Main Salmon River Rafting

About This Trip

There is a green hole in the middle of Idaho. A spot that is refreshingly empty on your highway map. A place where pavement never was…and wild rivers still are…raw country, 20,000 square miles of it, and right through the middle runs the Salmon River- The River of No Return.
Cutting the second deepest canyon in North America, the Salmon River is a clear mountain river with pine forests and white sandy beaches. The canyon abounds in deserted homesteads and, of special interest to river travelers, natural hot springs: aah…feels good. One crowd appreciates this road-less country even more than us. Deer, bighorn sheep, moose, birds of prey, elk and the frolicking river otter call this refuge home.
Translucent emerald water, responding to the drop and irregularities of the river bottom, form over forty rapids. That means you have first class whitewater on each day of the trip.


In a state that’s second only to Alaska in designated wilderness areas, getting from point “A” to point “B” can take some doing. That’s why one of the transportation options is a scenic charter flight from Boise to Salmon, Idaho – gateway to our river put-in. Ninety-two life-changing river miles later we will return you to civilization in McCall.

One of the advantages of a river trip is the flexibility of the daily itinerary. It can vary widely from one trip to the next based on group desires, Mother Nature and courtesy for other groups on the river. This typical itinerary illustrates a five-day trip on the Main Salmon River. Our 6-day Main Salmon trip follows this general itinerary.

Day One: 
Meet group at the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon, Idaho. We take a bus and enjoy a scenic 2-hour drive to Corn Creek, our launch site. We stop at the North Fork store en route to the river to pick up any last minute supplies such as fishing licenses, lures, beer and wine. The first day on the river we run Gunbarrel, Ranier and Devil’s Teeth rapids.

Day Two: 
We may enjoy a short hike up Chamberlain Creek. After the exhilarating rapids of Black Canyon, we stop and soak our bodies in Barth Hot Springs, a natural hot spring which flows into the Salmon River.

Day Three: 
This is our most exciting rapid day. We run Bailey Falls, Split Rock, Big Mallard and Elk Horn to name a few. A stop at Jim Moore’s place is usually included on this day. Jim Moore came to the Salmon River from Kentucky around the turn of the century and lived a colorful life until 1942. The log buildings he constructed were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

Day Four:
After a visit to Buckskin Bill’s homestead (Buckskin was the last of the Mountain Men) we will run Jackson and Ludwig rapids. Later we float past the confluence with the South Fork of the Salmon River.

Day Five:
We’ll run Vinegar & Chittam Creek rapids before enjoying lunch and taking out at the end of the trip. There is a bus ride back to McCall Idaho. Vehicles that were shuttled will be waiting at Carey Creek.

If you are on a 6 day Main Salmon trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this 5-day. However with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, it will take a bit longer to travel the winding river-channel and as such extend your journey by a day.  This 6 day trip will start and finish from the same locations as the 5-day and simply give you one more day to relax away from your smart phone.


As mentioned earlier, this is a sample itinerary and should not be thought of as the trip you will experience. It is intended to give an idea of what the trip will be like. It could also be exactly what you do. Keep an open mind, be flexible, go with the flow, and enjoy!

We meet for your trip in Salmon, Idaho at the Stagecoach Inn, 7:00 a.m. (Mountain Time) the morning your trip begins. It is imperative that you attend our pre-trip orientation the night before your trip at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). Guests are responsible for their travel arrangements to Salmon.*(Please see our “Getting Here” section for details on travel options to Salmon.)

When you arrive in Salmon the day before your trip, there will be a pre-trip orientation meeting at the Stagecoach Inn at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). A Holiday representative will give you a short orientation on all aspects of river travel. At this time we will issue your waterproof bags, answer any questions you may have, and finalize your departure time for the morning of your trip.

Beginning of the trip: On the morning of your trip, plan to arrive promptly at the pre-determined time established at the pre-trip orientation meeting. You will then take a 2-hour scenic drive to the embarkation point. The bus will stop at North Fork en route to the Salmon River, so that you can buy a fishing license, beer and any other last minute items.

