America’s Rafting Company floats the Snake River through Hells Canyon, the Salmon River and the Owyhee River in Oregon. We are often asked what the difference is between Snake river rafting and Salmon river rafting. There are many aspects from each river that can make for a very different experience on the water. The Salmon River Rafting trips that we offer are set up in a similar fashion to our Hells Canyon Snake River trips, so today we’ll point our the major similarities and differences.
Salmon River rafting trips require the same kind of boats that the Snake River does, our inflatable rafts are made by AIRE and they are great quality, they get us down the river in style and class. We love working with AIRE- they are a local Idaho company with great vision and customer service! We have very similar equipment in terms of camping and cooking, and most all of our gear is the same for our Salmon River rafting trips and our Snake River rafting trips, but there are a few very different aspects of the two rivers to point out:
First, the Salmon River rafting is lined with sandy beaches! White, pristine sandy beaches. Whereas the Snake River has more rock/gravel bars. The reason the Salmon is full of sandy beaches is an interesting fact: the Salmon River is the longest running river in North America without any dams. That means all the snow melt and run off carries a lot of dirt and debris, which floats down the river and gets deposited along the river banks. On the Snake River the same concept is happening: the sand is running down into the tribuataries and into the Snake, but the Snake is a dammed river. The sand is instead getting trapped above each of the three dams leading into Hells Canyon. Eventually the sand and silt will become too much of a problem and the reservoirs (Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon Reservoirs) will need to be dredged to rid them of the sand.
Secondly, the other major difference in the two rivers is the history. The Snake River canyon is lined with homesteads and mines from decades past. The Salmon River was used and inhabited primarily by the Nez Pearce Indians and Chinese miners. There aren’t many old homesteads or cabins along the lower Salmon River. So, if you’re a history buff and interested in seeing old cabins, equipment and homesteads than the Snake River would be a great choice for you!
Thirdly, the Salmon River and the Snake River vary in their directional flows and the way the sun rises. It’s a very peculiar thing, but the Snake River in Hells Canyon actually flows from South to North. The Salmon River primarily flows from East to West. This has a large impact on the summer days. In Hells Canyon, when the sun rises and sets, you have a lot of cover from the canyon walls. Whereas the Salmon River gets sun very early in the day and it sets very late in the day. So, a trip where swimming and sun bathing is a priority- we suggest the Salmon River.
The scenery and terrain in Hells Canyon and in the Salmon River canyon are similar, they run parallel of each other for many miles and are in close proximity to one another.
The whitewater is superb and comprise many of the miles of whitewater that contribute to Idaho being the state with the most whitewater miles in the lower 48. America’s Rafting Company is fortunate enough to get to visit both river canyons on a regular and when asked what our favorite river is- well, you’ll just have to come out and meet us in person to find out!