The Salmon River, which runs through the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness is one of the longest, free-flowing rivers in our country. 425 miles of fast, clear, mountain water runs across Idaho without a functioning dam in sight.
No dams means bigger whitewater. No dams means more fish.
But "Why is it called the River of No Return?" one might ask.
When Lewis and Clark and their Shoshone guide, Swooping Eagle, got to the banks of the Salmon, they took one look at the raging class IV waters cutting through the mountains creating gorges deeper in places than Grand Canyon, and said, "No thanks," and went elsewhere.
Then, in the 1860's, miners and lumberjacks came to the area in droves looking for gold, silver, and...trees. More determined than their predecessors, they built heavy "sweep boats" to take them, and their wares, downstream to sell.
A sweep boat is like an enormous wooden bathtub with one long oar off the back used for steering. They took serious skill to run. Many of the miners developed those boating skills but there was still one problem: after getting downstream, the water was too turbulent and the landscape too rugged to get back to the starting point.
Humbled, the miners would instead float downstream, then take apart their boats board by board, which they then used or sold as lumber.
And they called this tumultuous river, the River of No Return.
The Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness was established in 1980, and at well over 2,000,000 acres, is the largest contiguous wilderness area in the lower forty-eight.
The miles of wilderness surrounding the River of No Return has been inhabited since at least 8,000 - 11,000 years ago. Some recently discovered artifacts may be as old as 16,000 years. The Nez Perce People are some of the descendants of these ancient residents.
It is sacred land to the Nez Perce tribe as well as home to deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, moose, river otters, mink, bobcats, and maybe even wolves. Chukar, grouse, and partridge line the shores while cutthroat, steelhead, sockeye salmon, and whitefish swim in water so clear you can see their individual scales.
Rafting through a wilderness this big on water this pristine is an adventure and a privilege. Not many people can say they have done it. Those who have will surely say that it is the trip of a lifetime and to do it without hesitation.
Let Idaho Adventures take you down the River of No Return.
You won't regret it.