The River of No Return
Welcome to the “Mighty Main” Salmon River, also known as “The River of No Return.” Long home to the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) and Pohogues (Shoshone-Bannock) tribes and their ancestors, the river was partially descended by the Lewis & Clark expedition before the river’s daunting canyon walls and untamed rapids forced them to seek a new way to the Pacific.
The Salmon River in Idaho is called the "River of No Return" because it was once considered difficult to navigate and treacherous for salmon fisherman and fur traders who traveled downriver. With its strong currents and rapids, it was difficult to return upstream and hence the nickname was given. Over time, this nickname has come to symbolize the rugged and wild nature of the region and its remoteness from civilization.
The Salmon River in Idaho maintains its nickname as the 'River of No Return' because once you set out on its rushing currents and thrilling rapids, there's no going back! It's an adventurous, wild ride that will leave you feeling exhilarated and full of memories. But don't worry, you can always come return for more!
The Main Salmon boasts some pretty impressive stats: It is part of the longest undammed river system and is located in the largest designated Wilderness area in the contiguous United States, and it carves through the second deepest canyon in the country. However, we’ve come a long way since Lewis & Clark’s initial impression, and today we know this as one of the most enticing, invigorating, and versatile river trips in the country. Sublime weather and water, beautiful sandy beaches, whitewater fit for the whole family, and myriad riverside attractions make this the perfect trip for any group, on any occasion.
The River of No Return is our “Main” thing, which affords our guides an in-depth knowledge and love for this 81 mile stretch of pure bliss - including all the side-hikes and attractions, indigenous and pioneer history, and fascinating natural history that comes with this incredible adventure. Jump in and see what memories await you upon this once in a lifetime adventure…
The pool and drop nature of the Main make for the perfect combination of excitement and relaxation. Stretches of calm water allow ample time for fishing, playing with various watercraft such as inflatable kayaks and stand up paddle boards, or just taking in the breathtaking scenery, while giving you plenty of time to prepare for “roller-coaster” style class III-IV whitewater. Just enough to cool you off and get the adrenaline pumping, but still fun for the whole family. You’ll tackle rapids like Devil’s Teeth, Black Creek Falls, and Chittam (and many more!).
Is there a bad day of weather in Central Idaho during the summer? Very rarely! Beautiful, sunny days couple with water temps that warm significantly with every river-mile. Hot days give way to warm evenings and comfortable, cool mornings. Kids and adults alike will find ample time to frolic in the pools, eddys, and rapids along the way. The serene water provides opportunities to cool down and keep the whole family endlessly entertained. Prepare to bring a tan home with that smile.
On the Main, beach time is half of the experience. Eons of granitic erosion from the Central Idaho mountains has left the Main with giant, beautiful white sandy beaches, not unlike those in Hawaii. Comfortable camping and ample space to gather, eat, relax, do yoga, or play anything from cribbage to volleyball. There is something for everyone and you will leave wondering why you would float anywhere else.
Do you hear that? That’s the sound of life in the middle of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness - the largest contiguous roadless area in the continental U.S. The absence of any nearby metropolitan center means the wildlife is free to be wild, the breathtaking scenery still looks much like it did to the first humans in the area, and the crystal-clear starry nights remain awe inspiring. And, we operate our trips as a chance to disconnect from technology, giving you the chance to plug into the experience. Once the phantom rings subside, all that will remain is time to be present with nature and your friends and family.
The Salmon River basin contains most of the remaining salmon and steelhead habitat in the Columbia River Basin. But catching the silvery glimpse of these iconic fish under your boat isn’t the only wildlife you’ll see on the Main. Look up and you might see Golden and Bald eagles zigzagging the river corridor; Elk, Big Horn Sheep, and Deer congregating riverside for a drink; and Black Bears and Wolves stoically roaming the hillsides - at a safe distance - as they did before being hemmed in by development. Bring your binoculars and prepare to be dazzled by iconic Western wildlife at its finest.
Indigenous and Frontier History
The indigenous peoples Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) and Pohogues (Shoshone-Bannock) and their ancestors of Central Idaho have gathered up and down the Salmon for centuries, and today you can still visit ancient indigenous sites and petroglyphs along your journey. Not too long after Lewis & Clark mapped the territory, miners, trappers, and pioneers began to explore and settle along the river. Take a stop at one of the many, well-preserved historic ranches - such as Campbell’s Ferry, Buckskin Bill’s and Polly Bemis - to see how early frontier-folk made a life in this rugged terrain.
If variety is the spice of life, then the River of No Return is plenty spicy! Tired of sitting on the boats? Take a scenic hike or run on one of the many trails running along the river. Legs tired from that awesome hike? Stop off at the geothermal hot springs and let the healing waters relax your body and soul. Didn’t bring a Steelhead rod? Wet a fly or relax next to one of the myriad tributary creeks and rivers cascading into the Main. The variety of attractions is what really makes the Main shine. No matter who is in your group - the history buff, the angler, or the adrenaline junky - there is something new and exciting for everyone around every bend.
All of us here at Confluences River Expeditions are excited to get you on the Main and let you see for yourself why The River of No Return is one of the most iconic waterways in the world!
Confluences River Expeditions has offered world-class Idaho rafting trips on the gorgeous River of No Return since 1982. We give personal service from the first phone call to the last rapid. Book your unforgettable Main Salmon River adventure today!
Confluences River Expeditions does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or national and ethnic origin in its operations of trips, or in its employment practices. Confluences River Expeditions is an equal opportunity service provider and operates on special use permits from the Salmon-Challis National Forest. You can read more here.