Trip Itinerary & Details
The lower Salmon River offers clear water, hot sunny weather, fun roller coaster style waves, and huge sandy beaches that are perfect for camping and swimming.
During the course of our 72 mile journey we'll wind our way through open canyons, and float through four scenic wilderness gorges. These are Green Canyon (at mile 7), Cougar Canyon (mile 19), Snow Hole Canyon (mile 24), and Blue Canyon (mile 47). Each has a distinct character, but all are spectacular.
Our first day on the river begins with mild rapids which are ideal for a warm up, especially for those behind the oars or paddling an inflatable kayak. Over the course of the next several days we'll encounter numerous exciting rapids. The Lower Salmon is a large volume river. This means the rapids are large, at most water levels, too: big, rolling rapids with towering waves. Demons Drop, Half and Half, Lorna's Lulu, Snow Hole, and China are a few of the more exciting drops, but there are others, as well. At midsummer flows most of the rapids are class III, with one or two class IV drops. Early in July during a high water year, many of the rapids become class IV thrillers. (Rapids are rated I through VI. Class I indicates the smallest possible rapid, while VI indicates steep, turbulent, highly dangerous rapids and waterfalls.)
After four days on the Salmon we meet the Snake River at the edge of Hell’s Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America. We'll encounter a few rapids on the Snake, but for the most part this section of river is placid. For this reason we'll hook our rafts together to form a group "barge" on the Snake, which the guides will maneuver downstream with the aid of a small outboard motor. This segment of our journey presents us with a great opportunities to unwind, socialize, watch for golden eagles and bighorn sheep, and gaze up at the canyon walls.
We meet at 7:30 AM on the day your trip begins in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is roughly 325 miles east of Portland, Oregon, and about 95 miles south of Spokane, Washington. (Please have your breakfast before our meeting time, and arrive in your river clothes.) Our Lead Guide will meet you in the motel lobby. If in doubt about where to find us, ask at the desk, and they will direct you. After a brief orientation you will pack your things into our river bags, and park your vehicles at the motel. We will then go by bus to our launch site. Depending upon trip length and water level, we begin our river trip at either Hammer Creek or Pine Bar. (A start at Pine Bar shortens our trip by 10 miles -- appropriate for low water trips.) Once we arrive at our launch site, you’ll meet the rest of our guide crew, and they’ll conduct a short safety and orientation briefing, which will include instruction on paddle and rowing techniques as needed. We’re normally on our way downstream by mid-morning.
On the River
Each day is a bit different. But a typical day on the river begins with freshly brewed coffee around 7 AM, and breakfast by 8 AM. After breakfast we’ll pack our bags and load the boats. Then, after a brief orientation to the day’s adventures, we’ll head downstream.
We’re on the river an average of four to five hours per day. Along the way we stop for a riverside picnic lunch. We may also stop to swim, to explore historic sites, or to scout rapids. We usually arrive in camp by mid to late afternoon, and while the guides prepare hors d’oeuvres and dinner, you’ll have time to swim, fish, read, or nap. (There are a few places to hike, but for the most part hiking opportunities are limited.)
We typically arrive at Heller Bar, our take-out point, between 2:00 and 3:30 P. M. Once we’ve unpacked, you’ll board a van or bus for the ride back to Lewiston. (On small trips, we completely de-rig the boats, and our guides will accompany you back to town. On larger trips, you will say good-bye to the guides when you leave Heller Bar, as they will stay behind to finish de-rigging.) The ride back to Lewiston takes about an hour. You will arrive back in town between 4:00 and 6:00 PM.
- The services of our professional guides and staff.
- Transportation to our launch point from Lewiston, and from our take-out back to Lewiston at trip’s end.
- All meals, from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last. Our menu is delicious, varied, and hearty. Meals are freshly prepared by our guides from the highest quality ingredients. Juice and water are available at each meal. Coffee, tea, and cocoa are available at dinner and breakfast, and complementary wine is served with some dinners. Special dietary needs may be accommodated with advance notice. We also provide cups, plates, and silverware.
- Durable, professional quality rafts and river running equipment, including U.S. Coast Guard Approved lifejackets.
- Waterproof river bags and boxes for your personal gear.
- Camp chairs.
Where and When to Meet
We will meet at 7:30 AM on the day your trip begins, in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st St., Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is roughly 325 miles east of Portland, Oregon, and about 95 miles south of Spokane, Washington.
Lewiston is at the crossroads of highways 12, 95, and 195, in western Idaho, not far from the corner where Washington, Oregon, and Idaho meet. From Portland take I-84 past Boardman to US-730. Take US-730 into Washington, and turn right onto US-12. Follow US-12 through Walla Walla to Lewiston. Once in Lewiston, US-12 becomes Main Street. Continue east then turn right on 21st Street. Look for the hotel 1/10th of a mile further along, on your left. (If you reach 7th street you've gone a bit too far.)
Lewiston is served by a regional airport, with connections from Seattle and Boise. It is served by Alaska, Horizon, and Delta Airlines. Plan your flight to arrive the day before your river trip begins. A shuttle bus from the Red Lion meets all flights.
Car rentals are also available in Lewiston.
Pre and Post Trip Shuttles
Your trip fare includes transportation to and from the river. A chartered bus will transport us from Lewiston to our put-in near Whitebird, Idaho, a 1.5 to 2 hour trip. At trip's end we will be transported from our take-out at Heller Bar back to Lewiston, a one hour ride.
What to Bring
You will need to bring your own clothing and toiletries. You will also need to bring a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, although if you prefer you can rent them from us instead. (Info here.)
Details, tips, and a complete list of what to bring are found here. You will receive a copy of this information when you sign up for your trip.
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Fishing on the Salmon is generally only fair for bass and trout during the summer (although fishing improves in the fall). If you would like to fish you will need an Idaho fishing license, which may be purchased at a number of sporting goods stores in Lewiston, or online at outdoorcentral.us.
Camping While On The River
We select beautiful beaches for our camp sites. Our guides establish a central kitchen and social area, and trip members select spots in the surrounding area to pitch a tent or roll out a sleeping bag. O.R.E. will set up a portable toilet at each camp, which will be located with privacy and convenience in mind.
O.R.E. practices minimum impact camping, and the crew will instruct you on the simple steps we follow to protect the environment in the Salmon River Canyon.
Where to Stay Before or After Your Trip
We recommend the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston, which is our meeting place for the trip. For reservations phone 800-232-6730. They offer a discount to our customers, so be sure to tell them you're taking a river trip with Oregon River Experiences. For a lower price (but fewer amenities) we recommend Inn America (across the street from the Red Lion). Again, in order to receive the best rate tell them you are taking a river trip with O.R.E.
For camping try Hells Gate State Park, which is just south of Lewiston.
An overview of the Salmon River region's colorful history can be found here.
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An overview of the Salmon River region's geologic history can be found here.
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Consider a drive up Highway 12 along the Lochsa River while you are in the area. Along the Lochsa you will find many lovely trails, good camping, and a number of excellent natural hot springs. Or pay a visit to nearby Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, the deepest canyon in North America. For more information on Hells Canyon contact the HCNRA at P.O. Box 699, Clarkston, WA 99403, (509) 758-1957. Also consider a visit to the Nez Percé National Historic Park just east of Lewiston.
Guests sometimes ask whether it is appropriate to tip their guide. Tipping is optional, but if your guide did a great job then feel free to thank him or her with a gratuity. The amount is up to you, but tips between 8% and 20% of trip cost are customary. Gratuities are customarily presented to the Lead Guide, and will be shared equally among all guides on your trip.