Difficulty III-IV
Length 79 Miles
Gauge SALMON RIVER AT WHITE BIRD ID
Flow Range 2000 - 30000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 40 minutes ago 3940 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/23/2019 4:54 pm

River Description


The Main Salmon is a classic Idaho Multi-day whitewater trip that usually takes paddlers 6-7 days to traverse. The 78-mile run begins several miles downstream of the Middle Fork Salmon confluence at a launch site called Corn Creek. Most paddlers end their trip at Carey Creek, upstream of Riggins, Idaho. In between is some outstanding whitewater and scenery. Camping is typically on big sand beaches or campsites nestled among ponderosa pines. The scenery is a mix of cliffs, canyon grasslands, and lush tributary valleys. There are many great side hike options to pictographs, a hot spring, overlooks, and up side-streams (several of which can be paddled). 

The river is drop-pool, with a nice mix of rapids ranging from Class I to Class III+/IV- at moderate flows. The rapids are almost always characterized by large clean wave trains, and the more difficult rapids throw a hole or rock in the mix that require dodging. As flows drop into late July / August, you'll see many skilled rowers out on the river with their kids. At higher flows the river packs bigger punch with flipping a raft more possible in more places.  

There are some good river map books that can be bought to help navigate the river and keep track of camps and hiking options. Note that some older books will fail to mention Black Creek Rapid, which formed in 2011 and backs water up to Salmon Falls. It is one of the more powerful rapids on the run. 

A lottery-based permit is required to paddle the Main in the primary recreation season. Even though the Main Salmon flows through designated Wilderness and is a Wild and Scenic River, you will see some jet boats and a few ranches. At times the jet boat traffic can be pretty intense. With this said the Main Salmon remains a wild place, and a beautiful river.  The shuttle is epic, and many groups choose to hire a company to take their car to the take-out. 


Corn Creek Launch Site Hydrograph
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5365708.pdf

Rapid Descriptions

Corn Creek

Class - Mile - 46.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RR): 45.369183, -114.686433

Lantz Bar

Class - Mile - 57.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RR): 45.418600, -114.868517

Blackadar

Class - Mile - 63.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RR): 45.466800, -114.954383

Hot springs pool

Class - Mile - 69
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.507650, -115.035917

Magpie Creek

Class - Mile - 76.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.548600, -115.154117

Yellow Pine Bar

Class - Mile - 82.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RR): 45.542417, -115.250283

Jim Moore

Class - Mile - 89
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RR): 45.484967, -115.342617

Fivemile Bar

Class - Mile - 99.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.413150, -115.467800

Mann Creek

Class - Mile - 107.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.394650, -115.588150

Polly Bemis

Class - Mile - 112.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.433767, -115.667900

Carey Creek

Class - Mile - 127.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Bruce Bradshaw gives the coordinates (RL): 45.453250, -115.946100

Comments

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Eric Straubhar
|
6 months ago

"Why use the gage at Whitebird? The Main Salmon run normally is from Corn Cr. to Carey Cr. Whitebird is many miles downstream of Carey Cr. There is a gage at Shoup, ID that is below Corn Cr. and above Carey Cr. i.e. in the actual run itself. Wouldn't this be more representative of the flows to expect" ----- Actually the Shoup gauge is a ways upsteam of the Corn Creek launch. To get a better representation of the flow at Corn Cr add the gauges Middle Fork Salmon near Shoup and the Main Salmon near Shoup. That'll give you a good view of the water near the put in. Some people use the Whitebird gauge because it's closer to the flows you'll see near the take out. Pull the Little Salmon flows out of Whitebird and you get a fair representation of what's going on with all the side creeks dumping into the Main Salmon above Riggins and the take out. Typically Whitebird is about double the flow at Corn Creek.

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chuck bradley
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1 year ago

Just for clarification - the gauge at Shoup is about 25 miles above Corn Creek.

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Ralph Gregory Mohler
|
2 years ago

Why use the gage at Whitebird? The Main Salmon run normally is from Corn Cr. to Carey Cr. Whitebird is many miles downstream of Carey Cr. There is a gage at Shoup, ID that is below Corn Cr. and above Carey Cr. i.e. in the actual run itself. Wouldn't this be more representative of the flows to expect?

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n/a
|
12 years ago

new online whitewater guide for idaho and montana area paddling - check it out! www.montanaeddyhop.blogspot.com

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Bruce Bradshaw
|
15 years ago

waypoints

45.369183, -114.686433, 46.4M, Corn Creek, RR
45.418600, -114.868517, 57.2M, Lantz Bar, RR
45.466800, -114.954383, 63.4M, Blackadar, RR
45.507650, -115.035917, 69.0M, Hot springs pool, RL
45.548600, -115.154117, 76.1M, Magpie Creek, RL
45.542417, -115.250283, 82.6M, Yellow Pine Bar, RR
45.484967, -115.342617, 89.0M, Jim Moore, RR
45.413150, -115.467800, 99.1M, Fivemile Bar, RL
45.394650, -115.588150, 107.2M, Mann Creek, RL
45.433767, -115.667900, 112.5M, Polly Bemis, RL
45.453250, -115.946100, 127.6M, Carey Creek, RL

Gage Descriptions

The minimum flow is something of a guess. 9000 cfs is about optimal.

Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1996-06-09 n/a Fatality One Boat Trip Read More

Alerts

 

News

article main photo

New Online Reservations Coming for Four Idaho Rivers

10/1/2009
Kevin Colburn

If you want to obtain a permit to float the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon Rivers in 2010, you need to know about changes coming in the Forest Service permit lottery and launch reservation system. The Four Rivers Lottery is going “green”, incorporating an entirely online system as part of our desire to go paperless.

article main photo

Idaho Proposes Registration Fee for Non-Motorized Boats

1/20/2004
John Gangemi

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho is proposing a $13 registration fee for non-motorized boats greater than 7 feet in length.  Under this registration fee proposal all kayaks and rafts on Idaho waters would be required to have a registration sticker fixed to the bow of each boat greater than 7 feet in length.  Stickers would not be transferable between boats.  Out of state boaters would be required to comply as well.

article main photo

Can You Taste Victory?

10/23/2001
American Whitewater

FERC revokes Preliminary Permit for
hydropower project on Boundary Creek in
Northern Idaho.
user-avatar

Kevin Colburn

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190406 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn n/a
1207048 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn permit udated
1207762 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213391 07/22/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1202695 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn 20130909
1213395 07/23/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1213390 07/22/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1198892 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn copy edits
1198801 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn permit link added
1198942 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn abstract edit
1202976 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn permit link updated
1207036 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn permit updated
1213201 07/08/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1213392 07/22/19 Kevin Colburn updated description