A rafting trip down the Salmon River (aka “The River of No Return”) makes for a wonderful family vacation. It is best know for its big canyon, sandy beaches, and big water rapids. Most trips cover the 84 miles of wilderness in five or six days.
This famous section of the Salmon River begins just downstream of whereMiddle Fork of the Salmon enters the Salmon River, so many groups do both trips together for a 10 to 14 day river trip. This trip takes you deep into the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.
The rapids have big waves and holes and require skillful maneuvering. Even though they are big, they are often run in small inflatable kayaks for big thrills. Big calm pools below the rapids allow for time to recover from flips that can occur. The legendary Class III rapids are Split Rock, Salmon Falls, Big Mallard, Chittum, and Elk Bar.
There are great hikes from each of the camps up side creeks and along the canyon. This place is huge and you really get a sense of the area as you float down the river. Even though this is a large wilderness area, there are several spectacular lodges along the way that can be used to make your stay more comfortable.
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Perhaps the best aspect of the Salmon River are the large, sandy beaches. These make for a great environment to play frisbee, volleyball, capture the flag, or any number of games. The combination of fun camps, grand scenery, and fun rapids make this a great trip for families with children.
Mile 0: Put-in at the Corn Creek Boat Ramp. The USFS will check your permits and equipment here.
Mile 8: Rainer (III-) is the first good sized rapid and Rainer Creek enters just downstream on the right.
Mile 13: Devil’s Teeth (III) is a fun rapid that can be scouted on the left.
Mile 20.5: Salmon Falls (III) is also known as Black Canyon Falls. It has multiple routes through big boulders.
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Mile 22.5: Barth Hot Springs makes a great stop on the left. It’s a short hike up to the hot springs which have a beautiful view of the river canyon.
Mile 32: Bargamin Creek enters from the right signaling several great rapids including Bailey (III) and Split Rock (III) coming up in the next few miles.
Mile 37: Big Mallard (III+) is the biggest rapid on the River of No Return and can be scouted on the left.
Mile 40.5: Elkhorn (III) is one of the longer rapids on the Salmon River and more difficult at higher water. Growler (III-) is about a mile downstream.
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Mile 43: Whiplash (III) is Class III at normal flows but gets much more difficult at higher water.
Mile 56: Mackay Bar is a lodge on the left side with an airstrip on the right side. The South Fork of the Salmon enters from the left just downstream.
Mile 78.5: Chittam (III) is another rapid that gets harder at higher flows. Scout on the right.
Mile 79: Vinegar Creek Boat Ramp is the first potential take out point. Vinegar Creek Rapid (III) is just downstream.
Mile 82: Carey Creek Boat Ramp is the take-out that most people use. This is also a take-out 12 miles downstream at the Spring Bar Boat Ramp.