Salmon River (4 Rivers)

Salmon-Challis National Forest

The Salmon River originates in the Sawtooth and Lemhi Valleys of central and eastern Idaho. Springs and snowmelt feed this wild river as it makes its way through the second-deepest gorge on the continent; only Hells Canyon on the Snake River is deeper. The Salmon's granite-walled canyon is over 1,000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. For approximately 180 miles, the Salmon River canyon is more than a mile deep. 

The wild section of the Salmon consists of 79-miles of free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, between Corn Creek and Long Tom Bar. 

The Main Salmon River is a renowned whitewater/wilderness float trip, known for its history, scenic beauty, big water, and sandy beaches. The Salmon provides an amazing mix of adventure and tranquility that makes it an excellent family trip. Each year, approximately 10,000 people float this beautiful river.

The Salmon River is historically known as The River of No Return. For more than 105 years after the first European Americans came to the area, only one-way trips down the river were possible. The most commonly used boats were wooden scows, designed to carry heavy loads and withstand whitewater. They were then dismantled and used for lumber at the trips' conclusion. It was from these trips that the Salmon's nickname, "River of No Return," originated.

The Salmon is administered under a permit system to protect it from excessive human impacts. Part of that protection asks you, the user, to learn and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Because of its remote location, man's presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

This permit authorizes the permit holder to float the Wild section of the Salmon River.

Permits are required year-round for individuals wishing to float the wild section of the Salmon River, which extends from Corn Creek to Long Tom Bar. The “typical” season on the Salmon runs from June through September. If floating during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), plan accordingly for cold weather and or high water. Winter weather can limit floating opportunities December through March.

Boaters floating the South Fork of the Salmon River and exiting onto the wild section of the Main Salmon must obtain a Tributary Permit from the McCall District Office before floating. 

Need to Know

When applying for or reserving a launch date on this river, I certify that:  

The safety of visitors and protection of this wonderful, natural resource, are always our top priorities. As such, securing your permit also comes with agreement from you and your guests to the following:  

Group Size and trip length: 

During the Lottery Control Season, (June 20-September 7), group size determines trip length.  

Outside the Lottery Control Season, the maximum group size is 30 and the maximum trip length is 10 days. 

If you have a spring float reservation, call the North Fork Ranger District (open M-F) at 208-865-2700 several days prior to your launch date to make arrangements regarding obtaining your permit before going on the river. The launch site is intermittently staffed until late May. 


Fee Policy

The Reservation/Application Fee ($6.00) is non-refundable. All persons floating the Main Salmon River must also pay a recreation fee in the amount of $4.00 per person per day or have a valid Salmon Rivers Season Pass.

Fee Payment

The permit holder is responsible for submitting complete and final payment of recreation fees for the entire group's recreation fees ($4.00 per person per day) at least three days prior to arriving at the launch site. Fees must be paid at using a credit card.

Season pass holders and trip participants using a Senior or Access Pass for a fee discount must present their pass, along with their photo ID, to the launch personnel issuing the permit.

A fee reduction of 50% is available to Senior and/or Access Pass holders (formerly Golden Age or Golden Access Passports). The Interagency Annual Pass (America the Beautiful Annual Pass) does not qualify for a discount on any river fees.

The permit holder must list any Pass holders and their pass numbers in their reservation (Season, Senior or Access) at the time of final payment for the group. Eligible discounts apply only to the pass holders and do not apply to other group members.

Season Passes

The $40.00 Salmon Rivers Season Pass entitles the pass holder to float the Middle Fork and/or Salmon Rivers without additional Recreation Fees for one year from the date of purchase. Passes are valid for the pass holder only and do not apply to other group members. Passes and river maps are not available at the launch sites and must be purchased ahead of time.

Additional fee information.

Cancellation Policy

Change Policy 

Cancellation Policy – 21 days 

Contact Information

Mailing Address

PO Box 180 North Fork ID 83466

Office Hours: M-F, 8-4:30, except on Federal holidays. Email:

Phone Number


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