Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here's a way to beat the heat and avoid the smoke: Cool off in the Salmon River

Jim Lafferty runs Split Rock Rapids between the two big mollars 
Putting on the sunscreen to start the river day ... Blackadar Camp 
My boys Drew and Quinn love the Salmon River ...
Quinn's friend Dakota is in the background ... 

Dakota and Quinn found a great cliff-jumping rock
at Swimming Hole campsite. 
Sun tarps help create shade next to the water's edge ... 
Shade is premium on a hot afternoon on the Salmon River. This is California Bar. 
If you're lucky, you might see some bighorn sheep!  
Black Creek Rapids ... left-hand run was smooth but steep 
Buckskin Bill's little castle 
Hi all, 

We just returned from a 7-day trip on the famed Main Salmon - River of No Return section in Central Idaho. I heartily recommend cooling off in the Salmon River this summer to beat the heat and to avoid the smoke from wildfires burning in the Garden Valley area and elsewhere in the region.  

Who go? The Main Salmon is arguably one of the best family wilderness whitewater vacations in America. And it's located right here in our home state in Central Idaho. You camp on spacious beaches with lots of shade afforded by tall stately ponderosa pine trees. You get to play on the river during the day, and then you can set up the volleyball net on the beach, play bocce ball, hang out and enjoy the scenery, and more. Plus, there's hot springs, history, and Buckskin Bill's, where you can buy fresh ice cream for your kids.

River trips are one of the cushiest forms of camping you can imagine. Instead of hauling all of your food and clothes on your back such as in backpacking, the raft carries all the weight. You can bring iced coolers with just about any food items you want, plus you can carry plenty of favorite beverages for the kids and adults.

As you're enjoying the float trip during the week, the members of your floating party bond and get to know each other on a much more personal basis. You will make lifelong friends on the river. And you will fall in love with the river canyon. 

The Main Salmon is best suited for families and intermediate boaters because the rapids are not as hard to navigate as they are on more technically challenging rivers. Follow an experienced boater down the river, and you'll learn a ton. But once you learn how to run a boat, you'll want one of your own. 

For the do-it-yourself boating community, the hardest part of getting on the Main Salmon River is drawing a permit. A friend of ours drew a permit for our group for this year's trip. You could still score a permit for this summer by picking up a cancelation on Check the site several times a day for the best results. 

The second way to book a river trip is to go with an outfitter. Idaho is blessed with a multitude of quality outfitters. As longtime businesses operated on Idaho's best rivers, the outfitters receive an allocation of permits for their trips. So you don't need to draw a permit to go with them. You just have to pay the trip fee, which is usually about $1,500 per person. Go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, and shop for an outfitted river trip. 

Another option is to float the Lower Salmon River below Whitebird to Hells Canyon. This section of river is a great trip for kids and families, and nothing more than a self-issue permit is needed. This is a 4- or 5-day trip, depending on how fast you want to go.

A trip on the Salmon River - River of No Return should be on the bucket list of every outdoorsy Idahoan. If you haven't done that yet, look for opportunities to experience this trip-of-a-lifetime. 
- SS

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