The BEST of both worlds. Enjoy the magic of both the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the Main Salmon Rivers, combined into one trip. Starting in the high Alpine forest, you will travel down over 4000 feet in elevation on your journey through the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness. Over the course of 186 miles, the river will grow in size as you pass by side streams and creeks that add to the flow. The nature of the river will transform from a small and very busy tributary, into a languid pool and drop, high volume main stem river. The ecology will diversify as you drop in altitude, becoming more robust and lush, the further downstream you travel.
The best way to truly immerse yourself in the wilderness is to go for an extended amount of time. It’s an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones. 12 days allows you to get into the rhythm of the place, moving as a tribe downriver. Your body engages in the circadian rhythm, rising with the sun and setting with the sun. Your brain welcomes the lack of screen stimulus and embraces the abundance of natural stimuli. Creativity abounds as you are able to relax into the pace of the earth. Traveling by river is a unique journey in time, where everything slows down yet the trip goes by way too fast.
Central Idaho rests on top of a subduction zone and is therefore gifted with natural geothermal hot springs. Relax your sore muscles in mother nature’s own therapeutic hot springs pools. Then take a cold plunge in the river to revitalize your skin. Nutrient-rich mud allows for a great skin scrub and the leaves of the state flower Syringa can be used to lather up and wash yourself down in an “all-natural” way. Big sandy beaches make for wonderful camping, fabulous game playing, and relaxing naps. Or perhaps you are excited to layout for a sunbath? There are options for everyone.
The Middle Fork of the Salmon boasts some of the best trout fishing in the west. Each day you will encounter deep pools and bubbling side streams, loaded with Cutthroat, Rainbow and Bull trout. As you journey downstream the volume increases, the pools get deeper and the trout get bigger. Once you join the Main Salmon, the variety of fish expands to smallmouth bass, mountain whitefish, *steelhead, and *sturgeon (*fishable only in season). The Middle Fork is a Catch and Release river with mandatory single barbless hooks. The Bull trout also know as the Dolly Varden, is an endangered fish and catch & release practices help protect it from going extinct. More about Fishing
There is no shortage of whitewater in the Salmon River watershed. The beauty of doing a combo trip is that you get to experience both rivers’ style of whitewater. You begin the trip with continuous, low volume rapids on the Middle Fork that grow in size as more volume is added. The last day of whitewater on the Middle Fork mimics the pool and drop nature of the Mainstem of the Salmon River, the Mama river. Once you turn the corner onto the Main Salmon, the volume doubles immediately and then continues to grow every day. The rapids become larger, with big fun waves and big pools at the bottom. The yeehaw factor only increases as you move downstream.
The Salmon River watershed is 425 miles of free-flowing river, a unique thing in today’s age of dams. There was a small dam at one point, on the upper reaches of the Main Salmon near Stanley Idaho, but it was breached in order to help protect the native Salmon. Mans’ plight to create power and control water has changed the face of our rivers. To be able to float a free-flowing river is a special thing. The entire watershed of the Salmon River is dam free until it becomes a tributary itself to the Snake River. The Snake River has numerous dams, four of which are highly controversial and up for possible removal in order to help save the wild Salmon (fish).
Humans have been calling the Salmon River watershed their home for over 10,000 years. Native peoples inhabited the area as migratory tribes until the late 1800s’ when the miners moved in. The Shoshone Bannock and the Nez Perce were the primary tribes in the area. Living off of the land they were hunter-gatherers and had a strong respect and connection to the place. In the mid to late 1800s’ miners and fur trappers discovered the Salmon River drainage and began exploring it for precious metals and animal hides. The rivers became a mode of travel through the rugged wilderness. The unique vessel called the Sweep Boat (that is still used today), originated during the mining era to haul heavy gear and lumber down the river to towns and mining camps.
The Salmon River lies in the middle of the Frank Church Wilderness in central Idaho. The wilderness is a roadless area that encompasses 2.3 million acres in mountainous geography. This allows for an amazing variety of wildlife from elk, moose, and deer to wolves, cougars, and bobcats. Bighorn sheep travel in groups along the shore. There are small creatures like fox, jackrabbits, and squirrels as well as an assortment of harmless snakes like Bull snakes and Gardner Snakes. It’s a popular migratory path for a large variety of birds and is an estuary for Bald Eagles.
Canyons offers a multitude of crafts to engage all levels of river runners, from first-timers to Class V kayakers. On every trip, we bring a fleet of inflatable kayaks (duckies), a paddle raft and some oar rafts. You can choose your own adventure with a duckie, you can join the social boat (our paddle raft) to be active but not in control of the craft. And you can kick back on an oar raft and take in the scenery. If you are a whitewater kayaker or canoeist, with class III+ IV whitewater experience and a proficient roll, we are stoked to host you. On the second half of the trip, the Main Salmon, we also bring along a Stand Up Paddle Board. We also happily host rafters in their own raft if you have comparable skill and can get your raft to the river
The human influence in this region has left hundreds of miles of trails. Many of these trails follow the river and traverse the hillsides leading away from the river. There is a trail that accompanies the river for 90% of the journey. There are ample opportunities to hike up side streams, walk along the river or zig-zag up a ridge. The vegetation is not typically very dense, so the avid adventurer can go for a bushwhack anywhere and discover vistas on their own. There are remnants of old mining compounds to explore, hot springs to journey too and beautiful scenery to enjoy. The Frank Church Wilderness has plenty to offer.