BEGINS: Boise, Idaho w/ A.M. flight to Salmon, Idaho
TRIP LENGTH: 5 days, 82 miles
SEASON: June - August
MINIMUM AGE: 6-12 (based on water levels)
FEATURING: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
RAFTING: Class III-IV whitewater combined with calm stretches
BOAT TYPE: Oar, Paddle, Inflatable Kayak
HIKING: Short walks & longer hikes over moderate terrain (all optional)
CAMPING: Cots, tents, sleeping bags, chairs & water-resistant bag
MEALS: All meals are prepared for you between departure & return
TRANSFERS: Scenic ride from river to McCall, Idaho.
ENDS: Afternoon - Plan to spend the night in McCall, Idaho
Itinerary & Travel Details
Rich in scenic wonders and history, the Main Salmon River rafting trip drops 1,200 feet in 82 miles, creating some of the most exciting Idaho whitewater rafting - earning it the “River of No Return” appelation from the Lewis & Clark Expedition. But the Main Salmon is a playground of blue-green waters that warm up to very comfortable temperatures in July and August. Calm sections and deep pools between rapids are perfect for relaxing, swimming, and simply absorbing the country’s splendor. Idaho’s rivers traverse the largest roadless wilderness in the United States besides Alaska. This wilderness is home to a rich history of both Native American and early homesteaders. You’ll enjoy sandy camping beaches backed up to pine forests and granite mountains. Here, wildlife abounds and rock paintings left by ancient inhabitants still exist.
DAY PRIOR »
Arrive in Boise, Idaho night before river trip. Stay at Best Western Vista Inn near Boise Airport.
DAY ONE »
Meet at in hotel lobby for shuttle to the airport [CHECK CONFIRMATION FOR EXACT DEPARTURE TIMES]. Take charter flight to Salmon and meet for shuttle to the river.
Choose from oar boats, paddle rafts, or inflatable kayaks and enjoy moderate rapids such as Kill um, Rainier and Devil’s Tooth. More challenging rapids lay ahead. Stop at Barth Hot Springs, one of the best hot spring pools on the entire river. Relaxing time on the river and at camp gives time to absorb the splendor of the surrounding mountain wilderness.
DAYS TWO & THREE »
Rise in the morning to fresh alpine air, enjoying a hearty breakfast prepared by your guides. Load the boats in preparation for whitewater rapids with tranquil water in between - allowing you to spot wildlife and gaze at mountain vistas that surround. Some excursions to homestead cabins, or hot springs break up the days on the river. At camp, you can enjoy a rousing game of beach volleyball, or explore the landscape. Enjoy a relaxing dinner by the river, and swap stories around the campfire at night.
DAYS FOUR & FIVE »
Through a mile deep, heavily-forested canyon, you’ll run Salmon Falls, Big Mallard, Elk Horn and several other exciting rapids. Explore Campbell’s Ferry Ghost Town and Buckskin Bills Compound. Lower in the canyon, thick forest gives way to steep granite cliffs. Large sandy beaches and glass-like pools provide favorite play spots for swimming and beach volleyball. Top off your final day with two of the largest rapids on the trip – Chittam and Vinegar Creek. After lunch, you’ll enjoy a scenic ride to the resort town of McCall, Idaho.
WHERE/WHEN TO MEET
Meet in Boise - Best Western Vista Inn »
LOCATION: 2645 Airport Way Boise, Idaho Meet in the lobby of The Best Western near the Airport.
DEPARTURE: [CHECK CONFIRMATION FOR EXACT DEPARTURE TIMES] Shuttle from Best Western to the Boise Airport Terminal where you'll meet the for the A.M. charter flight to Salmon. In Salmon you'll be transferred to the bus awaiting at the Stagecoach Inn and embark for the river.
RETURN TIME: Approximately 3:00 PM Upon the conclusion of your river expedition, a bus will return you to beautiful McCall, Idaho where you'll stay the night for A.M. shuttle return to the Boise Best Western/Airport.
NOTE: For those choosing to stay somewhere other than the Airport Best Western, it is your responsibility to arrive at the designated time and place mentioned above.
TIP: Plan at least 1 night before and after your trip.
To complete the Boise Travel Option, you will need to confirm the following:
Lodging in Boise, ID at the Vista Inn
Lodging in McCall, ID at the Holiday Inn Express
Summer is peak tourist season and rooms book quickly. Our partnerships have secured a certain quantity of rooms at specially selected hotels conveniently en route to/from your river expedition. With the Boise-to-Boise travel option, Western River Expeditions will book your lodging nights, and transportation beginning and ending in Boise, Idaho.
