In 1805, when Lewis and Clark ventured west, they worked their way through and around many barriers during their search for an inland Northwest Passage. One such obstacle was the Salmon River near North Fork, Idaho. When they got to that point, the local Indians told them that if they continued downriver, they would “no return”. Thus, to this day, the Salmon river in Idaho is known as the “River of No Return.”
While Lewis and Clark by passed by the Salmon River to find passage over the Lolo Trail and old Nez Perce Indian Trial along the Lochsa and Clearwater River’s, they missed out on floating through the second deepest gorge in North America. Actually, the early explorers, fur trappers, and miners, built wooden scows with long sweeps fore and aft to propel them downriver, floating the section of river, Lewis and Clark didn’t.
They spent 5-6 months at a time, floating from North Fork to Lewiston, living off the land, hunting, fishing, trapping, and looking for gold. Once in the city of Lewiston (Idaho’s first capital) they cached in all their treasures and dis-assembled their boats to sell the wood. Then they bought a pack string of horses or mules and packed all the way back to North Fork to do the same journey again the next year. Thus, “The River of No Return” resumed its notoriety for being a one way river. That is, until jet boats arrived on the scene and changed man’s ability to ascend the river, too.
We, here at Wapiti River Guides live along that famed “River of No Return” in Riggins, Idaho – on the bottom hundred miles of river. The Salmon is the longest (425 miles) free flowing river contained within one state (aside from AK) in North America. It originates in the Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake, near the small town of Stanley, and makes confluence with the Snake River in the bottom end of Hells Canyon. which borders Oregon on the west side.
Our 5 day trips take route on the remote section of canyon comprising the bottom 60 miles of river, where it eventually merges with “grandmother” Snake River. The Seven Devil Mountain Range (nearly 10000′ elevation) form the divide between the Salmon and Snake Rivers between Riggins (1800′ elevation) and the confluence of these two rivers. With only 500′ difference in elevation between the two-mile deep canyons, similar geology make these canyons more or less twin sisters in geomorphology. Both are deeper than the Grand Canyon, much to the surprise of many of our guests.
But, dazzling views, between daunting rapids, make this journey one of the most beautiful and exciting adventures on the planet. Oh, did I mention we might be a bit biased in our assessment of our favorite river run? Well, based on miles of smiles from previous river guests, surely we must not be too far off in our inflated assessment of the canyon splendor.
Also, for those who like more solitude and the sound of nature, rather than engine roar, the lower gorge has less jet boat traffic than the main salmon which flows through the Frank Church Wilderness Area. Ironically, designated wilderness gets more man made noise in the canyon than non-designate (though very remote) wilderness. But that is fine with us. While people herd voraciously to see sanctioned wilderness, we escort fewer folks into country just as spectacular, yet less popular. After all, people are like sheep and seem to want to go where everyone else does.
Not a sheep? Then travel with us, we will take you where Lewis & Clark dared not go, to uncrowded country where your elbows touch only the wide expanses.