Main Salmon River (Powerboat)

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

The Main Salmon Wild and Scenic River (Long Tom Bar to Corn Creek) offers powerboat users a fun, challenging and beautiful trip through a deep and rugged canyon. The Main Salmon River travels east to west for over 80 miles bisecting both the Frank Church River of No Return and Selway Bitterroot Wilderness areas. This undammed, free flowing river contains many Class III and some Class IV rapids, depending on water level, and its whitewater characteristics change greatly over the course of the year as flows fluctuate. The Main Salmon not only offers river users the opportunity to seek solitude, but also provides a unique glimpse into the past, from prehistoric pictographs to old homesteads.

Permit & Season Information

Permits are required year-round for any river travel upstream of Vinegar Boat Ramp.

There are two primary seasons on the Main Salmon, control and non-control. The control season lasts from June 20 through September 7 each year, and during that period a limit has been set at six powerboats on the river per day, with no more than three powerboats traveling together as a group. The maximum stay is limited to six nights and seven days during this season with a maximum group size of 30. 

For those heading out during the non-control season between September 8 and June 19, the maximum stay is 10 days and nine nights. There is no limit on the number of power boats allowed on the river during this time, and all campsites are first-come, first-served.

Need to Know

Control Season Regulations (June 20 - September 7)

Permits are required year-round (in both control AND non-control season) for any river travel upstream of Vinegar Boat Ramp.

• Maximum party size is 30 people. 

• Maximum stay of six nights, seven days. 

• Up to three boats can travel together as a group. Each boat is required to have their own permit. 

• Permits are non-transferable. The permit holder must be present on the trip and is responsible for all members of their group. 

• Carry a copy of your permit and be ready to present it to USFS personnel upon request.

• Boat registration numbers on motorized river craft must be displayed pursuant to state and federal requirements; this includes float craft with kicker motors. 

Gear Requirements (both control AND non-control Season):

• Portable toilet system - All solid human waste (fecal matter) must be carried out of the river corridor and disposed of as required by local regulations. All trips must be equipped with an approved human waste carry out system. Leaving solid human body waste on Public Land or dumping it into vault toilets or trash receptacles at Forest Service facilities is prohibited. Due to the heavy use of camps within the river corridor, burying human waste and/or digging a latrine is prohibited. A scat machine is available for use free of charge at the USFS office in Riggins, ID to clean your portable toilet system. 

• A personal floatation device (PFD) is required for each person on any river craft. Children 12 years or younger are required to wear a PFD at all times while river craft is underway. 

• Strainer - Strain wastewater (dishwater) and dispose of food particles in trash, disperse water above the high-water line away from the camping area. You are required to pack out all garbage. Do not leave garbage at boat ramps upon return. 

• Shovel - required for fire suppression. 

• Bucket - required for fire suppression. 

• Fire pans - required to contain camp and/or cooking fires year-round. All ashes and other fire residue must be packed out. 

• Use of fuel absorption material is required during an on-river fueling operation. 


• The use of non-valid river craft is prohibited. This includes, jet skis, amphibious craft, mini submarines, powerboats under eight feet in length and/ or designed to carry a maximum of two passengers, and motorized watercraft that must be straddled when ridden by the operator and/ or passenger. 

• Chainsaw use is prohibited unless authorized by either the North Fork or Salmon River Ranger District Ranger. 

• Cutting or gathering any standing firewood within the river corridor is prohibited. Firewood must be dead, down and detached. 

• Equipment left unattended for more than 24 hours without permission from a forest officer is prohibited. 

• Staying in reserved camps without a reservation is prohibited. 

• No camping within 250 yards of Barth Hot Springs. 

• Use or disposal of soap, detergent, or other pollutants in the river, side streams or hot springs is prohibited. 

• Public nudity is prohibited. 

• Launching of float craft from private powerboats, year-round is prohibited. 

• Any type of commercial activity without a special use authorization is prohibited. 

• Discharging a firearm near or within an occupied area, such as a campsite, is prohibited. Appropriate and safe use of firearms by all members of the party is the direct responsibility of the trip leader. 

• Operating any river craft in a reckless or careless manner, or while under the influence of intoxicants is prohibited. 

• Users must abide by all state and federal laws. 

• Permit holders must be 18 years old by the launch date. 

Non-Control Season Regulations (September 8 - June 19)

Regulations are the same as listed above with the following differences: 

• No limit on the number of powerboats in the river corridor or in a group. 

• Maximum stay is nine nights, 10 days. 

Fee Policy

Recreation fee is $4.00 per person per day or valid Salmon Rivers Season Pass.

Permit holders are responsible for payment of fees for entire group. A minimum payment of $4.00 (one person for one day) must be made when confirming the reservation. Final payment in full must be made on at least three working days prior to the launch date. Payment must be made with a credit card. The permit holder must acknowledge any Pass holders (Season, Senior or Access) at the time of payment for the group. Refunds cannot be made if the permit holder overpays for pass holders.

Season Pass: The Salmon Rivers Season Pass entitles you to powerboat on the Main Salmon River without additional recreation fees for one year from the date of purchase. Season passes only apply to the pass holder (not guests).. Season pass holders must present their pass and photo ID to the launch personnel issuing permit. Purchase your season pass from the Salmon River and North Fork District offices for $40.00.

Cancellation Policy

Reservation fee ($6.00) is non-refundable. If you need to cancel your launch reservation after payment of fees has been made, we will refund your payment, less the $6.00 reservation fee. Payments will be refunded back to your credit card immediately when a cancellation is submitted through Adjustments can be made to the party size until three days prior to launching. The entire trip can be canceled if necessary before this three day window.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

304 Slate Creek RD White Bird ID 83554

Phone Number


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