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Camping at Salmon Wild and Scenic River

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The Salmon Wild and Scenic River, often referred to as the "River of No Return," flows through central Idaho and offers one of the most exquisite opportunities for wilderness camping and river adventures in the United States. Its pristine waters, dramatic gorges, and a variety of wildlife make it a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Permit Information

Wilderness Permits: Due to its popularity, some sections of the river require permits for overnight camping. The Middle Fork of the Salmon River and the Main Salmon River, for example, operate on a permit lottery system for summer floating trips.

Campsite Reservations: In certain areas, campsite reservations may be necessary or recommended, while in other sections, sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fee Information: There might be fees associated with obtaining permits or staying at developed campsites. Make sure to verify the current fee structures before planning your trip.

Safety and Regulations

Fire Regulations: Depending on the season and conditions, fire restrictions may be in place. Portable fire pans and Leave No Trace practices are often required.

Water Safety: The river has varying degrees of rapids, classified from I (easy) to V (very difficult). Proper safety gear and knowledge are crucial, particularly for those planning to navigate the rapids.

Wildlife: The area is home to bears and other wildlife. Proper food storage and handling are essential to minimize conflicts with animals.

Alcohol and Drugs: Federal laws apply on federal lands, and the use of illegal substances is prohibited.

Respecting the Environment

Leave No Trace: Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment. This includes packing out all trash, camping on durable surfaces, and respecting wildlife and other visitors.

Fishing Laws: If you plan on fishing, be aware of the state fishing regulations and ensure that you have the appropriate license.


Gear and Supplies: Pack appropriate gear for your trip, including sturdy shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, a water filtration system, and emergency supplies.

Maps and Guides: Obtain detailed maps and possibly hire an experienced guide if you are unfamiliar with river navigation or the area's backcountry.

Physical Fitness: Many of the activities on the Salmon River are physically demanding. Ensure you and your group are in good physical condition, especially for activities such as kayaking, rafting, and hiking.

Access and Transportation

Getting There: The river can be accessed through various towns and roads dependent on the section you plan to visit. Challis, Salmon, and McCall are common gateway communities.

Shuttle Services: For point-to-point river trips, arrange for shuttle services to transport your vehicle from the put-in to the take-out location.


Cell Service: Cell service is often nonexistent or unreliable in the wilderness areas surrounding the river. Satellite communication devices and emergency beacons are recommended for remote adventures.

Local Authorities: Check in with the local Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management offices for the latest information on river conditions, fire restrictions, and wilderness regulations before heading out.

Local Highlights

Wildlife Viewing: The area is known for its wildlife, including elk, mountain goats, and bald eagles.

Hot Springs: Along certain stretches of the river, natural hot springs can provide a relaxing soak.

Cultural Sites: The region is rich in Native American history and pioneer heritage, with several historical sites along the river.

Weather and Seasonal Information

Weather along the Salmon River can vary greatly depending on the season and elevation. Summers are generally warm to hot during the day and cooler at night. Shoulder seasons (spring and fall) can be unpredictable with a mix of sunny days and snow or rain. Always check the weather forecast prior to your trip and be prepared for changing conditions.

Remember that the high-demand months for river trips are typically June through August, so plan and secure permits well in advance if you intend to visit during peak season.

Map of Campgrounds in Salmon Wild and Scenic River
Campgrounds in Salmon Wild and Scenic River
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