Salmon, Idaho, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV (for normal flows)|
|SALMON RIVER AT WHITE BIRD ID|
|usgs-13317000||3000 - 30000 cfs||II-IV||00h41m||7400 cfs (running)|
There are a few options for a Lower Salmon trip which typically lasts 4 to 5 days. This trip is a great summer outing with fun pool-drop rapids through beautiful canyon scenery and wonderful river beach camping. Rattlesnakes are very abundant along this river and one needs to be extremely careful.
The Hammer Creek Launch Site is located at river mile 52.5. The next 10 miles are often run as a day trip ending with the 2.5 Green Canyon. This canyon includes a few class III drops: Wright Way Drop, Demon's Drop, and ending with Pine Creek Rapid.
Pine Creek Launch is located immediately below Pine Creek Rapid (river mile 42.5). This access is a take-out for the shorter day run and the put-in for the multi-day trip that continues down to the Snake River.
From this access a road continues for a few miles along the river as you pass through agricultural land. The scenery is beautiful though and the 15 miles down to Snow Canyon contains several class II pool-drop rapids and nice sandy beaches.
The last big camp is at White House Beach before you enter Snow Hole Canyon (starting at river mile 27.5). Snow Hole Canyon is 10 miles long and contains the most challenging rapids on the trip. The major rapids include Bodacious Bounce (class III), Half and Half (class III), Snow Hole (class IV), and China Rapids (class III). Experienced boaters will be able to boat-scout these rapids but getting out for a look from shore is always possible. There are also a number of class II rapids in this section and plenty of fun playspots.
Shortly after China Rapids the canyon opens up with great beach camp sites. There is some private land and a few cabins in this 12.5 mile section. You will also begin to encounter jet boat traffic during the summer season. There are several fun class II rapids and one class III at Eagle Creek (river mile 13.5).
The river constricts again at river mile 5 with the start of Blue Canyon. This is a beautiful narrow canyon and a good place to see sheep. This section alternates between big bouncy rapids and short sections of calm water that allow one to gaze up at the vertical canyon walls that tower overhead. One rapid to be aware of is Slide Rapids (river mile 3.9). Here a massive rock slide from river left has further constricted the already narrow river. At lower flows there is not much of a feature at this site but as flows increase to 10,000 cfs and above this becomes the most dangerous hazard on the run. As water backs up at the narrow constriction, a huge standing wave forms that is a guaranteed raft flipper. Portaging this drop with a raft is all but impossible.
The last major rapid on the Salmon is Eye of the Needle (river mile 0.5), a class III rapid with a fun bouncy wave train.
Soon the Salmon comes to an end as it pours out into the Snake River. It's another 20 miles on the Snake to the confluence with the Grande Ronde and Heller Bar river access which is just past this on river left. The section on the Snake has some beautiful canyon scenery, fun class II rapids, and good beach campsites. The downside is significant jet boat traffic. On summer weekends you will likely have jet boats in sight the throughout the day although use tends to taper off in the evenings and early mornings.
Logistics: Unlike other nearby multiday trips, there is no lottery for permits to run this section of the Salmon. Permits are available on a self issue basis at launch sites. It's a good idea to bring along a copy of the BLM river guide to the Lower Salmon. It provides lots of useful information on individual rapids and camping areas.