Friday, June 4, 2010

Memorial Day Whitewater Fun on the Salmon River

Every year our family packs up our rafting gear and heads to the Salmon River in Riggins, Idaho for some big, free flowing whitewater on Memorial Day weekend. This year was no different, except the big water had not arrived yet, due to the winter-like weather we continue to experience here in the Pacific Northwest. Although the river was not pumping as we had hoped, the beauty of the deep canyons covered in wildflowers made the long trip worthwhile and welcoming.

Driving into Riggins, ID was quite a ruckus, with the whole town filled with Salmon fishermen and rafters, celebrating the rich resources the area has to offer. With the water levels low, the fishermen were able to line the banks of the Little Salmon and Salmon Rivers, hoping to catch the big one. The town was buzzing with traffic and excitement, with locals and visitors sharing stories about their day on the river in every café and on every street corner.

The Salmon River was running at 21,000 cfs (cubic feet per second), which is fairly low for this time of year; some big water years it has run between 60,000-80,000 cfs. The lower water made for a more relaxing atmosphere, with less concerns for flipping and debris in the river. At higher levels, Ruby and Lake Creek Rapids can be ‘boat-eaters,’ with 20 foot waves and chaotic water, frequently flipping three out of five rafts. This year the fun rapids were below Riggins, which come out when the river flows are below 20,000 cfs. Time Zone, Chair and Ladder rapids were where the action was, with big waves and holes for boaters to take their chances on.

As I floated down the Salmon River with family and friends, I talked about HCPC’s work to protect the beauty and resources of the Lower Salmon River and surrounding areas. This unique place attracts many recreational users, including mountain bikers, fishermen, off road vehicles, rafters, backpackers and hunters. HCPC’s work on the Salmon and Snake River areas will assure that they remain places of rich natural resources for generations to come.

This weekend in Riggins is Big Water Blowout, a whitewater celebration with discounted float trips for the public, live music, local food, Dutch oven cook-offs, and hopefully BIG WATER! There are several whitewater float companies in town to help you get on the water, or fishing guide services to help you catch a wild salmon on the Salmon River.
As we drove away, we said goodbye to the Salmon River canyon and talked about when we could return to the River of No Return, named by Lewis and Clark.

Renee Tkach, Development Outreach Director
photo provided by Jeremy Bechtel

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