A FUN Family Whitewater Rafting Vacation Main Salmon River Idaho!
The best family adventure vacation we have ever had . . . on the River of No Return
— The Dougan Family
Our epic journey began with 2 small planes that we chartered hopping from Portland, Oregon to Salmon, Idaho and landing in a light rainfall. Met outfitter Terry and crew at the airport and loaded up the 15 (or so) person van…heading out for North Fork, Idaho and the River of No Return. First things first, we stopped at the North Fork convenience store (last flushing bathroom for 4 days…little did we know), more driving on the river road to Corn Creek where we met up with Jim and his jet boat at the put-in for Main Salmon River of No Return whitewater rafting vacation.
We zoomed downriver to arrive at the Arctic Creek Lodge where we dined on barbequed ribs and also tried some barbequed lamb ribs. Crazy Heidi made a mean upside-down berry cake for dessert and blueberry pancakes for breakfast. We all slept in an old fashioned bunkhouse with a sink inside for brushing teeth and a composting outhouse outside and up the trail.
Next morning, we hit the ground running (or is that the water swimming?). Salmon Falls to start us off, then we all soaked in the natural hot springs at Barth for several minutes, then rafting more rapids and riffles. Stopped at Yellow Pine Bar to meet Greg the Knife Maker and Sue his gardening wife, spent the first night camping at Upper Yellow Pine camp a spot nearby. Big Mallard Rapids was the first rapid to start the 2nd day, we stopped for lunch under a suspension pack bridge at Campbell’s Ferry. While lunch was being prepared we took a short hike with a couple of the guides to Francis Zaunmiller Wisner’s homestead (buried 2 husbands and ended up living solo at her cabin, writing a column for the local newspaper).
After Francis’ place we crossed the pack bridge to look around Jim Moore’s place where he grew vegetables and built small cabins. His grave is onsite on the back of the property. After lunch it was on to another nice sandy beach camp right on the river. By the 2nd night the teenagers had taken to sleeping outside under the stars and staying up late around the campfire spinning big yarns…everyone who slept outside on the beach was raving about the shooting stars they saw at night.
The next morning (3rd) took on some fun rapids and stopped at Buckskin Bill’s for an OUTHOUSE (!) and ice cream sandwiches, saw Buckskin Bill’s rock gun tower that he built to defend his property from Russians (or more so, from the Forest Service who said Billy was squatting). Then it was on to Ludwig rapid which was the only rapid bite Brandyn and upset his inflatable kayak, next was MacKay Bar Resort. Then past Shepp Ranch and Polly Bemis Ranch (she was the oriental slave that was sold by her father to a man who bought passage to San Francisco for he and Polly and he treated Polly poorly… Polly was wagered away to her 2nd master in a poker game…. her second master married Polly and brought Polly to the Salmon river where she outlived him and lived happily ever after). The last night’s rafting camp was a terraced sandy beach. There was an island in an inlet next to our camp that we could wade to and the whole island was polished river rock. Cayche named the island Quickie Island and we all had to go over and explore the treasures the island might have. The last night even some adults slept outside the tents on the sandy beach and watched the shooting stars late ainto the night.
The 4th and last day rafting we ran the Chittham rapids (because if you don’t make the rapids, you do something else) and took out at Vinegar Creek Boat Ramp where we changed clothes in a unisex Forest Service outhouse. Back into the 15 (or so) person van to head off to the McCall Idaho airport where our flight was leaving at 4PM.
We had whitewater rafted 80 miles of wilderness river through the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness Area on the Main Salmon River. We saw quite a few river rocks, Big Horn sheep, a deer or two, a few snakes, lots of waterfowl, Chuckar (grouse/quail), Merganser (ducks), dippers, geese, and some river otters playing in the water one morning near Quickie Island. We had experienced wilderness whitewater rafting and lived thru the groover as well as a tented hot shower stall that ended up being not so bad although, really, as my mom aptly put it, what’s the point on a rafting trip? The food was to die for! We had never eaten so well on an outdoor adventure ever before. The food was prepared and served with the utmost care. It was absolutely amazing how well the kitchen folks did given the remoteness of the area and lack of modern conveniences. And I cannot forget our two mascot friends, Jackie and Shadow… Jackie was a black and white sheepdog who smiled just like our Millie dog does. Shadow was an Australian Cattle dog… neither of whom like to get wet or swim… Jackie had a little anxiety every time Terry would leave her line of sight. Mike Hovey was the cook and river guide who is also the owner of a Dutch Oven Catering business located in Boise, Idaho and Shadow was his dog.
A good time had by all and we would all… unanimously… do it again. (So wonder why the natives call it the River of No Return?)
Hopefully, this rafting story will inspire you and your family to participate in adventure travel vacations. And, we hope that should your next family vacation be filled with outdoor adventures that you too feel that your holiday was “the best family vacation we have ever had!”