Written by: Kali Bennett

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to escape the hustle and bustle of daily office life and embark on a thrilling journey into the heart of nature? I recently had the incredible opportunity to experience just that on my first multi-day trip to the Main Salmon River. My adventure was filled with thrilling rafting experiences, mouthwatering meals prepared by our expert guides, and unforgettable nights sleeping under the stars. Join me as I recount the highlights of this unforgettable journey, made possible by the encouragement and support of my employer, Wet Planet, who invited me to go out and enjoy firsthand the river experience that I help book for our guests all season long.

Day 0: Stagecoach Inn

Our adventure began in the charming town of Salmon, Idaho, at the historic Stagecoach Inn. It was here that we met the diverse group of fellow adventurers who would share this incredible journey with us over the next six days. The mix of experienced rafters and kayakers, as well as first-timers like me, promised an exciting and dynamic experience.

The evening before we put on the Main Salmon, we convened for a pre-trip meeting led by our Wet Planet Trip Leader. With a backdrop of the tranquil Salmon River, we got to know one another and received a detailed overview of what the next six days would entail. The Trip Leader provided valuable insights on how to make the most of our adventure, from safety guidelines to the efficient use of our provided dry bags.

Following the informative meeting and a round of questions, we dispersed to our rooms to pack our dry bags for the journey ahead. I must confess that I may have overpacked a bit, but fortunately, I could stow some items in my duffle bag. This bag was thoughtfully set to be shuttled to the take-out point, lightening my load for our river expedition.

Day 1: Final Call & First Launch

After about a two-hour drive along the beautiful Salmon River, our adventure began with eager anticipation as we launched our rafts onto the Main Salmon River. But just before we reached the put-in, we made a quick stop at the North Fork River Store to grab any last-minute items we might have forgotten or needed for our journey. I decided to pick up a few essentials, like a Black Diamond headlamp, some extra batteries, body wipes, and a solar-powered Luci light.

The headlamp turned out to be a real asset as I used it every night at camp to navigate around and tend to my gear. The extra batteries were a lifesaver, ensuring that I never found myself in the dark. However, the Luci light, while innovative, proved to be more of a nice-to-have item. Unless you particularly enjoy having a soft, ambient light in your tent at night, you can probably pass on this one.

With our rafts fully loaded with all our gear, we were now ready to plunge into the thrilling waters of the Main Salmon River, an adventure that promised to be both challenging and captivating. The rush of excitement was palpable as my guide, Kess, navigated the rapids and we rowed further downstream. With experienced guides at the stern, I felt safe and confident on the water. The thrill of the river’s twists and turns made for an exhilarating start to our trip.

Day 2-5: Rowing, Delicious Fare, & Starry Skies

The next four days were a whirlwind of excitement as we continued down the river’s exciting rapids. Each day brought a new set of thrilling adventures and breathtaking scenery. From the towering canyon walls to natural hot springs, to the lush forests lining the riverbanks, the Main Salmon River showcased the pristine beauty of the wilderness.

In the midst of this adventure, I had the opportunity to try my hand at rowing for a little while, thanks to the patience and encouragement of my guide, Kess. I’ll admit, I was incredibly nervous at first, but I quickly realized that Kess was an experienced hand who wouldn’t let anything go awry. Throughout the trip, I tried rowing a few times, and it gave me a profound appreciation for the skill and hard work my guide had been putting in throughout our 80-mile journey. Learning to navigate the river’s currents was a humbling experience and made me respect the expertise of our guides even more.

One of the most memorable moments was conquering the newly washed out “Sapp Creek Rapid,” usually a Class II, but now a Class III+ rapid that got our adrenaline pumping. The feeling of conquering the roaring waters and getting to watch the kayakers and other rafts take their lines was nothing short of euphoric. 

Every morning, noon, and night, we looked forward to indulging in the culinary delights prepared by our talented guides. They outdid themselves with a variety of mouthwatering dishes, showcasing their culinary expertise. I can see why most of our guests are always blown away by the gourmet meals they are treated to on our river trips. The meals are absolutely incredible – its amazing you can eat like kings and queens on a river trip deep into the Idaho Wilderness!  From delicious breakfast burritos, gourmet wraps and salads, sizzling steaks, and fresh-caught salmon from the Columbia Gorge, every meal was a treat for the taste buds. Dining under the open sky with the sounds of the river as our backdrop added a touch of magic to every bite.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, our nights came alive with the splendor of the starry sky. One of the most enchanting aspects of this trip was the opportunity to sleep under the vast canvas of stars that stretched above us. The Main Salmon River, with its remote location, offered some of the darkest skies imaginable, perfect for stargazing.

However, I must admit that, as much as I adore the stars, I’m not quite as fond of the local insect population. On a few occasions, I found myself retreating to the sanctuary of my tent to escape the persistent bugs. It was a small inconvenience compared to the overall experience, and I quickly learned to embrace the enchantment of the night from the comfort of my sleeping bag.

Day 6: Take-Out Day

The last day brought a mix of emotions. Parting ways with the river and our fantastic guide team was bittersweet. I was sad to leave the beautiful river, the camaraderie of our fellow adventurers, and the expert care of our guide team but excited to head back to my family and share the story of my incredible journey. After a quick de-rigging of gear, our guides prepared a delicious lunch, and we enjoyed it while reminiscing about our journey.

After lunch, we bid farewell to our guides and set out with our Wet Planet Trip Leader for McCall, Idaho, where the trip concluded. It was a day of goodbyes and gratitude, a fitting end to an unforgettable adventure on the Main Salmon River.

Final Thoughts

My six-day multi-day trip to the Main Salmon River was truly an adventure of a lifetime. From the exhilarating rafting experiences to the delectable meals and the magical nights spent stargazing, every moment was a treasure. 

If you’re seeking an escape from the everyday and a chance to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, I highly recommend embarking on your own river adventure. The Main Salmon River offers an incredible opportunity to connect with the wilderness, test your rafting skills, savor delicious meals, and experience the beauty of the night sky. It’s an adventure you’ll cherish forever – I know I will!