You can reserve space on a river trip with us by phone (208-634-4303) or through our website. A non-refundable deposit of $500/per person is due at the time you make your reservation; Visa, MC, and Discover are accepted or you can let us know if you prefer to mail a check (PO Box 823 / McCall, ID / 83638). We’ll email you an invoice/receipt and welcome letter to confirm your reservation, along with a complete informational packet to help you plan, prepare and pack for your trip. The final remaining balance is due, in full, 120 days prior to your trip and is non-refundable (see our Dates & Rates page for full cancellation policy details).
As allowed by the US Forest Service, our trips can have up to 24 guests and 6 guides. Most of our peak season trips do fill to capacity, while some shoulder season dates may have fewer guests and guides.
Typical mid to late June weather is low 70’s during the day and 40’s at night, but guests should be prepared with warm clothing if the weather turns inclement. Early June can be quite cool with a greater chance of inclement weather, particularly on the Middle Fork, whose put-in elevation sits at just over 6,000 ft. compared to 3,000 ft. on the Main Salmon. In July and early to mid-August, daytime temperatures typically reach into the 80’s to upper 90’s and dip down to the ’50s at night. Late August and September usually see sunny days but cooler nights. Atypical, but possible, is snow in June, 100-degree days in August, and chilly rains in September.
The time of summer you choose to take your trip makes a big difference in your experience in this regard. The Middle Fork and Main Salmon rivers are undammed, free-flowing rivers that are fed from snowmelt. Some folks prefer the exciting high water of early June, while others want a more moderate level in mid-summer or a mellower float in late summer. The difficulty of both rivers is rated Class III to IV on the international scale of I to VI. (Class I is moving flatwater and Class VI is almost impossible without serious consequences). Water temperatures range from the mid-’40s on the cold, clear Middle Fork in June, to the upper 50’s in early August. Water temperatures on the Main Salmon typically run about 10 to 15 degrees warmer.
You don’t need any special clothing, gear or equipment (with the exception of hardshell kayakers and canoeists, who must bring their personal paddling gear such as helmet, PFD, spray skirt and paddle. Read more on this here: Boats). Most of the essentials for your trip are probably already in your closet. Once you have made your reservation, we will provide you with a complete checklist of what we suggest you pack (also available here: What to Bring). We’ll provide a large waterproof bag for your clothes and sleeping bag, as well as a smaller waterproof bag for day-use items that you can access easily during the day as you float downstream, such as camera, sunscreen, raincoat and rain pants, fleece, hiking shoes, etc. We provide roomy tents, 2″ thick sleeping pads, camp chairs, personal water bottles (yours to keep after your trip), type V life jackets, helmets, and farmer-john style wetsuits for rafters and inflatable kayakers.
You can choose the standard “Flight Option”, where you get yourself to Boise, Idaho and we arrange a backcountry flight to get you from Boise to the river on the first morning of the trip, and then back to Boise on the last day of the trip. Or, you can opt to do the “Drive Option”, where you drive (your own vehicle or a rental). For the most part, those doing the Middle Fork will drive to Stanley, Idaho the day before your trip starts, and have your vehicle shuttled to Salmon, Idaho. Those doing the Main Salmon will drive to Salmon, Idaho the day before your trip begins, and have your vehicle shuttled to McCall, Idaho. See “Accommodations & Other Services” for a list of shuttle companies. Other variations from these two standard options are available; feel free to call us to discuss your plans.
As classified “Wild & Scenic” rivers, all solid human waste must be carried out on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon rivers. When we reach camp each evening, we set up a private Porta-potty (also known as the ‘Groover’) that is accessible yet well away from camp, with toilet paper, a hand-wash station and a trash can for feminine products. The river’s edge provides plenty of large boulders for privacy while urinating. Women may want to bring small ziplock bags with them on the river during the day, to carry feminine products and handi-wipes before we get to camp, and to dispose of them in the garbage.
Soap (even the biodegradable kind!) is not permitted in the river or in the hot springs. You can get wet in the river or hot springs, then use our buckets to rinse the soap up above the beach or high water mark. Some guests choose to bring a camping-style solar shower. Shampoo and toothpaste are also not permitted in the river.
