3,100 Miles of White Water

High adventure on Idaho's wild rivers

From spring until autumn, the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho provide adventure that many travelers use as a climax to the land of Yellowstone and Jackson Hole.   But when the snow melts and the water rushes, the adrenline-fueled rush of riding Class IV rapids is an experience not to be missed.



All photos courtesy of O.A.R.S.

Idaho has 3,100 miles of river—more than any other state, some stretches with treacherous pulse-pounding action and other sections, particularly on the Main and Lower Salmon Rivers, perfect for family rafting on Class II to III rapids with thrills appropriate for kids as young as seven.

“Idaho is arguably the most overlooked destination for adventure travel in the United States,” said George Wendt, president and founder of vetran river outfitter and nature-based adventure travel company  O.A.R.S..  He notes that Idaho is second only to the Grand Canyon for clients who think of great domestic rafting adventures.

Bram Role, an Idaho native who has been guiding with O.A.R.S. for 16 seasons, says he favors the free-flowing aspect of the Salmon River “and everything that goes with that: huge chunks of roadless backcountry, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, natural hot springs, Native American sites, abundant wildlife, great fishing and a vibrant, intact ecosystem. The first 25 miles of the Middle Fork [Salmon] are just absolutely fantastic. It’s constant action, flying down through there, making moves left and right. It’s a ton of fun!”

The modern raft is an inflatable boat, between 11 and 20 feet long, consisting of very durable, multi-layered rubberized fabrics with several independent air chambers.  Paddling the rafts through white water requires teamwork and a measure of nerve.

Rafts in white water are very different vehicles than canoes or kayaks and have their own specific techniques to maneuver through whitewater obstacles. Rafts carry great momentum, and on rivers hydraulics that are dodged by canoes and kayaks are often punched by rafts. This involves the rafting crew paddling the raft to give it enough speed to push through the hydraulic without getting stopped. If a raft is caught in a hydraulic it will often quickly go sideways. In order to stop the raft flipping on its inside edge, the rafters can climb to the side of the raft furthest downstream, which will also be the side of the raft highest in the air. In this position the rafters may be able to use the draw stroke to pull the raft out of the head, and back into a rapid flow downstream.

Like most outdoor sports, rafting in general has become safer over the years, espeically among professional rafting outfitters. Expertise in the sport has increased, and equipment has become more specialized and increased in quality, and rafting trips often begin with safety presentations to educate customers about problems that may arise.

O.A.R.S.’ professional guide-to-guest ratio (1:4) is the best in the industry. Its Idaho fleet includes oar rafts and colorful hand-crafted dories, paddle rafts and inflatable kayaks along with top-notch guides and expedition equipment. Each type of craft offers a different on-water experience.  Their all-inclusive three- to seven-day river and hiking adventures travel through the Gorges of the Lower Salmon out of Lewiston.  The company also features multiple-day instructional programs dedicated to stand-up paddleboarding and whitewater kayaking as well as hiking programs and specialized adventures for wine and beer aficionados.

Not every visitor to the Salmon and Snake Rivers need white-knuckle adventure. For some, the adventure is fishing, for others it’s a serene mix of upscale lodges and spas in the beauty of the Titon range.

For some, the adventure is fishing. Idaho’s Far and Away Adventures reports that fishing is excellent during the summer in the northern Rockies and expects normal-to-exceptional conditions for the fall. This outfitter melds world-class fly fishing and luxury camping on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River on six day adventures.

Their adventure for seasoned and novice anglers and non-fishing companions includes the guided fishing / luxury camping experience, use of two-person fishing craft, one night at the upscale Sun Valley Lodge, and a full day guided fishing trip to Silver Creek, one of the most legendary trout streams in the West. Hemingway, Gary Cooper and Gregory Peck all helped put this incredible fishery on the map.

“In the fall when fly fishing is at its peak, an experienced angler chasing Westslope Cutthroat Trout on the Middle Fork can bring 100 fish a day back to the boat,” said Steve Lentz, owner. “We advocate resource conservation and are very sensitive to the proper handling of wild trout. We are more than happy to release your catch in a manner that least impacts the fish, after pictures are taken of course!”

Far and Away Adventures’ programs include all ground transportation, deluxe organic and locally sourced meals, all luxury tenting equipment, staff and guides.  The pace of the day sans have-tos revolves around guests. A light spread for early risers is followed by a later made-to-order breakfast. On the water, an organic feast serves as lunch. Formally served appetizers surface around 7 p.m. followed by a four-course, linen-draped, candlelight dinner with regional wines and micro beers. Solar power lights the camp and heats water for showers. State-of-art tents with elevated beds, flannel linens, carpets and nightstands ensure sweet dreams.

If you’re desiring relaxation between sessions of white-knuckle adventure, those options exist too.  Far and Away Adventures offers special adults-only rafting  and relaxation adventures. In the pristine riverside setting, instructors introduce new and advanced stretching techniques and lead daily warm-up and yoga sessions before each active day on the river. Morning guided hikes within the wilderness river corridor increase participant’s endurance and cardiovascular fitness while finding ancient petroglyphs along the way. Personalized stretch sessions and kinesthetic awareness activities drawn up by Cooper after individual assessments will give each guest a specific individualized program for improved posture and increased flexibility and range of motion. Massage and bodywork sessions in the ambience of the quiet river evenings will loosen joints and lengthen muscles, improving posture and balance.

As guests connect with nature’s gym and play on the river, adventure guides set up and break down five-star camps. They prepare and serve organic meals on pre-heated stoneware atop linen-draped tables lit by candlelight while pouring into crystal stemware wines selected from organic and small-batch wineries. The guides also arrange solar-generated hot water for showers, and state-of-art tents with elevated beds, flannel bedding, carpets and nightstands.

So if your idea of outdoor adventure concentrates on adventure or relaxation, the 3100 miles of Idaho rivers is calling you.


For more information:

Far and Away Adventures / Tel: 800-232-8588 / steve@far-away.com / http://far-away.com/

O.A.R.S. Adventures / call 209-736-4677 or 800-346-6277, email info@oars.com, or visit: http://www.oars.com/.

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