The Boise Travel Option is our online booking default. If you did not notify our office otherwise, you have had this option automatically added to your reservation.
You will need to call Lori at Western River at 866-904-1160 or use the button provided to fill out a request for your lodging requirements.
“Anticipation. In love and travel, getting there is half the fun. The lustful impatience, the passionate daydreams, the nerve-wracking waiting… lovers and travelers are all alike when they find themselves on the brink of a new adventure”
Things to Do in Boise and McCall
Boise, Idaho »
If you have arrived early enough, you may want to take a different route to the restaurants via one of the best riverside greenbelts in the country. Grab a ride to downtown and then rent a scooter or e-bike and enjoy the interconnected trails until you find a place to eat! The pool at the Vista Inn isn't a bad place to relax either!
McCall, Idaho »
McCall is a lush vacation escape from the lower elevations of deserts and agricultural lands in surrounding areas. Unless you specifically arrange for a longer stay, you will only have one evening in McCall. We encourage a stroll down to the boat harbor, or through the shops along the main street.
Expedition Guide & Packing List
Want to download (almost all) of this info?
The Expedition Guide for each trip contains the packing list, and most of the info seen on this page. Combine the "offline" handiness of the Expedition Guide with the online resources of this travel planning page.
Keep the PDF on your phone, or print it out for quick "offline" reference.
Choosing the right camera for whitewater rafting is an important decision. With so many options out there, we discuss the pros and cons of the more common cameras we see on the river.
Do you REALLY need "Quality" Rain Gear?
Western River Expeditions sent two of our intrepid guides to answer the question once and for all: "What is Quality Rain Gear and Why Do I Need it?"
The Morning of Your Rafting Trip
Come dressed and ready to raft (see diagram on Packing List)
Check out of your accommodations & eat a good breakfast
Check Confirmation for exact departure time
Items Provided with Boise Travel Option
Shuttle to Terminal at Boise Airport
Charter flight from Boise to Salmon, Idaho
Shuttle from Salmon Terminal to Stagecoach Inn and bus to Main Salmon boat ramp
Professional, licensed guides
All meals between trip departure and return
All eating utensils and souvenir insulated bottle
Unlimited water and lemonade
Ammo Can for personal belongings
Freshly laundered sleeping bag and sheet
Cot (28” x 74”)
Tent and ground cover
Water-resistant dry bag for sleeping gear and personal duffle bag
US Coastguard approved whitewater life jackets
Wilderness First-Aid kit
Get the Gear with Redrock Outfitters
Through several decades of experience on the river, Western knows what clothing and gear will keep you smiling every second of your adventure. Specifically, we’ve bundled “The Works” for him, for her and one for gear in general. Get a FREE item with a “Works” purchase. For your convenience, you can order all these items online with Western’s retail division Red Rock Outfitters.
Things to Bring on the River
Duffel bag (approx. 12”x13”x24”), packed with personal items outlined on the packing list
Extra drinks, if desired. (Water and lemonade are available in unlimited quantities on the boats and in camp. Soda is not provided. If you have special selections in mind, the bus will make one last stop at a convenience store in North Fork where last minute items can be purchased.
Extra snacks, if desired. (Snacks will be provided during the trip)
Photo ID, a major credit card, and cash for gratuities.
Camera(s) - Phones as cameras in waterproof cases/sleeves (Cell service unavailable)
Things NOT to bring on the River
Unnecessary electronic devices (game devices for kids, etc.)
You will want to have photo ID, a major credit card, and some cash for gratuities. All other valuables and jewelry should be left at home or in a safety deposit box at your hotel. In addition, as a safety precaution we suggest that you not wear rings on the river. Also, each year a few of our guests traveling on airlines arrive without luggage. With this in mind, we suggest you carry with you medications, prescription glasses, and anything you may not be able to replace the evening before your trip departs.
Transfer all your personal clothing and gear which you will need on your rafting trip to a small, lightweight duffle bag. Identify duffle bag with label, and leave any extra suitcases or luggage in your vehicle or at the hotel. Please DO NOT BRING SUITCASES on your river trip. As part of your camping equipment package, we provide a water-resistant bag in which you will place your duffle bag as well as the sleeping bag that we provide.
Post-Trip Travel Information »
On the last day of a Main Salmon rafting trip, we run rapids until we reach Carey Creek take-out. After a hearty lunch, trip participants will travel by bus to McCall, Idaho. That night guests stay at a previously selected hotel in McCall, Idaho. Ground shuttle will return you to Boise the next morning (approx. 2 hrs).