It’s your vacation….you get to choose how you get down the river each day! You can opt to kick back and enjoy the ride on one of the oar rafts which are rowed by our experienced guides. You can jump in a paddle raft for the day and paddle as a team with a guide and up to 7 other guests. Or you can go for it, by choosing the active independence of an inflatable kayak! Most folks try all three of these options and switch around from day to day. For those guests with the appropriate skill level and experience (reliable roll and solid Class III-IV, depending on which river and water level), we offer the use of one of our hard-shell kayaks or canoes at no extra charge (reserve in advance).
We ask our hard-shell kayakers and canoeists to come prepared to paddle full time but we realize there are instances, such as fatigue or that old trick elbow acting up again, that might require you to take a break. In this case, we can strap your kayak or canoe to one of the oar rafts or sweep boat until you’re ready to jump back in.
No, Canyons provides these to cover all watercraft on our trips. Your boat does need to be clean, drained and dry, however, at the launch site and will be inspected. If you are bringing your own watercraft on a Canyons trip, please review the screening protocol here: Invasive Species
On the Middle Fork, we’ll camp on big forested “benches” that sit up above the river slightly, surrounded by ponderosa pines and granite cliff walls. On the Main Salmon, large sandy beaches surrounded by side creeks and thick forests are the norm. We set up a kitchen area and serving table, drink area, and social area or “living room” complete with a library, game box, and drink cooler. We encourage our guests to explore and choose their own tent sites, though many guests choose to sleep out under the brilliant star-studded sky. The “Groover”, or restroom, is usually set up near the river or on the natural outer perimeter of the camp, in a secluded spot. Still anxious? Check out this video: The Groover
On the river, kids are free to rotate among the three boat options mentioned above, at the discretion of your guides. In camp, it’s a kid’s paradise, with beaches, forests, side-streams, and trails to explore! We bring along camp games, such as bocce ball, for kids and adults alike to enjoy.
You may encounter mosquitoes or no-see-ums on the Middle Fork in June and early July; pants and long-sleeved shirts will help in camp, but you may want to bring a small bottle of repellent. On the Main Salmon, you’re more likely to encounter yellow-jackets during meal times at camp which just require a bit of patience. Those who experience allergic reactions to bee stings should note this on the registration form medical information section, and carry an EpiPen.
There is no cell reception or wi-fi on these remote wilderness rivers; we encourage you to embrace this break from modern technology and enjoy the peace and solitude the river canyon offers. Unplug, recharge, connect….the old-fashioned way!
If you are staying at a hotel in Boise before and after your river trip, you should be able to store most of your things with their front desk personnel; we suggest you check with them when making your lodging reservations. Folks who are not beginning and ending their trip in Boise will want to store their things safely away in their vehicle. The luggage that you arrive with at the river put in, will either be stored with Rick, our driver and delivered to you on the last day of your trip at the takeout; or it will be stored away (in a dry bag) on one of the oar rafts for the duration of your trip. Due to storage space constraints, we ask that you bring only duffel bags or soft-sided luggage…no suitcases, wheeled luggage or external frame packs, please.
In this remote setting, it is very difficult for our office to communicate a message to your group while you are on the river. If there is an emergency back home that requires you to be reached immediately, our office phone is the best point of contact (208-634-4303). If required, and if possible, we may employ a jet boat or a charter flight into the wilderness to reach you; please realize there are costs associated with this that are not included in your trip price. We do carry a satellite phone on our trips, which may be used by the guides only if there is an emergency on the river.
No. We conduct our orientation at the put in on the first morning of your trip. Your guides will introduce you to the in’s and out’s of river life.
Gratuities are at your discretion, of course, but are always appreciated by your hard-working team of professional guides! During your time on the river, your guides serve many roles: river professionals, chefs, historians, naturalists, hiking guides, storytellers…. and the list goes on. These folks work long and hard each day to provide you with an exceptional experience. If you feel your crew did an outstanding job and you wish to thank them, a gratuity (for a 6-day trip) of between $300-$450 per guest is customary. You can give it to your Trip Leader, to be split evenly amongst your guides. Cash or a check can be made out to your Trip Leader, please not to Canyons. As an example, a typical gratuity for a couple on a 6-day trip is $600-$900, and for a family of four (4) on a 6-day trip is $1200-$1800. Guests doing a 12-day Combo trip will likely want to double that amount.