River rafting on Idaho's Main Salmon with ARTA River Trips
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Main Salmon River Trip Details

Where and when to meet:

We'll meet you at 8:00 pm the evening before the trip begins at the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon, Idaho. The Stagecoach is located at 201 Riverfront Drive (Highway 93), just across the bridge over the Salmon River. At the pre-trip meeting we will give you your waterproof dunnage bags, go over trip and shuttle information and answer any last-minute questions.

How to get there:

Your trip will begin in Salmon and end in McCall.

Transportation map for the Main Salmon RiverIf you are flying into Boise, you can either rent a car, drive to Salmon (6 hours) and have your car shuttled from Salmon to McCall during the trip or you can arrange for air taxi service from Boise to Salmon before your trip and from McCall back to Boise after your trip. 

If you are driving directly to Salmon, you can either have your vehicle shuttled to McCall or you can arrange an air taxi flight back to Salmon after your trip. Conversely, if it is easier for you to drive to McCall, you can do this in reverse.

AIR TAXI FLIGHTS: You will need to arrange a flight from Boise to Salmon for the day before your trip (we recommend departing Boise for Salmon no later than 5:00 pm) and from McCall to Boise after your trip. Due to potential delays we recommend that you DO NOT plan on flying out of Boise the evening the trip ends, but rather that you spend the night in McCall and fly to Boise in time for your flight the following morning, (after 10:00 am departure from Boise is best). McCall is a small, scenic, vacation community on the shores of Payette Lake and the weather is usually more flyer-friendly earlier in the day. The round trip package costs about $375 per person through Gem Air (208/756-7382).

CAR SHUTTLE: You will need to drive to Salmon and arrange an independent car shuttle through River Shuttles (800/831-8942). You can arrange the shuttle in advance or you can fill out a form at the pre-trip meeting. Your car will be left at the Stagecoach Inn in Salmon and shuttled to the airport in McCall during the trip. The cost of the shuttle is $260 per vehicle, plus $80 for gas, plus a full tank of gas. River Shuttles moves thousands of vehicles around Idaho during the summer and is very reliable. If you are RENTING A VEHICLE AT THE BOISE AIRPORT, request an “Additional Driver’s Form” from the rental agency (Avis and Budget have been the easiest to work with in the past), fill it out and FAX it to River Shuttles at 208/756-4188. River Shuttles will fill in their part and FAX it to the rental agency before rental. This enables River Shuttles to drive the rental car. Arrange shuttle as above. Car rentals cost about $150 to $250 for the week.

HYBRID: Some Main Salmon guests prefer to drive to McCall (2 hours north of Boise), leave their car at the airport and fly to Salmon the day before their trip begins. The one-way flight costs about $220 per person through Gem Air (208/756-7382). If driving to Salmon is easier (all of you coming from South Dakota), this can also be done in reverse, (drive to Salmon before the trip, fly back after the trip).

If you have any questions or need more information or have a large group and want to consider van and bus charters, just give us a call.

Where to stay:

Lodging before the trip is good at the Stagecoach Inn (208/756-2919) or at the Sacajawea Inn (208/756-2294). After the trip, lodging is available in McCall at the America's Best Value Inn, (208/634-6300), or Hotel McCall (good downtown location, 208/634-8105). For those returning to Boise the evening the trip concludes, accommodations are good at the Best Western Vista Inn (800/528-1234) which is by the airport. Pre- and post- trip accommodations are not included in the trip reservations should be made well in advance.

What we provide:

  • Pre-trip meeting in Salmon, ID
  • Transportation from Salmon to the river and from the river to McCall after the trip.
  • All meals from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day
  • A chair, cup, plate, and eating utensils for each guest.
  • Rafts (see below)
  • Lifejackets and helmets
  • Waterproof bags for personal gear
  • River touring equipment, guides, helpers and cooks

What you are responsible for:

Additional information:

First day: We will meet at the Stagecoach and be transported to the launch site at Corn Creek, (2 - 3 hours). After a short safety and orientation briefing, we will launch on the river around noon and float several miles and through a few rapids to our first night's camp.

Typical day: Although there is no such thing, a typical day on the Main Salmon starts with fresh coffee and a hearty breakfast before we pack our bags and load into the rafts. Each day is different, but on average we will float 10 - 14 miles, (5 - 6 hours), and take numerous stops to scout rapids, explore abandoned homesteads, visit Native American pictograph sites, soak in a hotsprings, wander up a creek, as well as enjoy a riverside picnic lunch. We commonly rotate boats a few times each day, giving new people the opportunity to paddle or relax. We usually arrive at camp in the late afternoon and you are free to hike, relax, swim, or fish while the guides prepare dinner. After dinner, the campfire is often kept burning for singing and storytelling.

Last day: The last day on the river has some exciting rapids before we arrive at our take-out point at Carey Creek. We will de-rig the rafts, change clothes, and have our final lunch before being transported to the airport in McCall, (2 hours). Arrival time in McCall will be around 5:00 pm.

