Camping and Whitewater-Rafting Getaway on “the River of No Return”
In 1805, Lewis and Clark ventured down the Salmon River in dugout canoes carved from hollowed-out trees. They were enormous crafts— up to 40 feet in length and 3 feet in diameter—but they could barely navigate even calmer stretches of this river, not to mention its rapids. That's a testament to both the Salmon River’s Class-III rapids and to how much boating technology has improved. Today, it's easier and much more fun to attack this wild whitewater in a smaller craft. With this deal, Yellow Jacket River Guides’ experienced team directs three- or five-day camping and rafting tours on and around the mighty Salmon.
The company has three types of watercraft: large oar boats, paddleboats, and inflatable kayaks. “If you’re not comfortable in the water, you can ride in the oar boat where the guide steers," says owner Alison Steen. "If you’re ready to try something more intense, the inflatable kayaks are a lot of fun.”
Both trips begin with a charter bus ride upriver. The three-day tour meets in McCall before traveling to Vinegar Creek, and then sends guesting roughly 25 miles up river via a jet boat to rendezvous with river rafts. The five-day trip starts in Salmon and heads to Corn Creek. The two excursions both start downriver, groups will camp each night on white-sand beaches along the waterway, and both end in McCall.
Typically, 10–12 people make up each group, but groups can be as large as 24. Everyone can enjoy a late start to the day to let the morning chill pass over and to catch the season finale of a hilarious dream sequence. Soon after, you can spend a few hours paddling with plenty of downtime for swimming, hiking, and fishing.
In addition to their mastery of Idaho’s first-aid and rescue training requirements, Yellow Jacket’s guides are well versed in interesting facts about the land. Along the way, they’ll point out where to spot Sheepeater Indian pictographs and historical pioneer homesteads. They’ll also point the way to an all-natural hot spring.
At each day’s end, as campers finish up a hike or take a nap, guides will craft a gourmet meal over the campfire. The meal changes each night, but a highlight of the trip is a luau on the beach, where groups will dig into a feast of polynesian pork tenderloin with a tropical salsa, stir-fried veggies over island rice, watermelon, and pineapple upside-down cake.