double clickTravel Planning Page Main Salmon River
Travel Planning Page
Main Salmon River 5 Day

Main Salmon River Travel Planning

  • 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

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Main Salmon 5 Day Travel Route with Flight from Boise

Main Salmon 5 Day Travel Route - Boise

Physical Requirements on a Main Salmon River Trip

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.

Read More about Physical Requirements

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.


Arrive in Boise, Idaho the night before your river trip. Best Western Vista Inn shuttle van will pick you up, call (208) 336-8100 for the shuttle service to the hotel. At check-in, sign up for the 5:40 AM shuttle to the airport for the following morning.


Meet in the Best Western Vista Inn hotel lobby, packed and ready for the shuttle to Salmon, Idaho. A continental breakfast is served while you wait for the shuttle. You will be flying with Gem Air to Salmon to meet the guides and other guests.

All guests board the shuttle bus for the ride to the river put-in. You will stop along the way at the North Fork General Store for any last minute purchases.

Once you arrive at the river, you will have a brief orientation before choosing from oar boats, paddle rafts, or inflatable kayaks for your rafting adventure. On the first day, 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.


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.


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.

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Best Western Boise

Meet in Boise - Best Western Vista Inn »

2645 Airport Way Boise, Idaho
Meet in the lobby of The Best Western Vista Inn near the Airport.

NOTE: For those choosing to stay somewhere other than the Best Western Vista Inn, it is your responsibility to arrive at the designated time and place mentioned above.

DEPARTURE: [CHECK CONFIRMATION FOR EXACT DEPARTURE TIMES] Shuttle from Best Western to the Boise Airport Terminal where you'll meet the for the AM charter flight to Salmon. In Salmon you'll be transferred to the bus awaiting at the Stagecoach Inn and embark for the river.

At the end of your Main Salmon rafting adventure, a bus will return you to beautiful McCall, Idaho where you'll stay the night at The Third Street Inn. Morning ground transfer will return you to the Best Western Vista Inn in Boise.

Book your Boise-to-Boise Travel Option »

TIP: Plan at least 1 night before and after your trip.

To add the Boise to Boise Travel Package, we will confirm the following:

  1. Lodging in Boise, ID at the Vista Inn
  2. Lodging in McCall, ID at the Third Street Inn
  3. Flight from Boise to Salmon, ID
  4. Return ground transportation from McCall to Boise, ID

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.

To add the Boise to Boise Travel Package to your itinerary, please call Western River at 866-904-1160.

Getting there...

“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”

Vivian Swift

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Things to Do in Boise and McCall

Boise Greenbelt

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!

Main Salmon River Rafting Mccall Harbor

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

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.

Download Guide

How to Pack for your Rafting Vacation

Get a better idea of each of the items on your packing list. See an example of each item and understand why we recommend you pack it for the river.


Packing the Best Camera for Rafting

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 and eat a good breakfast
  • Check your confirmation for exact departure time

Items Provided with Boise to Boise Travel Package
  • 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
  • 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
  • Ammo can (weatherproof box) for personal items
  • Custom rafts
  • US Coastguard approved whitewater life jackets
  • Wilderness First-Aid kit
  • Sanitary Facilities
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. 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 the North Fork General Store 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.

Extra Luggage

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 »

Main Salmon River Rafting Mccall Harbor

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 the Third Street Inn hotel in McCall. Ground shuttle will return you to Boise the next morning (approx. 2 hrs).

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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.

Oar Rig
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Paddle Raft

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.

paddle raft
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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.

Inflatable Kayak