Main Salmon River - Guide favorite rapids

The Main Salmon River in Idaho offers some of the most incredible whitewater in the United States. Known as the "River of No Return," it winds through the rugged landscape of the Frank Church Wilderness Area, mixing thrilling whitewater with interesting human history and breathtaking scenery. With six class IV rapids (at most flows) and well more than a dozen fun class III rapids the Main Salmon has enough action to keep any boater entertained while still being friendly at most flows for families and newer boaters.  Here are four of our favorite rapids.  This is not a list of the hardest or even the most exciting rapids of the Main Salmon, but rather the ones we love due to their general aesthetics, enjoyment of the moves in them, the big rolling waves or some combination of the above.  These are the rapids that put a smile on our face every time we get to the horizon line above them.

Black Creek Falls

Black Creek Rapids marks one of the first major challenges on the Main Salmon and is also one of the newer rapids.  Many of our guides remember when this rapid was formed and the pool behind it filled in the fun Salmon Falls. This is a Class IV rapid at most flows with reasonably simple moves but ones that require accuracy and involve running some BIG waves.  This rapid has a great horizon line, is in the bottom of a granite gorge, and includes a big vertical drop making it one of the most exciting rapids of the trip.

Split Rock

This is not a challenging rapid at all.  The chute down the middle is obvious and easy but at almost every level this rapid has some of the biggest standing waves on the river.  In an inflatable kayak this rapid is about as fun as any rapid in the west.  GIANT rolling waves allow an inflatable kayaker to almost completely ski jump their kayaks off the waves providing an exciting feeling of flying.  This rapid is all smiles, top to bottom.


The longest rapid on the river which arguably makes it one of the best.  At over a mile long this rapid just feels like it keeps going forever.  Unlike some of the Salmon River rapids, this rapid has some excitement at every water level.  At high water the upper section is filled with big waves leading down to the rivers biggest hole over the top of the Winnebago Rock. At lower water the rapid breaks down into multiple sections with different challenges ending by threading the needle between the retirement holes and the house sized Winnebago rock.  

Vinegar Creek – The Grandest of Finales

Vinegar Creek rapid is the last big rapid of the Main Salmon and makes for one of the best last rapids of any trip on the river.  With a horizon line that makes you feel like you are about to paddle off the edge of the world, this rapid is EXCITING.  Two big holes down the middle allow those looking for an adventure to find one while those looking for a very fun make doable line can easily thread the needle between holes and crash through the waves down river right.  This rapid is always an amazing ride and an incredible way to end a trip.

The ”River of No Return” Main Salmon is one of the premier river trips in the U.S.  The incredible whitewater is just one part of what makes this trip amazing, but it is an important part.  With so many incredible rapids, each day is filled with something exciting to satisfy that adrenaline rush that is an important part of any whitewater river trip.  Please consider joining us on one of our Salmon River trips.

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