Idaho River Rafting
Idaho is home to more than 12 different raftable rivers with over 3,000 river miles between them. Home of scenic splendor and adrenaline packed rapids, Idaho is a prime whitewater rafting destination.
The Salmon River in Idaho is divided into three different sections and is considered to be one of the most scenic raft trips in the United States. Dubbed the "River of No Return" by early settlers, the Main Salmon is home of the second deepest canyon in the United States and is dotted with historic sites and soothing hot springs.
The Snake River, Salmon River and Hells Canyon are all names to set the imagination soaring. In this land of mighty rivers and rugged mountains, Lewis and Clark floated their fragile rafts into the unknown. Anyone entering this Idaho wilderness today or whitewater rafting in Idaho can only be awestruck at the daring and endurance of these first white explorers.
Today the adventure is less daunting, but still to be savored. The Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Main Salmon (the original "River of No Return"), the Lower Salmon, the Snake, the Payette, Lochsa. Owyhee, Moyie, and St. Joe rivers - all told they provide hundreds of miles of magnificent floating for Whitewater rafters in Idaho of all tastes and abilities.
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The Salmon River is Famous for Whitewater Rafting in Idaho
The Salmon's Middle Fork offers some of the best white water in Idaho if not the entire West. Rafters may begin their 100-mile journey at nearly 6,000 feet altitude in the crisp cool air of a conifer forest. Then as side streams swell the current, the river churns through more than 100 rapids, rated Class I-IV. In June, when the spring runoff is at its peak, whitewater enthusiasts are in their element. July and August bring medium flows and warmer weather, allowing paddlers to relax in the biggest wilderness of the lower 48 states, the 2.3-million-acre River of No Return Wilderness. Forests and granite cliffs contrast with Alpine meadows ablaze with Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers. Bighorn sheep and mule deer eye passing rafts while eagles soar above. And at day's end, paddlers can wallow in soothing hot springs.
Congress has designated the Middle Fork as a Wild and Scenic River to ensure that it will remain forever free from dams, powerboats, roads, and pollution. Six-day river tours start from the tiny frontier town of Stanley, with its miner’s log cabins and dirt streets. Near the lower end of Middle Fork lies Impassable Canyon, whose craggy cliffs rise higher than the walls of the Grand Canyon. It is indeed virtually impassable except by raft, and its Class IV rapids provide a whitewater climax to the trip.
Shoshone Indians called the Main Salmon Aggipa, meaning “big fish water”, but never tried to run it in their frail canoes. Nor did Lewis and Clark dare attempt its formidable mile-deep canyon. But today it attracts many rafters, some as early as April or May to admire its big game and wildflowers. Whitewater enthusiasts come in June and July while the melting snow sets the river rampaging over classic rapids like the Elkhorn and Big Mallard. Families enjoy the calmer waters of midsummer and fishermen bring their rods for the October steel head season. People stop to study Indian pictographs, examine prospector’s cabins, at panning gold as the melting snow sets the river rampaging over classic rapids like Elkhorn and Big Mallard. Families enjoy the calmer waters of midsummer and fishermen bring their rods for the October-to-November steelhead season. People stop to study Indian pictographs, examine prospectors' cabins, and try their luck at panning for gold.
Lower Salmon (or Salmon River Canyons) trips generally begin from Whitebird and take the rafter through volcanic canyons down to the Salmon's confluence with the Snake. Often they take in a section of the Snake as well. Since the Lower Salmon is usually too high to float in June, outfitters tend to run trips from July through September. This is a favorite season for family whitewater rafting in Idaho, with white sandy beaches providing ideal campsites beside 70-degree water for swimming. Yet the Lower Salmon is not without excitement, as its rapids still give rollercoaster rides.
Whitewater Rafters in Idaho combine Fishing with riding the Rapids
The Snake provides the biggest rapids in the Pacific Northwest as it courses through Hells Canyon, flanked by snow-capped peaks 8,000 feet above sea level. Dividing Idaho from Oregon through the deepest canyon in North America, the Snake ranks as another Nation¬al Wild and Scenic River. Described as a fisherman's paradise, it is rife with trout and smallmouth bass. Outfitters offer five-to-six-day trips, sometimes combined with horseback trail riding.
Most challenging is the Lochsa River, a raging torrent with the wildest white water in Idaho. Its season is May through July and outfitters recommend previous paddling experience. From the Bitter-root Mountains to its confluence with the Selway and Clearwater rivers, the Lochsa charges through more than 40 major rapids. No Idaho stream offers more continuous white water, yet paddlers can relax under the stars on islands amid white pines and cedars.
Less traveled is the Owyhee amid the desert canyons of southwestern Idaho, raftable only during the spring snowmelt. It is a naturalist's delight with nesting ducks and geese, otters, beavers, and desert bighorn sheep, which scale the canyon walls. Indian rock carvings and miners' cabins, adorned with old cooking stoves and waterwheels, are also common. Another river raftable only in springtime is the Moyie, a whitewater stream for beginners as well as experts. The Moyie lies in the northeast corner of the Idaho panhandle and crosses the Canadian border. A little further south is an appealing stream for family whitewater rafting in Idaho, the St. Joe. Near Boise, the state capital, runs the Payette, known for its white water and scenery. And the beautiful Clearwater, formed at Three Rivers from the Selway and the Lochsa, is famous for its steelhead fishing.