Sometimes I feel like the Salmon River experience is often forgotten about, or Hells Canyon shines a little brighter than the Salmon. Perhaps that’s because of the Hells Canyon’s fame or it’s depth, or it’s elusiveness, I’m not sure. But, that doesn’t mean that the Salmon River experience should be any less talked about or bragged on, but maybe that’s why I love it so much, it’s sort of the unsung hero of river trips. The Salmon River experience is quite different from Hells Canyon.
Probably the number one reason the Salmon River experience is so different is the sand! White, hot sandy beaches. It’s a love hate kind of relationship. There is something magical about a beach, then mix that with being in the back country and the fact that you had to take a raft to get there and that beach becomes even more magical! It’s a great feeling when you park the boat on the beach, kick off your shoes and don’t need them again until the next morning. But, the sand can be rather invasive, it will stick to anything and you’ll find sand in at the bottom of your bag long after the trip is over. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I pulled a pair of shoes out that I haven’t worn since fall and had to dump out the sand in them from the Salmon River. I got a kick out of it and I longed for the sandy beaches again- soon enough the Salmon River experience will come flooding back.
Another thing that stands out when I think about the Salmon River experience is the rapids- there are so many class II and III rapids that make the river a great candidate for kayaking! They’re just big enough to get your adrenaline rushing, but not too big that you can’t conquer them and feel like a world class kayaker! There are those class IV rapids that you have to watch out for, but the guides will let you know when they’re coming up and if you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can definitely run them in a kayak!
As the longest running un-dammed river in North America, the Salmon River experience is enhanced even more. Our country was dam happy for many years and built many dams throughout our entire river system. In fact, we (as a country) are now going through some initiatives to break dams down and restore our rivers to what they were. The dams were installed for various reasons, most of which was hydro-power, some were installed for flood control and others installed for aesthetic or recreational reasons. The Salmon River has none. Not one single dam, so when enjoying the Salmon River experience, you can rest easy knowing that the river has flown unencumbered in a natural state. The Salmon River flows into the Snake River and there are dams on the lower Snake that prevent many of the salmon and steelhead from making their runs back to spawning grounds. Some fish do still make it back up, so when you’re lucky enough to go Salmon or Steelhead fishing and catch one, you know that the fish had a very long and exhausting journey. It’s an awesome feat to catch a huge native Steelhead, which further enhances the Salmon River Experience!