The rugged and pristine Salmon River, one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the United States, begins its course in the Sawtooth Mountain Range in eastern Idaho and flows nearly 200 miles through wilderness into the Snake River on the western border, bisecting the state and serving as a time zone boundary line.
The Salmon River canyon is one of the deepest on the continent, its granite walls stretching over one mile high and the gneiss rock within dating to 1.4 billion years old. The first humans in the valley were believed to have arrived over 8,000 years ago, ancestors of the Nez Percé and other tribes who continued to inhabit this abundant region until the arrival of would-be gold prospectors in the 1850’s.
When Lewis and Clark encountered the Salmon River in their westward exploration of 1805, they described it as “foaming and roaring through rocks in every direction, so as to render the passage of anything impossible.” This characteristic, coupled with steep walls and dense forest, begot the name “The River of No Return” for the inability to traverse upstream. Those watercraft that did make it downstream, carrying supplies or equipment, were disassembled and used for lumber.
The sandy beaches, clear green pools and exhilarating rapids of the Salmon River make it a popular destination for lovers of whitewater and nature today. Its remote location offers the chance to spot big-game species such as bighorn sheep, elk, moose, and cougar, while a diverse fish population provides fun for any angler. There is something for everyone to enjoy on this significant and unique waterway.