After the trip: We will leave the river just upstream of Riggins, Idaho. We can provide transportation back to McCall, Idaho.  If you have flown to Salmon from Boise then you will want to fly from McCall back to Boise with GEM AIR (208-756-7382). We recommend you stay another night in Boise and fly out the next day to avoid complications in flight connections after the trip. Guests who opted to have their vehicles shuttled can depart from Carey Creek at about 1:30 p.m.

Medical Emergencies: Our guides are trained in first‑aid and carry first aid supplies only. REMEMBER to bring your own prescription medicines. ALERT our guides to any medical problems you might have such as diabetes or allergic reactions. Wilderness expeditions are a long way from hospitals, doctors, and pain-relieving medicines. Evacuations to modern medical care are uncertain, and protracted. In case of evacuation and/or medical treatment beyond first aid, expenses incurred are the responsibility of the participant.

Cancellation Policy: If cancellations are made prior to 90 days before the trip, monies will be refunded less a $50.00 service charge per person. If cancellations are made within 90 days and outside of 45 days of the trip date monies will be refunded less a $100.00 service charge per person. Cancellations made within 45 days of the trip date are non refundable. Prior to 45 days to the trip date we will transfer reservations to another trip in the same year with a $25.00 service charge per person. All policies will be enforced and we strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance. Cancellation of a trip is very unlikely, but we reserve the right to cancel any trip due to river or weather conditions or the lack of sufficient reservations. A full refund will be made if such is the case.

Insurance: Medical Evacuation and cancellation insurance on a vacation plan can be obtained from numerous insurance companies. You should be aware that medical evacuations in the backcountry can easily cost $10,000 and up.  You are responsible for these potential expenses and we strongly encourage all guests to have this coverage. We offer plans by TRAVEL GUARD that cover evacuation, baggage and cancellation claims. It is available to American and Canadian citizens, as well as citizens of another country as long as you have a U.S. address. For a quote or questions give us a call or include Your Names, Birth Dates in an Email and we will send a quote.  Also, if you are bringing expensive cameras, binoculars, or other items we suggest you have insurance coverage for them (commonly available through Homeowners Policies). In the event of a loss, our insurance will not cover those items.

Tipping the guides: If you feel the guides have been instrumental in your enjoyment of the trip, you may choose to direct a gratuity to the trip leader in the form of cash or check.  He/She will then distribute it evenly to the other crewmembers.  The average contribution amount ranges between $20.00 and $30.00 per guest, per day. Cash is the preferred method of tipping.

Beverages: We provide ice water, lemonade, fruit juices, one soda per day per person and ample cooler space. If you choose to bring any specialty sodas and/or alcoholic beverages, we have no problem taking whatever you want to bring – within reason. We will make a stop in North Fork, where you will have the opportunity to purchase beer, wine and liquor. You cannot buy liquor, however, on Sunday departures. Don’t buy beer, wine coolers or sodas in glass containers. Wine packaged in a box is ideal.  Mark beverages that you bring so they are packed on your boat.

If you have any questions prior to leaving for your trip, we welcome you to call our Salt Lake City office Monday through Friday at 800-624-6323 (outside Utah) or 801-266-2087 (inside Utah). We’re happy to take the time to answer your questions. You may also contact us by email at [email protected]


Salmon River Weather: In May, early June and September, temperatures average between 55 and 80 degrees during the day and 40 to 60 degrees at night. In late June, July and August the daytime temperatures are 80 to 90 degrees, with nighttime temperatures 50 to 60 degrees. A thunderstorm or rainy day can happen and can cool temperatures considerably. With this in mind we recommend you have a rain suit, long underwear, (fleece top and pants are nice in cool weather too) and a light tent. If you reserved a rental unit with us when you booked your river trip, we will have a tent and rain gear for you.

