As the seasons change, so does the Salmon river.
The experience of floating the river varies with the section of the Salmon River you choose to float and the time you choose to float. Lower Salmon, Main Salmon or the Middle Fork of the Salmon River all offer different features depending on when you plan on river rafting in Idaho.
Best time to raft the Salmon River, Spring through Fall…
|June - September||Late April - August||August - Mid October|
|Middle Fork of the Salmon River||Main Salmon River|
|Lower Salmon River
Greatest sense of wilderness backcountry – no people, spring flowers blooming…. read more.
All ages enjoy rafting on the Salmon River. Salmon River trips in Idaho can be very strenuous, or not at all – depending on what you make of it. We expect to provide an extra hand when needed, such as getting on or off the boats or carrying a heavy duffel bag. We also have the option of staying in lodges instead of camping on the Main Salmon River. We frequently have passengers in their 70s, and are able to take people with physical disabilities. Complete Rafting for all Ages Details.
Whitewater rafting trips and daily routine
We do not have a rigid river rafting schedule, but vary stops according to the interest of the group. We have breakfast about 7:30-8:00, get on the river about 9:30, stop on a sand bar for lunch and make camp on the river bank around 4:00-5:00. We may stop to look at old prospector’s cabins, pan gold, pick berries, fish, look at Indian pictographs, soak in hot springs, or scout a rapid. During July and August daytime temperatures are usually quite warm, and swimming is popular. We spend more time floating the Salmon River in late summer, as current speed slows, than in the faster water of July.
History, both human and natural, is an important part of a trip, especially on the Main Salmon River rafting trips. We make frequent stops at historical sites. You can browse through our “library” of books and maps to supplement informal discussions by boatmen.
Our white water rafting camping trips feature campsites on sand bars or grassy meadows at waters edge, often with a small stream flowing into the river. We carry portable toilets and fire pans and grates to avoid leaving fire scars in the camps. We carry folding chairs and dining tables, high-quality tents, and a large kitchen shelter in case of rain. Campsites are remarkably clean and litter-free, and we make every effort to keep them so. We do not share campsites with other groups except in an emergency. Complete Idaho Riverside Camping Details
Because our boatmen take care of kitchen chores, inexperienced campers can have as much fun as old hands. Meals are carefully prepared over an open fire in traditional western manner. Dutch ovens supply fresh baked biscuits, cakes, and cobblers. Thick steaks and chops are grilled over the coals. Well insulated ice chests enable us to carry plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. We can modify our menu to accommodate special diets, if given sufficient notice. Dishwater is hot, Cloroxed, and double-rinsed. Most of our clients are surprised and impressed by our meals. Complete Idaho Riverside Meals Details.
Boats used for Salmon River whitewater rafting
Our boats are multi-chambered, inflatable, oar-powered rafts designed for whitewater. We have a licensed boatman and usually four passengers in each boat. For those who want to participate in the boat-handling, we take a paddle boat on most Middle Fork of Salmon River trips, depending on water conditions and interest of the group. On these boats, each person uses a canoe paddle, with a licensed boatman calling the strokes. This offers maximum contact with the water, excitement and teamwork. On Middle Fork River trips we use a sweep boat to carry camp gear and supplies, which travels ahead to start setting up camp. We sometimes bring inflatable kayaks or paddle boats on the Main Salmon, depending on interest and experience of the group. On our fall steelhead trips, we use rigid McKenzie fishing boats, while an inflatable camp boat travels ahead. We can also use the McKenzie drift boats or small, two passenger rubber boats on the Middle Fork for fishing, on special request.
We furnish tents, life jackets, waterproof duffel and day bags, camera boxes and basic first aid equipment on your Salmon River rafting trip. We use two-person tents, which have floors and mosquito netting, (although mosquitoes are seldom around). We furnish self-inflating sealed foam sleeping pads. A check list of suggested personal items is furnished with your Salmon River rafting trip confirmation. Click here for a suggested list of what to wear and bring on your white water river rafting trip.
Salmon River rafting group size
Group size on Middle Fork, Main Salmon, and Lower Salmon trips are limited to 24 passengers by regulation. On the Middle Fork and Main Salmon, number of groups starting each day is limited. Many of our peak-season Middle Fork of Salmon River trips fill, so early reservations to hold space are a good idea. Beginning and end of season groups are smaller, and charter trips can be arranged. Most of our Main Salmon River Rafting trips are groups of 8-15 passengers, which we assemble, plus crew, traveling in 2-4 boats. Many of our floaters are couples and families. We can set up a charter river rafting trip on the Main Salmon, in which you travel and camp only with your companions. On this type of trip we can modify our routine, including length of trip. We must have a minimum of twelve people for a charter trip. Larger parties can be accommodated if requested, up to two dozen people. Seminar and conference trips can be arranged. The number of people seen outside our party varies with the time of year. Salmon River travel is very light during April and May. Most days you will not see another group, and you might not see another group for the whole trip. During June, July and August other parties will begin Salmon River rafting trips the same day we do, and we will occasionally pass these groups. Salmon River rafting use thins again around Labor Day. Salmon River rafting traffic on the Main Salmon is less than on the more publicized rivers. Much of the human activity can be avoided by floating in the spring or fall. These are off-season times and can be the best trips of all. The Lower Salmon River is “undiscovered,” one of the least-traveled of the major float rivers. We may not see another party during a day’s float on our September Salmon River rafting trip.
Forest Service regulations limit space and trip frequency on the Middle Fork and Main Salmon. We can begin a trip only once every eight days, with a limit of 24 passengers. Especially in the peak period of July and early August, space may not be available on short notice. For private, charter trips, fall is a good time to reserve for the following summer, to have best selection of date. This year, two of our Middle Fork trips were fully reserved by charter trips last fall. Other dates received a few reservations in the fall which prevented those dates from being chartered.
On the other hand, not all trips fill, and there is often space for a few additions within a few days of trip departure, especially early and late in the season. Most reservations are made several months ahead. While last-minute vacation opportunities do arise, most last-minute decisions are the reverse–“something came up at work, can’t leave just now”. It is best to make a vacation plan early, and plan other activities around it–if you really want a vacation.
Day trips, either fishing or floating, can be more spontaneous. We like to have a few days to plan for scenic floats. Steelhead fishing space is limited, though we often get short-notice reservations. Fishing in late October and early November is reliable enough to reserve several weeks ahead to hold prime dates, but later in the fall and in the spring arrangements need to match river conditions, and tend to be short-notice.
Meeting place and transportation varies depending on the Salmon River Trips of your choice. Click Here for Meeting Place & Transportation Details General Overview
Salmon River whitewater rafting reservations are secured by a deposit of 25% of trip fee. Deposits are not refundable. Balance is due and non-refundable 30 days before the river trip. Click here for Cancellation & Payment Policy Details