Rafts on the Main Salmon 5 Day
The most of the friendly rapids of the Main Salmon afford the opportunity to paddle your own inflatable kayak in addition to riding aboard a comfortable oar rig piloted by skilled guides.
The Oar Rig
Guides adeptly maneuver four to six passenger oar rigs. These specially designed 18-foot boats offer a comfortable ride and are “self-bailing” which means that any water that comes into the raft immediately flows back out.
In conjunction with Oar rigs, the Main Salmon trip also offers paddleboats which provide “hands-on” excitement in conquering the waves with a spirited team of 6 to 8 rafters. Paddlers need not have any prior experience as guides will provide ample instruction and ensure everyone’s success.
Inflatable Kayak (Duckie)
Also known as a “duckie” or “duck,” these two-person inflatable kayaks let you challenge the rapids on your own. They also provide a peaceful and relaxing way to recline and gaze up at the spectacular scenery in the calm stretches of river. If you’ve never paddled before, acquiring some basic paddle skills with the help of a guide takes only a few minutes. Inflatable kayaks are available throughout the trip and guests can take turns enjoying the ride.
General Information & FAQS
A Typical Day on the River
After meeting your guides at the river, you will be given a trip orientation that will include how and where you can sit on the rafts, how to hold on, and safety precautions while on the river.
A typical day will include rafting for a few hours at a time, stopping for scenic side-canyon hikes, bathroom breaks, and lunch. Visiting with new-found friends and learning river lore and geology from our well-trained guides add to the enjoyment of each day.
After a full day of learning and fun we arrive in camp. Guests will be allowed to find their favorite campsite and then return to the rafts for the famous “fire line” - the way we load and unload rafts. Your help in passing the gear off the boat is greatly appreciated; however, if you have physical restrictions or limitations that would prohibit you from participating you are not required to help.
The first evening in camp, the guides will give a demonstration on how to easily assemble the cots and tents and will be available to help you if you need additional assistance. Cots, tents, sleeping bags, sheets, camp chair and water-proof gear bags are provided for all guests. You’ll have no need to worry about bringing any of your own camping equipment.
While you relax at the river’s edge, your guides will prepare dinner. Every night is different, but the menu may include items such as steak, stir fry pork and veggies, pasta and chicken fajitas.
At night, whether you choose to sleep in your tent or under the vast canopy of stars, the fresh night air and the rhythm of the river will lull you to sleep.
Each morning, your guides will prepare a delicious breakfast. You’ll have a chance to enjoy eating before returning to your campsite to take down your tent and cot and pack up your belongings in your dry bag. After bringing your bag down to the boats, guests participate in the fire line once again and you are off on another fun-filled day of adventure.
Rafting vs Other Vacations
The setting and pace of a rafting adventure gives you something you don’t find in other vacations. You will quickly discover why so many are calling this “the best vacation of their lives.” It’s the combination of drifting over tranquil pools of water under the shadows of towering rock formations, the exhilaration and thrill of rolling waves and crashing whitewater, the exploration of seldom-seen waterfalls and Native American history, the peaceful moments of reflection as you gaze up at the star-studded sky and the fresh feeling of renewal as the morning sun slowly filters through winding canyons. All this provides an indescribable sense of belonging. A sense of oneness with yourself and those around you. A sense of adventure, reflection and renewal. Come discover the difference.
Physical Requirements & Dietary Restrictions
Please consider carefully any medical or health condition that would endanger yourself, or others on the trip, or diminish the enjoyment of an adventure vacation such as this. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remote distances from a hospital, and physical challenges of a rafting adventure. It is critical that you are in reasonable health and physical fitness at the time of departure so that our staff can focus their attention equally on all trip participants. If you are taking any medications, we should be made aware of these and what these medications are treating. If you have any questions or concerns please talk with us and we can help you consider your options.
Fit into our Type 5 Life Jacket (maximum chest size is 52”and minimum weight is 50 pounds) required by the National Park Service.
Each guest wears a lifejacket and they are very effective at keeping you above water, but if you are unable to swim, it can still be a threatening situation because the waters are turbulent. The lifejackets we supply are certified by the United States Coast Guard and are approved for use by our managing agencies (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management & Utah State Parks & Recreation). They are classified as “Type V Whitewater” jackets, and they come in two basic sizes “Youth” and “Adult Universal.”