Bugs, snakes, etc. are generally no problem. In fact, the lack of pesky insects is one of the reasons wilderness camping on the river is so pleasant. Any river trip, however, is subject to a localized insect hatch. Sometimes bees will be about, so make sure you have appropriate allergy medications with you. We rarely see any snakes, but if the thought of them bothers you, try sleeping on the beaches or in a tent instead of rocky or bushy areas.

Fishing: You will need an Idaho fishing license. A nonresident license is approximately $12.75 for the first day and $6.00 for each additional day. Junior fishing licenses are also available for children 14-17 years of age ($21.75/season). The best fishing is in July, August, and September. Lures such as Mepps, Panther Martins and Rooster Tails do well in the main stream while fly-fishing is good on the side streams. You will have the opportunity to purchase a fishing license in Boise, or North Fork en route to the Salmon River. If you would like to obtain more information or secure your license in advance contact: Idaho Fish and Game online or call 800-554-8685

Hiking is a highlight of the trip, however, it is strictly an optional activity. There are many interesting short hikes available. Hiking can be done in durable sneakers or lightweight hiking boots. Remember that hiking and other activities vary widely pending time, and what other plans are ahead for the day on the river.

Things to see in the area: In and around Boise: Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Canyon Country Historical Museum, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, Eagle Island State Park, Idaho Botanical Garden, Idaho Historical Museum, Julia Davis Park, Lake Lowell, Lucy Peak State Park, Silver City, Snake River Birds of Prey, Warm Springs Resort. In and around Salmon: The Lewis & Clark and The Nez Perce National Historic Trails, Gold Bug Hot Springs, Ghost Towns and Sacajewea Center

Reading material, you may enjoy:


River of No Return – Carrey & Conley………………………………………………. $15.95

River of No Return can be ordered online at, or by sending the appropriate amount listed above plus $5.60 priority shipping to Holiday River Expeditions, 544 East 3900 South, SLC, UT 84107. This is available within the U.S. only. If outside the U.S. additional shipping and handling charges will be added. You can call 801-266-2087 for rates.

There are two transportation options to choose from.

  1. If you are driving, you can drive right to Salmon, Idaho either by personal car or rental car from Boise, Idaho Falls, or Missoula airports, and arrange to have your car shuttled to the take out of your trip. To arrange a car shuttle if you are meeting in Salmon, please contact River Shuttles (208-756-4188). If you are using River Shuttles, have them shuttle your vehicle to Carry Creek.  Also note, River Shuttles is only permitted to drive Hertz Rental Cars.
  2. If you are flying, you can fly into Boise, Idaho and then take a commuter flight directly to Salmon, Idaho the day before your trip begins.  You can contact GEM AIR (208-756-7382) to reserve your flight. Flights are approximately $220 per person (round trip $360 – see “After the trip”).  When you arrive in Salmon, the hotel van will pick you up at the airport. If you need assistance with your travel arrangements, please ask your Holiday River Expedition reservation agent.

Lodging in Salmon, Idaho before your trip can be booked at:
Stagecoach Inn Motel  208-756-2919 (free airport shuttle, continental breakfast, riverside rooms, outdoor pool) This should be your first choice because we meet for your trip here.

Lodging in Boise after your trip can be booked at:
SpringHill Suites Marriott 208-433-5133 Monday-Friday, daytime or 208-342-1044 evenings, weekends & if no answer on previous number. (Free shuttle service to and from the airport-call 208-342-1044 upon arrival, complimentary breakfast buffet, outdoor pool, high speed wireless internet, *discount for Holiday Guests).

*When you call to make advance reservations at the SpringHill Suites, mention that you are on a Holiday River Expedition trip and you will be extended a discounted rate on your room.


If you are camping out, there are three campgrounds in and around Salmon: Salmon Meadows Campground & RV Park (208-756-2640), Salmon River RV Park (208-894-4549), and North Fork Motel & Campground (888-432-0240).

