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.

If 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 $395 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 (208/756-4188). 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 $350 per vehicle, plus $60 for gas, plus a full tank of gas.

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 $225 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 Best Western Plus/McCall Lodge, (208/634-2230), 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 (208/336-8100) 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:

  • 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
  • All taxes and government access fees
  • Waterproof bags, lifejackets, and other specialized river touring equipment for the trip
  • Friendly, entertaining and professional guide service

What you are responsible for:

  • Transportation to Salmon before the trip and from McCall after the trip
  • Meals and lodging before and after your trip
  • Personal clothing and other miscellaneous items (see equipment list)
  • Sleeping bags and tents (these items can be rented from ARTA – see equipment list)
  • Soda, wine, alcoholic beverages (see below)
  • Guides gratuities (see below)

Itinerary:

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.

Additional information

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

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 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 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.

Meals and drinks: The meals we serve are well-balanced and consist of quality foods with fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. Guides double as camp chefs and the menu includes a wide variety of dishes. Lunches consist of hand-foods and are served picnic-style at riverside stops. Dinners and breakfasts are prepared by our guides 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. If you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own, (beer and soda in cans; wine in boxes or bags; hard liquor in glass bottles).

Camping: Camping will be at beautiful riverside beaches or flat benches along the river with spectacular views of the canyon. Our guides will set up a central area with chairs, a snack and beverage area, and a complete kitchen. You will pick out a spot nearby to pitch your tent or lay out your sleeping bag (our guides are happy to help). Camp activities vary from hiking and exploring the area, to relaxing along the river with a good book, to playing “Koob” or other river games. If you enjoy helping out in camp, you are welcome to pitch in as much as you want. A portable toilet will be set up away from camp. “The Groover”, a sturdy metal box with a comfortable toilet seat and minimal odor, and a hand-wash station will be set up in an isolated (and usually beautiful) location; going to the bathroom in the wilderness is surprisingly pleasant.

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.

Wildlife: We will be traveling through the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and visiting the home of a variety of wild animals. On the Main Salmon it is common to see otters, deer, and bighorn sheep as well as osprey, eagles, and other birds of prey.

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 through Idaho Fish and Game or at Ninety-Three Mini Mart and Sports in Salmon.

Local Attractions: Within a day’s drive of Salmon are Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks. If you want to extend your vacation with a stay at a western guest ranch, consider Rocky Mountain Guest Ranch or Twin Peaks Ranch, both of which are near Salmon. At the end of the trip, McCall is a wonderful vacation resort town on a lake with lots of vacation rentals and things to do.

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, Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne McCunn and Merciless Eden by Doug Tims are stories of some of the Main’s more colorful characters and places. Idaho’s Salmon River is a great map and guide and is available through Black Canyon Guides.

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 8% and 15% of your trip cost. You can get more information through ASI Travel Insurance Services (please select American River Touring Association from the drop down menu).

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

A pdf of these trip details (along with more information about what to expect on your trip) can be found and downloaded here.

If you still have questions, please feel free to call us (209-962-7873) or e-mail us (arta@arta.org). We love to talk about our trips!