Lower Salmon Gorge

by | November 14, 2011

This past weekend, some friends and I decided to float the Lower Salmon River. This is a great last minute; spur of the moment river trip because logistics are fairly easy.  That’s exactly how we approached it.  One homemade dory, one kayak, and one stand up paddle board.  Just like that and were off to the river. Well, not quite.

The drive in itself is beautiful.  Heading over Lolo pass and winding along the Lochsa River is like opening a scrapbook.  We all start reminiscing and telling band camp stores about campfires, beer drinking, carnage, epic adventures, surf waves, and all other things wild and scenic.  We got a late start getting out of the Missoula Eddy but we finally arrived at Hammer Creek (put in for Lower Salmon) at dark.  We loaded our gear in the dory, and pushed off into the darkness downstream.

You don’t need a permit for this section of river which makes it a popular choice for many types of river users.  I decided to take my stand up paddle board and put some miles on it.  The longest distance I have floated previously was about 13 miles.  I was going to average about 25 miles/per day on this trip.

The Lower Salmon River is full of beautiful sandy beaches, and usually this time of year they are plentiful.  Jet boaters are found throughout this section of river and are more abundant around the Snake confluence than the upper section. Sometimes you can ask the jet boater who is camped downstream to ensure you get a sweet camp spot.

Snowhole and Blue Canyon offers some great rapids and beautiful  scenery.  Snowhole rapid is a bigger rapid at lower flows.  I decided to give it a go on my paddle board and I got my butt kicked.  My leg is going to be black and blue for a couple of weeks.  Once you reach the confluence of the Snake River, expect lots of traffic, warm water, and 20 miles of flat-water to reach the take out at Heller Bar.

This a great 3-4 day get away if you’re looking for a multi-day adventure, sandy beaches, and some warmer weather.