Idaho Rivers – Boise, Idaho

Air Service to Boise (BOI)

Rental Cars

Once in Boise most of our guests rent-a-car and drive to our meeting point in Salmon, Idaho. All rental cars are located at the Gowen Field Airport.

Boise to Salmon 250 miles

GEM AIR  provides flights from Boise to Salmon, Idaho. Flights are available at any time for any number of people from 1 to 25. Call (208)-756-7382

Other destinations you can travel to Salmon, Idaho from:
Missoula, Montana to Salmon 140 miles
Idaho Falls, Idaho to Salmon 161 miles

River Shuttle Service:

River Shuttles 208-756-4188
Central Idaho River Shuttles 208-507-1830

Trip Overview

Location: Salmon River – River of No Return
Type: Rafting
Length: 5 and 6 Days
Dates: June – September
Meet At: Salmon, ID 7:00 am
Rating: Intermediate
Age Min: 8
Deposit: $300

Trip Prices

Adult – $1,430,
Youth – $1,290 (18 & under)
Senior – $1,290 (65 & over)
Group – $1,290 (10 or more)

Adult – $1,515
Youth – $1,370 (18 & under)
Senior – $1,370 (65 & over)
Group – $1,370 (10 or more)

$20 or $24 Forest Service fee
Does not include transportation

Departure Dates

2017 Trip Schedule

5 Day Trip Dates

June 15, 22, 30
July 8, 16, 24

6 Day Trip Dates

August 1, 9, 17, 25
September 2, 10

Check Availability

What’s Included

Life Jacket
Large Waterproof Bag
Day Bag
Camp Chair
Eating Utencils & Plates
Full Course Meals: Lunch the first day through
lunch the last day
Drinks: Ice Water, Lemonade, Juices, One pop/person/day-mix of regular & diet

The day bag 8″ diameter x 20″ high is for items you will need access to during the day. For your sleeping gear and clothing, we will furnish you with one bag 16″ diameter x 2 feet high. When properly sealed, bags are usually waterproof. Once in a while, one could develop a leak, so we always recommend packing important items in ziplock bags and leaving expensive electronics at home. Separate storage is provided for tents and beverages. Please remember to keep your gear light and compact. The less you bring, the happier you will be. Please limit gear to no more than 15-20 lbs.

What’s NOT Included

Plastic mugs work well
Water Bottle
Not included in the rental kit
Sleeping Bag
Compact and warm
Poncho/Rain Suit
high quality important for Dinosaur & Desolation trips.
Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress
Compact, must fit in the provided bag
Light Tent:
Back packer style, not the bulky, heavy types

You can rent most of the items listed above in our sleeping rental kit. We offer two varieties, our basic sleeping kit which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, rain gear and cup for $40.00, or the same basic sleeping kit with a two-person tent for $65.00. Rentals must be reserved in advance, especially on the San Juan trips where we meet away from our headquarters. Rentals requested the morning of the trip are subject to availability. Cups and water bottles available for purchase at our stores in Green River and Vernal Headquarters, or online.


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by Richard on Blank Business Name

What a crew, what an operation, what a river. This experience exceeded my expectations… I assumed it would and I was not disappointed. We will keep our fingers crossed that something wonderful might happen or perhaps Time will standstill for a moment or two and we will get to paddle with you guys once again.Please give them all a high-five and a hug for me, especially Peg leg Pete and Misty. I wish you all a Great and safe rest of the summer and you will be hearing from us again I promise.Richard S.

by Bethany Irvine on Blank Business Name

Our week on the Main Salmon River was the best! Visiting Campbell's Ferry taught me more about the colorful history of the area. We learned about forest fires, how to spot common merganzer ducks, big horn sheep, mule deer and golden eagles. We ate a delicious ricotta and pesto appetizer that I can't wait to copy!

by Bernadine Bank on Blank Business Name

It was a really great trip. The guides were incredibly accommodating. The weather was perfect and the scenery was gorgeous.

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