September 21, 2020 4 min read

In July, our Design Manager, KP, took a week-long rafting trip down 81 miles of the Main Salmon River and lived to tell the tale. She outlines her favorite stops and itinerary from the trip.

We had won the lottery– It's not often you get the chance to raft down the Main Salmon River. This designated wild and scenic waterway (dubbed the "River of No Return") only allows 8 groups a day to launch, and the window of perfect water levels and perfect weather conditions is narrow. So when offered the opportunity for a 7-day adventure into secluded wilderness and Class IV rapids, I took it. And, of course, I brought a couple of Rumpls with me.

Loading the boats at Corn Creek.

Day 1 - Launch 

With 20+ person commercial trips closed due to COVID, our small self-guided group was one of only a few launching that day from Corn Creek boat ramp, just west of the tiny town of North Fork, Idaho. After our 13 hour drive from Portland, Oregon, the day before, we were excited to get on the water and have no stress except the days upcoming rapids. After around 4 hours on the water and some small warm-up rapids, we arrived at Upper Devil's Teeth camp.

Campsite: Upper Devil’s Teeth

Total miles: 13

Dog on a river raft

Our fearless guide, Holden.

Petroglyphs on a rock

Petroglyphs along the river.

Rafting down the river surrounded by trees

Taking advantage of the slow sections.

Man in a life jacket holding a fish on a line

First catch of the trip!

Man holding a small fish

Some had more success than others.

Day 2

Today we tackled our first Class III of the trip, Black Canyon. The group was nervous as one of their boats had flipped on a trip the year before. We pulled over and decided to hike up and scout the rapid from the shore. Since water levels were low, the rapid had mellowed out, and we all made it through unscathed.

At lunchtime, we pulled over at Barth Hot Springs, a welcome reprieve after getting soaked by the rapids. We had the pool to ourselves and enjoyed a couple of beers and a view.

Campsite: Sandy Hole

Total miles:23.8

Rumpl beer blanket at hot springs

A Rumpl Beer Blanket makes a great river accessory.

Group of people at hot springs near Salmon River

Remote soaking at it's finest.

Sandy beach along the Salmon River

Most campsites along the Salmon River are big, sandy beaches.

Day 3

Smoke rolls in and we don’t see other people for an entire day. The group speculates that the world has ended and we are the last to know. Ah well, might as well make some margaritas and enjoy the solitude while it lasts.

Campsite: Upper Alison Ranch

Miles traveled: 33.4

Moscow mule
KP fishing in the Salmon River

Day 4 - Layover Day

Pushing a lot of miles in the beginning has give us some extra time, which means we are sleeping in and staying put today. We blow up the floaties, set up some outdoor games, and enjoy a beach day.

Camping along the salmon river with a hammock and tent

Sleeping in.

Bocce ball in the middle of the Salmon River bank

Playing "All-Terrain" Bocce Ball.

Diving into the Salmon River

Turning the raft into a Slip 'N Slide. 10/10 form.

Two people in small floaties drinking on the river

Enjoying a beach day.

Cubano sandwiches

Cubanos for lunch.

Starry night sky

Watching for meteors.

Day 5

Today is a big whitewater day. Three Class III’s in a row with a smattering of II’s. We land at “No Man’s Creek” Camp and enjoy Palomas, Lasagna and Pineapple Upside-Down cake. Life is good.

Campsite: No Man Creek

Miles traveled: 51

Couple in straw hats in the Salmon River

Watching for rocks.

Man riding on the front of a whitewater raft

Riding the bull.

Beach campfire with a group of friends

Costume night.

Day 6

The ice in our coolers has fully melted at this point, and we're sick of luke-warm beers. Luckily there is a fun stop at mile 52.5 called Buckskin Bills. Sylvan Ambrose or "Buckskin Bill" was among the last mountain men in the Western United States. He died in 1980, but his impressive collection of structures, hand-made machines and other items he built live on. We stopped in at the "museum," grabbed ice cream sandwiches and fresh ice.

We spent our final night at a private beach on Shepp Ranch, where a friend kindly let us stay as it was closed to guests for the season. Since the ranch is only accessible by plane or jet boat, he was happy to have some company and give us a tour.

Campsite: Shepp Ranch

Total Miles: 66

Buckskin Bill's

Buckskin Bill built a collection of shelters by hand along the Salmon River.

Buckskin Bill's tool shed

Buckskin Bill's tool shed.

Shepp Ranch Idaho fenceline

The group's last night a Shepp Ranch.

Day 7 - Take out

Our final day took us through the spiciest rapids of the trip – Chittim and Vinegar Creek. We pulled over again to scout both and decide on the best line. Only the most experienced rowers took the oars for this one - I just held on for dear life.
Feeling renewed after completing the last big rapids, I foolishly decided to take our inflatable SUP through the last Class II rapid. The river took my phone and sunglasses as a souvenir– lesson learned.

We make it to the boat ramp, roll up the rafts and load up the cars and drive down the river to camp out one last night, grateful the river let us flow through safely.

Total Miles: 81

Black and white dog in the middle of the salmon river

Holden cools off at Shepp Ranch.


RIVER TRIP PICKS


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