Whitewater in Idaho: The River Systems of Legend

There are plenty of reasons to move to Idaho. If you love the outdoors, that’s one big reason to call this state your home. But, if you love whitewater, and the prospect of hitting the rivers in a raft and escaping into the rugged beauty of nature, Idaho is the perfect place to call home. Idaho boasts over 3,000 miles of whitewater rivers, and some of the best rapids and trips, not only in the entire country, but also in the entire world. In fact, National Geographic lists the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the top ten whitewater rivers of the world.

Idaho is the whitewater enthusiast’s paradise, and with the amount of rivers and wilderness reserves, it’s easy to see why. From half-day trips to trips spanning the course of several weeks, Idaho has a river for everyone. While some rivers feature incredibly challenging rapids, there are others that are friendly to virtually all ages, and make great adventures for families, couples, or singles. So, let’s put the oar to the water, and dive into a taste of the whitewater adventures that Idaho has to offer.

Middle Fork of the Salmon River

We’ll jump right in with the legend. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is among the best whitewater rivers of the world. The river travels over 100 miles, and descends 3,000 feet as it winds through the over two million acre Frank Church Wilderness. Packed into those 100 miles are 100 rapid sections, Native American pictographs, old pioneer cabins, hot springs, and the impressive towering granite cliffs of the Impassable Canyon. There are no roads here, or even dams. This river is completely free of human influence, and makes this river a beautiful experience. This is a whitewater experience of a lifetime, and one you’ll definitely want to check out.

Main Salmon River

Called the River of No Return, this is one river you’ll want to keep coming back to. The terrain near the river is incredible challenging, and while a road was attempted to be built along the water, the efforts failed. The only access here along the 85 mile stretch of river is by the water. Rafting trips are popular here, as are jet boats. While rafts can only float down the river, jet boats are able to traverse the river in either direction. Because of this, jet boats act as shuttles to the various lodges and areas along the river, and the boats also offer day tours and trips.

There are plenty of sandy beaches along the river, which make for great camping and play areas. Coupled with the spectacular scenery, hot springs, and variety of wildlife, the Main Salmon River is a popular destination. This river has it all.

Lower Salmon River

Proving that the Salmon River is an incredibly diverse river system, the Lower Salmon River is a great place for whitewater beginners. Of course, there are plenty of famous rapids here, which offer challenges worthy of their names, like Demon’s Drop. This 80-mile stretch of river is an Idaho secret. There are beautiful white beaches, perfect sunny days, and water that’s warm and terrific for swimming. It’s like visiting Baja, except you’re still in Idaho. Plus, the scenery is astounding. Apart from the rapids, you’ll enjoy exploring abandoned Chinese mining cabins, Native American pictographs, and incredible canyons.

Snake River through Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon is world-famous, and an icon of the West. A treasure of Idaho, the near 8,000-foot drop from He Devil Mountain to the Snake River is the deepest gorge in North America. There are impressive rapids here, like Wild Sheep, Granite, and Waterspout. While you can raft them, they also make for an incredible ride on a jet boat.

Whitewater isn’t the only draw of Hells Canyon, though. There is a huge variety of wildlife. Plus, warm water means awesome swimming between rapids. If you want to get out of the water for a bit, you can explore the myriad of archaeological sites here, featuring Native American petroglyphs, pictographs, and historic sites.

Endless River Adventure

Idaho offers incredibly untouched and rugged nature and wilderness, and its river systems are among the best in the world. For a truly unforgettable experience, you’ll want to explore Idaho’s rivers and whitewater. You’ll be able to get closer to the wilderness than ever before, and explore the history of Idaho. So what are you waiting for? Grab you oar, hit the water, and experience Idaho the way it was meant to be experience: up close and personal.

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