By: Derek Farr

Public domain, Wiki Commons, artist unknown

Hollywood vs. Holiday

Do you want to go on a river trip with Robert Mitchum* and Marilyn Monroe**? If you said “yes” then I’ve got a movie for you. The River of No Return was made in 1954 and it’s named after our beloved River of No Return, the Salmon River. It’s a story of adventure, love and reckoning set in the wilds of Idaho in 1854.

It’s a great movie and I highly suggest it. However, it does not accurately depict a modern-day river expedition. Just in case there is any confusion, I thought I’d list seven differences between a Holiday river trip and the Hollywood version.


Hollywood – The movie begins at night in a grimy gold camp, replete with gunslingers, gamblers, and prostitutes.

Holiday – Your trip will begin at the Stagecoach Inn in the lovely town of Salmon, Idaho. If you’re looking for gunslingers, gamblers, or prostitutes, you’ll have to bring your own.


Hollywood – At the put-in, Mitchum, his son, and Monroe flee a band of Native Americans by boarding a scow (a boat made of lashed logs that is steered with two large rudders on the front and back). Then the Native Americans burn down Mitchum’s cabin.

Holiday – First of all, our boats are made out of space-age materials that float much better than water-soaked logs. What’s more, there are no marauding Native Americans at our put-in. There is, however, a site of extreme cultural importance to the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and we often take time to observe the remaMS8ins of ancient pit houses.


Hollywood – Without a dollop of sunscreen or a lifejacket, our heroes brave the river.

Holiday – On our trips, we recommend using a lot of sunscreen, and everybody gets a lifejacket.


Hollywood – Mitchum and Monroe fend off hunger by catching fish and foraging for berries.

Holiday – We don’t leave anything to chance. We bring a bunch, and I mean a bunch of food. We make big breakfasts, hardy lunches, and hearty dinners.


Hollywood – At one point, Mitchum lassos an elk, kills it, and eats it.

Holiday – We have a policy not to harass the critters.


Hollywood – Hollywood –Mitchum and Monroe argue nearly the entire time. Then a romance blossoms.

Holiday – The Salmon River is for lovers, not fighters. There’s no arguing necessary.


Hollywood – At the take-out, Mitchum sweeps Monroe off her feet, literally carrying her to an awaiting horse-drawn wagon. They ramble off and live happily ever after.

Holiday – At our take-out, vehicles wait for us, not horses.

* Robert Mitchum does not accompany any of our river trips.

** Neither does Marilyn Monroe.

Derek started guiding rivers in 1996. He lives in Idaho where he and his wife use every opportunity to experience the natural wonders of that great state.