The Salmon River Baptismal, 2010
I'm calling this my "Salmon River Baptismal" because, hoo boy, we got wet! But it was a excellent "wet!"
This was a 5 day, 85 mile raft & kayak trip down the Main Fork of the Salmon River, the portion called the "River of No Return". It's called that because once you start down the river there is no way you can get back up. It's the part where Lewis & Clark had to turn back because of the huge rapids and go overland across the mountain. The trip starts on the eastern side of the state and ends near Riggins, Idaho.
I went with a float trip company from Salmon, Idaho, "Idaho Adventures" [208/ 756-2986]. I can't say enough about them. It was the best trip ever! And you know what a picky, complaining, crabby son-of-a-bitch I am! They were outstanding! Everything was great, the scenery, the river, the rapids, the food, and especially our guides. As I told them at the end of the trip, I could never go on another float trip with anybody else because I'll always compare it to this one. Any other trip couldn't be any better, only worse.
The "put in" was at Corn Creek about noon o'clock on day 1. Corn Creek is 50 some miles "down river" from "North Fork" [located on Highway 93, north of Salmon, Idaho]. The "river road" [50 miles of gravel] ends at the launch ramp. Beyond is nothing but river for almost 100 miles.
The Forest Service controls the river access, allowing only a certain number [4?] of raft parties a day to "launch" and assigns camp spots along the river for each group. There's over a hundred camp spots along the river. So while you'll see other groups occasionally, it's not a "zoo". And you never camp anywhere near anyone else. Each raft and kayak gets a "permit" and the Forest Service patrols the river in their own rafts. We got "checked" twice. I hate to admit this but they actually do a good job. If they were in California it would have been the arrogant, officious "you're intruding on our river" attitude of our local Forest Circus "Ricky Rangers". Or they would have closed the river to the public like they've closed the Angeles.
Our guides were Sam, Nate & Iris. After fitting us out with life vests, giving us a safety briefing and telling us the "rules" [kayaks had to stay between the rafts for rescue purposes, etc.] and stowing our personal effects, off we went. No turning back now!
There were 7 "guests" consisting of a couple from Northern Idaho [John & Connie Young], two couples from Florida [Ed & Linda Hudson, Lou & Linda Shelley] and myself, plus the three guides, Sam, Nate & Iris. We had 3 rafts, one of which was strictly for "gear", the other two for gear and guests. We also had 3 inflatable kayaks, two were "singles" and one "double". Iris was in charge of the gear raft.
We went down river a couple of miles and pulled into a beach for lunch. When I say "lunch" I'm not talking about some crappy peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of chips. Oh no! All kinds of meats and cheeses, bread baked that morning, chips with two kinds of fresh made dip, fresh fruit, soft drinks or beer, cookies, etc. There was fresh fruit [cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, apples, oranges, etc.] at every meal,,,, breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Then back on the river and about 5 miles to our first big rapid. This is the one where I got "launched" out of my kayak in a wave about 8' high and went down the rest of the rapid "sans kayak". It's pretty scary at first but once you've done it,,,, well,,, it's still pretty scary! But I didn't feel bad,,,,, by the end of the trip everyone had "gone swimming" at least once. Even in the rafts we had waves come completely over the top of us. But our guides, completely nonchalant throughout [they got wet too], treated it like just "another day at the office". "No problem"! Incidentally, Sam has been down this river over 100 times. His dad owned a float company and Sam did his first trip at age 6. Nate is also highly qualified and a competitive kayaker. Iris was an "apprentice" on this river, having been a guide on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for a number of years. So they were all experts and we were in the best of hands.
Their "expertise" extended to meals! Ohmygod! You wouldn't believe the food. At dinner first it would be fantastic hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, or beer or wine. Then it would be salmon cooked on the grill, or pork chops, or shrimp, or steak, with salads with every dinner, pastas, breads baked in a Dutch Oven on the campfire [Google "Dutch Oven"] and of course fresh fruit. Finally, a desert that you'd "die for" which was also cooked in a Dutch Oven. So much for my diet!
Breakfasts were equally as awesome, as were the lunches. Eggs, bacon, sausage [smoked country sausage!] French toast, country potatoes, coffee, juices, etc. Everything comes with the trip,,,, the only thing you would provide would would be your "hard liquor" if you wanted cocktails. I took a bottle of Old Crow Bourbon. The ice lasted throughout the trip.
The guides did everything. The only thing you had to do was to pack your own personal items in the "dry bags" that they issued everyone. Dry bags are heavy neoprene waterproof bags that if you secured them correctly will keep water out even if submerged. Each couple was given a tent and shown how to set it up in less than 3 minutes. And if you didn't want to set it up yourself, they would do it for you. I "slept out" every night. To hell with a tent when you can see the stars and satellites!
So it was 5 days on the river. Lots of rapids, but lots of "flat water". The weather was absolutely perfect the whole trip [July 17 - 21] ,,,, hot in the sun and perfect sleeping weather at night. We saw all kinds of "game",,,, elk, deer, Rocky Mountain sheep, "chukars" [grouse], rock chucks [marmots] , Canadian geese, ducks, etc. There are a half dozen or so commercial "lodges" on the river with cabins, etc. They're only accessible by a jet boat owned by each lodge or two lodges that had airstrips. We'd see one or two of these jet boats going up or down river each day.
The "take out" was at noon on the 5th day at Carey Creek. There's a ramp there and a dirt road that goes to Riggins,,,, about 25 miles. Then a highway to McCall, Idaho where I was dropped off at the airport. I'd chartered a plane [Cessna 206] to fly me back to Salmon, Idaho which was a 45 minute flight. The other guests had rental cars waiting and "did their own thing". If I had ridden back to Salmon in the "gear vehicles" with the guides [they offered] it would have been almost 300 miles and 11 or so hours. They didn't get back to Salmon until about 5 AM the next morning.
Contact me if you ever want "details" about a raft trip,,,, what personal items to take, etc.