Types of boats:On the Main Salmon we offer three types of boats in which to ride:Oar raft

Oar rafts are 18 feet long, carry all of the overnight gear and up to 5 guests. They are rowed by a guide using oars attached to a metal frame. Guests ride in the front, hang on through the rapids and relax in the calm stretches.

paddle raftPaddle rafts are 14 feet long and carry between 4 and 6 paddlers who actively paddle through the rapids and down the river. Everyone has a paddle, sits on the outer tube of the raft and follows the commands of the paddle guide who sits in the rear.

Inflatable kayakInflatable kayaks are 10 - 12 feet long and are paddled by 1 or 2 people using double-bladed paddles. They are fairly stable, require no previousexperience and allow you to feel the thrill of independently paddling the river.

Please note that we do not guarantee space in paddle rafts or inflatable kayaks. If there are more people who wish to ride in these boats than there are spaces, we will rotate so that everyone gets a chance to participate. Also, inflatable kayaks may not be available during the June high water period.

Fishing: The fishing on the Main Salmon is fairly good and is usually better after the water levels drop in mid July. Poles should be protected in sturdy cases, and only a small amount of tackle is needed. Dry flies and small spinners with single barbless hooks work well; you do not need waders or nets. If you want to fish you must have a valid Idaho State Fishing License. Licenses and gear can be purchased on-line at www.fishandgame.idaho.gov or at Ninety-Three Mini Mart and Sports (208/756-3002) in Salmon.

Meals: ARTA meals are well-balanced and consist of quality foods with fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. The guides double as camp chefs and the menu includes a wide variety of dishes. Lunches usually consist of hand-foods and are served picnic-style at riverside stops. Dinners and breakfasts are cooked over an open fire and often include tasty Dutch Oven baked treats. If you have special dietary requirements or are celebrating a special event during the trip, please let us know in advance.

Drinks: ARTA provides water, lemonade and punch during the day and hot coffee, tea and cocoa in the morning. If you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own in unbreakable containers, (beer and soda in cans, wine in bags/boxes or plastic bottles and liquor in plastic bottles). Due to weight and space restrictions, we ask that you limit the amount of canned drinks to a moderate amount (one or two six-packs per person).

Camping: During the course of the trip, everyone is encouraged to participate as much as they desire, whether that be on the river, collecting firewood, or helping out in the kitchen. We have found that the more involved you become with your trip, the more rewarding your trip becomes. Overnight camping will be at riverside beaches or flat benches above the river. All sites afford spectacular views of the river and canyon. ARTA will set up portable toilets at all camps. There is usually a central kitchen and campfire area, and trip members pick out spots in the surrounding area to pitch their tents or lay out their sleeping bags.

Toilet Facilities: We know it is on your mind, so let's talk about it. We have been doing this for a long time and we have developed some pretty good practices and equipment. The solution is what we affectionately call “The Groover”, a sturdy metal box with a toilet seat that takes care of all our waste. While it isn’t enjoyable to think about, using the Groover is surprisingly pleasant; minimal odor, comfortable seat and almost always a beautiful location. We have techniques to safeguard your privacy, so going to the bathroom in the wilderness isn’t something to worry about – you won’t be digging any holes or squatting.

Weather: The weather in the mountains of Idaho is difficult to predict; we have encountered hailstorms in August and heatwaves in June, so please read the equipment list and come well prepared for a variety of conditions. The weather in the Main Salmon canyon is usually mild and temperate, however rain, in the form of afternoon thunderstorms, can be encountered at any time during the season. We strongly recommend good rain protection for both day and night. Generally, summer temperatures range from the 70's to the 90's during the day and the 40's to the 50's at night, with early season trips being 10 degrees cooler and summertime extremes being 10 degrees warmer. The water temperature is a chilly 50 degrees in June, warming to a pleasant 70 degrees late in the summer.

Suggested Reading: River of No Return by Cort Conley gives a detailed, mile-by-mile description of the history of the river and canyon. The Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson and Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne McCunn are stories of two of the Main’s more colorful characters. A good map and guide is available locally in Salmon or from blackcanyonguides.com.

Travel Insurance: Because life is full of surprises, we suggest you consider purchasing supplemental travel insurance for your trip. Trip cancellation, evacuation, baggage loss and other coverages are available for between 4% and 11% of your trip cost. You can get more information at www.travelinsure.com; please enter ARTA's Participating Organization Number (215296) at the top of the enrollment form.

Gratuities: We want you to feel like a guest in our home. But, if you feel that your guides did an outstanding job, a post-trip gratuity is a flattering way to let them know. Tips should be based on your satisfaction, your financial means and your attitude about tipping. Tips typically range anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the trip cost, (with the occasional recommended book or coveted hat thrown in). It is customary within ARTA to give the tip to the Lead Guide who will distribute it equally amongst all of the staff. And thank you very much.

More information:

If there are any questions we haven't answered, please feel free to contact us. We really enjoy talking about our trips, so don't hesitate to call: 800-323-2782.