Idaho’s idyllic Main Salmon River is the quintessential Western river trip featuring fun, low-stress rapids, gorgeous campsites, and great fishing. There’s a reason Sunset magazine named it the “Best Guided Outdoor Trip.”
Featuring miles upon miles of protected wilderness where little has changed since first appearing on the U.S. map, the Wild & Scenic Main Salmon River in Idaho offers a rich river experience including free-flowing Class III Idaho whitewater that’s great for any age and experience level. This Idaho rafting adventure includes big sandy beaches perfect for camping and playing, beautiful mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a natural hot spring.
On the Main Salmon River, we run the full gamut of OARS river vessels so you can experience them all! Riding in an oar boat one day and a wooden dory the next, then challenging the whitewater hands-on in a paddle raft or inflatable kayak, ensures a diverse and exciting Idaho river adventure for each member of your party. Dubbed the “River of No Return” by early prospectors, the Salmon River is a river you’ll want to return to raft, again and again.
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Main Salmon River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day Before Your Trip
The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip orientation in McCall, ID. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.
Enjoy a scenic flight to Salmon. Then, we’ll drive to our put-in at Corn Creek, where the rest of the guide crew will be waiting to give an informative safety talk and some brief paddle raft/inflatable kayak instruction before our river adventure begins. Once on the river, the first day’s whitewater action includes rapids like Black Creek and Bailey.
The first day on our Main Salmon River rafting trip generally sets the pace for our trip. We’ll spend a few hours on the water, sometimes stopping for a short hike, a soak in a hot spring, or a visit to a Native American pictograph or another historical site. Come lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After relaxing for a bit (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a side hike), we get back in our boats for more exciting whitewater and possibly an opportunity to try your hand at the paddleboard and inflatable kayak.
Mid- to late- afternoon, we reach camp. You grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen and “living room”—camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). Read, nap, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as the guides prepare dinner. After a satisfying feast, the evening is yours to spend however you wish.
Days 2 – 5
Each morning, you’ll be greeted with hot coffee, tea, and cocoa as breakfast is prepared by your guides. After a hearty breakfast, you pack your belongings and have some more time to relax while camp is broken down and the boats are loaded.
For the duration of our trip, we’re mesmerized by the beauty of the Salmon River canyon and the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. This broad canyon is heavily forested with towering pines and conifers and, early in the season, blanketed with vibrant wildflowers. We may be welcomed to the river by a family of otters swimming near our boats, a herd of bighorn sheep scaling a steep canyon wall, a giant elk or moose wading in the shallows, or if we’re lucky, a black bear standing sentinel on shore.
As we journey into the pristine heart of the Frank Church Wilderness, each day brings new discoveries: exciting rapids like Five Mile, Big Mallard, and Elkhorn, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill’s homestead and Jim Moore’s place (maybe you’ll find the fortune he buried in the hillside!), and perhaps a stop and short climb to Barth Hot Springs or a peaceful hike to the Yew Grove. The fishing is excellent during these days, and on trips in July and August, warm air and water temperatures encourage frequent refreshing dips in the river.
After lunch on the last day of our Main Salmon River rafting adventure, we reach the take-out. Here, we say farewell to the river and our guides and travel by van back to McCall.
Meeting Time & Place
7 PM, the evening before your trip
Approximately 4-6 PM to McCall
Dates & Prices
Save $100 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.
|2024 Departures||Adult Price||Youth Price|
|June 2, 11||$2,399||$2,299|
|June 11 All Adult||$2,399||–|
|June 21 Wilderness Gourmet||$2,699||–|
|July 7, 15||$2,599||$2,599*|
|July 15 All Adult||$2,599||–|
|July 23, 31||$2,599||$2,599*|
|August 16, 24||$2,399||$2,299|
|September 9 All Adult||$2,399||–|
*Youth pricing not available for trips departing in July
$400 – Gourmet $800
• $4 per day Recreation Enhancement Act Fee
Join OARS for Class III whitewater fun on our adults-only Main Salmon River trip on the River of No Return
Join OARS and Chef Rhody for a Wilderness Gourmet adventure on the Wild & Scenic Main Salmon River with Precept Wine
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from McCall, Idaho
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip.
Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, dory, inflatable kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and paddle raft (requires 11 or more trip guests).
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night.
While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.
Average Air & Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
Few rivers offer whitewater excitement suitable for such a wide range of ages and experience levels as the Main Salmon. Its Class III rapids are a great whitewater introduction for the beginning rafter, yet challenging enough to inspire adrenaline in experienced river runners (Class IV possible at peak flows). The Main’s water flows freely, without the obstruction of man-made dams, surging through a scenic river canyon in rolling wave trains and exciting drops, separated by lazy stretches during which you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of your fellow travelers.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. Final payment is due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|180 or more days before your trip||$50/person|
|179 – 90 days before your trip||$100/person|
|89 – 60 days before your trip||$200/person|
|59 days or less before your trip||Full Fare|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.
OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip. If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers; however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. is operated under special use permit with the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement
We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Main and Lower Salmon River between Corn Creek and Heller Bar on the Snake River, we acknowledge the territories of the Nimiipuu, Shoshone-Bannock, and Lemhi-Shoshone.
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