Youth lifejackets fit those weighing between 50 and 90 pounds (23-41kg). An Adult Universal Jacket is rated “for persons weighing more than 90 pounds (41kg).” They are highly adjustable and fit a range of chest sizes from 30 - 52 inches (76-132 cm). Body shape can also affect the proper fit of the jacket. If you are unsure, call and speak with us. If unsure, we’ll mail you one of our jackets and you can try it on.
Securely grip ropes provided for handholds while running the rapids.
Gripping the ropes on the raft is the only way to ensure you stay on board. Factors such as where you sit in the raft in relation to where the waves crash can be a factor, but whitewater rafting can give an unpredictable ride.
Falling off a boat into the river, or having your boat capsize is one of the inherent risks associated with whitewater rafting. If this happens, you will need the ability to self-rescue by swimming to the boat or to shore. If you end up on shore, you will need to traverse a rocky shoreline to rejoin the boat which cannot maneuver upstream.
For those participants who have heart conditions or who are very overweight, falling into the river also presents the possibility of a “cold-water immersion heart attack.” This is caused when the person swimming cannot calm his/her breathing within a reasonable amount of time (generally 60 seconds).
Traverse and navigate uneven terrain over sand and rocks on hikes and in camp.
Getting on and off the boats can be very challenging. We park the boats against a variety of terrain such as rocks, steep sandy beaches, and flat locations. Boats may also be slippery.
As we travel down river, we make occasional stops to lead “side hikes” which can be either very short and relatively easy, or much longer, covering significant distances and elevation. We hike over uneven, rocky, and often steep surfaces. Though all the hikes are not mandatory, Guests cannot be left on the rafts due to safety concerns. Reasonable mobility is important. If you have questions about your limitations, please call.
In camp, you will need to have the same mobility over uneven terrain, and be able to carry your personal bags to your campsite while doing so. Also, keep in mind that paths from your campsite to the toilet facilities would not be classified as “easy” to navigate at night.
We camp and eat lunch on sandy beaches and on areas where the ground is mostly dirt and rocks. You must also be capable of safely walking across slippery, rocky, and sandy areas as you climb on and off the boat and walk along the beach to your personally selected campsite at night.
Carry your own dry bag which will include your 20-pound duffle bag along with the sleeping bag and ground cover we provide.
Guests are required to carry their own waterproof bags with personal gear and the additional 15 pounds of camping gear (cots & tents) to their individual campsite. This can be very difficult for some guests due to the uneven terrain, deep sand, and steep beaches.
A river trip is a participatory experience and requires each guest to be reasonably self-sufficient. Our guides will look after the safety and welfare of all the participants on the trip, but you are also responsible for your own safety! Our guides will provide you with the information and tools you need to participate; however, they already fill nearly every minute of their day performing their duties on behalf of the group. They will not be able to devote a lot of extra time to any one individual on the trip.
The nature of an outdoor adventure includes exposure to weather conditions such as heat, sun, wind or rain - sometimes in the extreme. With proper preparation procedures such as applying sunscreen, wearing the right clothing, etc., many of these factors of weather (even in the extreme) can be mitigated, and do not have to be a negative factor. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remoteness, and physical requirements of a rafting adventure.
REMOTE LOCATIONS:Our trips are operated in the “backcountry.” At any given time, you will be a minimum of several hours away from medical help. Our guides are all trained in wilderness first aid and some have even higher levels of emergency response training (e.g., EMT), however, sometimes injuries or the aggravation of pre-existing medical conditions are severe enough to require evacuation from the trip. We carry satellite phones but they are not 100 percent reliable in all locations. Most evacuations require transportation via helicopter which presents many challenges such as appropriate landing zones, inclement weather, darkness, or delays.
Payment & Cancellation Policies
Paying your balance
Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and may be paid by check (preferably) or credit card. We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date.
Cancellation & refunds
The cancellation policy applies at the time of deposit. Details regarding cancellations and travel changes for each trip can be found at WesternRiver.com or on your reservation confirmation. If you must cancel any reservation, the cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred in preparation for any cancelled trips or for costs incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, or illness. If you are concerned about the possibility of having to cancel, you may find information about cancellation coverage and policy details at: westernriver.com/cancellation
Water and flavored drinks are available in unlimited quantities
on the boats and in camp. If you wish to bring your own alcoholic beverages and
soda pop you may do so in moderate amounts. Please avoid glass containers.
Plastic bottles and aluminum cans work well.
If you have additional questions, our friendly staff is available Monday – Friday from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Mountain Time.