upon making your reservation you have the option to set up your credit card to automatically run the balance on the due date.
Q: What is included in the trip fees?
Unlike many, we basically package everything together into one trip fee so you don’t have anything else added. From Boise to Boise all transportation, lodging, food and drink, is covered under one low all inclusive fee.
Q: What is the group rate?
Any group of 10 or more gets 10% off.
Q: Can I switch boats during the trip?
Yes, but with some limitation. If you start in an inflatable kayak and decide quickly that it’s not for you. We will get you out of the kayak. If you start in a raft and decide you want to kayak, we cannot always guarantee that ability. Based on what people tell us they want to do we pack a specific amount of equipment and bring an appropriate number of guides for a trip. Sometimes that does not leave much room to add kayakers mid-trip. People will often be willing to switch out throughout the trip, but if someone signs up to tackle the river in an inflatable kayak, we want to make sure they have chance to paddle the entire trip if they want.
Q: Does everything for the trip go down the river with the group?
Everything for the trip will go down the river. When you pack a dry bag at the put-in, that will be all of your stuff for the duration of the trip. All food, drinks, and camping equipment will be transported on our rafts for the entirety of the trip.
Q: How many years have we been running the rivers?
Orange Torpedo Trips was founded on the Rogue River in 1969 by rafting visionary, Jerry Bentley. Within just a few years OTT had spread to numerous rivers throughout the Northwest including the Klamath River, the Main Salmon River and Snake Rivers.
Q: What age is considered “Youth”?
Youth is 17 and under.
Q: What is an Orange Torpedo?
An Orange Torpedo is our custom-designed inflatable kayak. We have brought our 45 years of guided inflatable kayaking experience into our partnership with world renown raft builder SOTAR to introduce an industry leading high performance, beginner friendly inflatable kayak which we exclusively use.
Q: What is our average tour guide tenure?
We are proud to have one of the highest head guide tenure’s in the industry. The majority of our multi-day trip guides are teachers in the off-season. This off river profession makes them naturally great guides with a desire to teach our customers about the rivers, but it also makes them stable year to year guides. The average tenure, with our company, of our head guides is 29 years.
Q: What is your cancellation policy?
On single day trips your $10 per person deposit is refundable up to 72 hours before your trip. Cancellations within 72 hours of the scheduled trip launch will be subject to loss of their deposit.
On all of our multi day rafting trips we do not offer refunds on deposits or balance payments. We strongly encourage all customers to purchase travel insurance through travel guard to help protect your travel investment against the things that come up in life. It’s a small additional price for the comfort to know that if something comes up (illness, work change, etc) you will have the ability to recover your significant travel investment. Get a Travel Guard Quote Here.
Q: What types of boats do you use?
As on most of our trips we offer a variety of river craft to choose from. Orange Torpedo Trips is best known for inflatable kayaking with 80% of our customers choosing this as the way to go down the river, but on this trip we offer 3 types of river craft on this trip. Watch the video to learn more about our 3-boats.
Learn to paddle your own inflatable kayak (Torpedo). We have guides in Torpedo’s teaching you how to paddle and leading you through the rapids in a 4 to 1 ratio. If you happen to fall out the guides have you out of the river in seconds. 45+ years of doing it on the Rogue River and tens of thousands of satisfied returning customers prove that it is extremely fun.
A more traditional type of rafting, paddle rafts are a great way to go if you still want to do some work, but think the torpedo is just a little to much. Work with a team of your friends paddling the big boat through the rapids as the guide sits in the back to help navigate.
Hop on an oared raft and ride in luxury. This is the relaxed way to travel. If taking in the scenery and letting the guide do the work is how you vacation then hop on board. This is how kids 4-11 years old will usually travel.
Main Salmon Trip dates and rates
We have 3 different prices for our trips on the Main Salmon depending on when you book your trip.
Fall Prices – Book any trip before November 1st.
Winter Prices – Book November 1 through April 15th
Summer Prices – Book April 16 through the end of summer.
2019 6 Day Camping trips with Lodge at put-in
- Fall Pricing - Before Nov 1 - Adult - $1649.00 Youth - $1299
- Winter Pricing - Nov 1-April 15 - Adult - $1799.00 Youth - $1399
- Summer Pricing - April 16 on - Adult - $1849.00 Youth - $1499
Trip Start Dates:
- June - 23-28 (Adults only - Big Water Trip)
- July - 1-6
- July - 9-14
- July - 17-22
- July - 25-30
- August - 2-7
- August - 10-15
- August - 18-23
- August - 26-31
- September - 3-8
2018 Fall Hiking and Trail Running focused trips - Adult only trips
- Adult - $1699
Trip Start Dates:
- Sept - 16-21
- Sept - 24-29
- Oct - 7-12
- Oct - 15-20
Youth Rate applies to anyone 17 years old and under.
Custom trips in June or Sept/October are available. Call for details.
Main Salmon – Grand Canyon of Idaho Trip Packing List
You will be able to leave your luggage and any unwanted items in our vehicle which will be shuttled around from the put-in to the takeout. Everything going downriver will go into the supplied dry bag. The dry bag (18″x36″), is about the size of a medium duffle. This is where all of your personal items for the trip will go, including your sleeping bag (on camping trips), so pack conservatively. When sealed correctly, they will not leak. However, if sealed incorrectly, they may let water in. We strongly suggest that all items of significant value, such as expensive jewelry, be left at home. We will also supply a day bag to store items like cameras for easy access during the day.
Also, when packing please remember this note from Salmon Air: Note from Salmon Air: “We ask that each customer come with no more than one medium- or two small-sized bags that weigh no more than a total of 35 lbs. Large hard-sided luggage will not fit.”
What to pack
On the River
- 2 or 3 swimsuits or shorts and top (cotton not recommended)
- Sports sandals or hard-soled wetsuit booties
- Synthetic paddling gloves
- Wide rimmed hat or ball cap (ball cap fits well under helmet)
- Polypro, synthetic or hydro-skin shirt (nice for mornings and chilly days)
- Water Bottle (1 liter) with carabiner
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Sunglasses with strap (consider bringing two pairs)
- OTT will supply wetsuits and splash-tops for chilly mornings
- 2 pair pants & shorts
- 3 shirts
- Fleece jacket or sweatshirt
- Light rain jacket
- Sleeping bag (synthetic material recommended - rated to 45F - not needed on all lodge trips)
- Sleeping pad (not needed on all lodge trips)
- Small towel
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Camera with extra film or memory cards and batteries
- A good book
- Personal hygiene items