The Grand Canyon of the Salmon River

Sunrise on the Salmon River

The Grand Canyon of the Salmon River, also known as, “the River of no return” or the Main Salmon, is one of the premier river adventures in the United States. Here is a list of just a few of the reasons we absolutely love the Salmon.

7 Incredible things about the Main Salmon.

  1. Journey into the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

When traveling on the Main Salmon River groups float from one side to the other of the largest continuous wilderness in the Lower 48, The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness which is 2.367 million acres essentially taking up the entirety of the middle of the state of Idaho.

To understand how incredible this is it is helpful to review the definition of wilderness in the original 1964 act wilderness act:

“In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States…leaving no lands for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared that to be the policy of Congress to secure for the American people an enduring system of wilderness…A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

This journey takes you deep into one of the last large wild places in our country and one that has been protected for as long as any other, ensuring the experience is something you simply do not get anywhere else.


2. Wildlife

On the Salmon we regularly see Deer, eagles, otters, Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, black bear and even the occasional moose.  Both Elk and wolves are in the area but rarely seen. This is not a zoo but rather a chance to take in this wildlife in a place where it is home and we are visitors. For those who have never seen some of this big game in the wild, it is an experience one does not soon forget.

Bald Eagle on the Main Salmon

3. Escape light pollution

When was the last time you really saw the night sky?  Do your kids know how to spot a satellite or have they experienced the joy of watching a shooting star? Growing evidence is mounting on the harms of artificial light to human health with links to increased risks of obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.  You can learn more about this here: https://www.darksky.org/light-pollution/human-health/

As you can see from this photo – the impacts of light pollution are hard to notice when you live in them, but with this contrast you can get a glimpse at what you are missing.

Photo taken during a 2003 blackout in the North East leaving 55 million people without power. Photo taken by Todd Carlson.

Come out to the Salmon and see the sky in a way you can only do in the wild places of the U.S.

Photo taken on one of our river trips

4. Hot springs

Barth Hotsprings is simply one of the best hot springs in Idaho and arguably anywhere.  A deep and clean pool with water the perfect temp and one heck of a view. It is worth going on the Main Salmon just for this.

Barth Hotsprings on the Main Salmon

5. Float through the 2nd deepest canyon in the lower 48 states.

Being roughly 7000 ft deep, deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, the Salmon River canyon is the second deepest canyon in the lower 48 states, second only to nearby Hells Canyon. The Salmon River canyon is known less for vertical walls and more for the overall grandeur of the place and diversity which exists within its massive boundaries. This is a place where a person inherently begins to contemplate their own size within a place so large.

Looking down over part of the Salmon River canyon.

6. Physically experience history of the American west.

It is one thing to read about American history and it is another to hear the stories as you walk amongst the places they happened. When you talk about the hardships of homesteading as you walk amongst the cabins the homesteaders lived in, you and your kids gain a unique insight into the lives of those who came before. When you discuss indigenous people, it means something different when you stand on the river bars where they lived thousands of years ago or are looking at the drawings they left on the rocks from well before America was discovered by Columbus. Being in these places and hearing their stories is something you simply can’t match without being here.

One of the numerous spots where we see signs of indigenous life in the canyon dating back thousands of years.

Things you will see:

  • The point where Lewis and Clark abandoned the Salmon River as their path west, and when you look down the canyon you will probably agree it was a good idea.
  • Homesteads from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Walk amongst the remaining cabins and enjoy fruit from the now feral orchards.
  • Native American pictographs and village sites dating back 1000’s of years
  • Explore and experience the homes of some of the last western mountain men.

7. All this mixed with incredible whitewater, great camping, and some fun hiking opportunities.

The Grand Canyon of the Salmon is filled with exciting class II, III and even IV whitewater. This trip, while exciting enough for the most experienced river runner is still a great trip for kids as young as five at most summer river levels. The camping is often on large sandy beaches and many camps or lunch spots have hiking opportunities right from camp. Essentially this trip has it all so don’t miss your chance to come experience it!

Running rapids on the Main Salmon

Book your trip on the Grand Canyon of the Salmon Today – As one of the most protected river corridors in the country, space is very limited!

LEARN MORE HERE