It would appear that a giant meteorite landed on the banks of the Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho with suspicious looking characters from another world. I believe that may be like in  “close encounters” of the Cottonwood kind. This group from the Cottonwood area on the Camas Prairie, are neighbors to Rigginsites (the small “drinking town” with a big whitewater problem). Often they must get away from the hay  fields and high Ag country to skip town for fun in the sun down in the canyon where “in your face” whitewater can cool your jets and allow the river’s medicine to sooth the soul.

At least that was the intention of this group that Misty rounded up for this weekend float trip. Most were friends and neighbors from her neck of the woods, and they certainly know how to cut loose and let their hair down.  Running two paddle rafts, vying for the best possible runs at every rapid encountered, turned out to be highly successful. That is, success, as defined by hitting everything big, but precise, keeping all paddlers in the raft and not the river, and rafts right side up at the bottom of each run.

We did have to also  stop at Meteorite Rock for some root beer floats, to wash down a couple of beers that may have snuck out of the cooler. Oh, and did I mention a good place for a “group picture.” This unusual rock is so out-of-place, in relationship to all the other uniform rocks around it, that my mind has tumbled around different theories as to how it got there. It is a smoothly polished rock , with voluptuous pothole sculpturing, and is testimony to a fluted art form that only a river can be artisan of.  But, why doesn’t all its similar sized sister and brother rocks have the same markings, rather than the drab “just another rock” appearance they surround it with.

There is only one other similar rock, about a quarter-mile upriver that looks like it could be the parent of this smaller meteoric bedazzled boulder.  Both look exactly alike, and it is not hard to picture that the smaller one broke off the larger and somehow got transported down river. But how? It certainly didn’t float down river, and even tumbling downriver in high water seems highly unlikely. My theory is ice. Perhaps this area had some glaciation and the ice carried this large boulder to its current location, then melted away, leaving evidence as to its passing.

In Alaska, this happens all the time, and the large boulders deposited on various river beds, miles from any source material, are called “Devil Stones.”  Does Salmon River have its own version of a Devil Stone? After all, Hells Canyon is just over the divide, 15 miles away, as the crow flies.

Nez Perce legend has it that Coyote made the Salmon and Snake River Canyons. So it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine Coyote may have played a few tricks and left some Salmon River Devil stones just for humor.

Of course,  geologist tell us their version of what happened to our area of the planet, too. They say that the Riggins area is a “Fracture” or “Suture” Zone.  This means that millions upon millions of years ago the east shore of the Salmon River was the main continent, and the west side was ocean. Then islands somewhere offshore of Alaska drifted their way to this west shore location and collided with the mainland, as plate tectonics did its work, pushing up mountains and ruffling the relief.

However, the  landscape on both sides of the river now looks the same due to relativity. Thank you Einstein, for such a convenient explanation for many things in nature. That is, in relatively a short time geologically ( the last 30 million years – an age called the Miocene Epoch) we had the Columbia River Basalt Flows. Cracks opened in the earth’s surface, lava spewed out, oozing over the landscape, damming up rivers and creating lakes.  Then sedimentary materials filled the lake bottoms, as new outlets cut canyons  ever deeper with the passage of time. So within that Miocene time span there were from up to 70 to 80 different lava flows that filled the canyon, so now the landscape takes on the appearance of a giant “Nature Cake” layerd with lava and sediments, just like a fancy gourmet layer cake baked by professionals and wannabe Betty Crocker’s (after jail time, Martha Stewart may not be as much of an idolized wannabe  now)??

At any rate, the important thing here, regardless of legend or science, is that there are sure a lot of cool things to see that nature has to offer. And the most wonderful thing of it all, is that so much of it is available just by floating a river and paying attention. While thrills and spills (planned ones to swim and relax) are high energy boosters to excite the adrenalin,  the other attributes that floating through “Nature’s Disneyland” invoke, are both interesting and curiosity quenchers. There never is a dull moment for those who seek time on the water.  And that is especially true for the aliens from Cottonwood whom landed on Salmon River this past weekend. Fortunately, they were all my kind of aliens, fun to be around, good sports,  and great country-neighbors.  Encounters with the Cottonwood Aliens is welcome, anytime, with the Wapiti Clan. Thanks Misty, for landing your friends on Salmon River to become acquainted and converted to River People for awhile.