Salmon River - Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or Lewiston; Lower Salmon section [SA8]


The Lower Salmon Canyon is an Idaho secret. Enjoy perfect, pure white beaches, long sunny days, and warm swimming water - just like a trip to Baja. Add in roller coaster rapids, Native American pictographs, ancient Chinese miner rock cabins, spectacular canyonlands, fishing, unlimited summer fun, ...and you have the perfect recipe for a world class rafting vacation. The Lower Salmon is a desert oasis hidden in west Idaho.

The Lower Salmon drifts past steep mountains, and between the narrow, towering basalt-ryholite cliffs of Green, Cougar, Snow Hole, and Blue Canyons. The rugged basalt Canyons mean whitewater, and the Salmon lives up to it’s name - “River of No Return”. Rollercoaster, Demon’s Drop, Wright-Way Drop, Pine Bar, Half & Half, Gobbler, Snowhole, China, Wapshilla, Slide, Sluicebox, Checkerboard, and more are wonderful whitewater fun in oar rafts, paddle rafts, inflatable kayaks, and drift boats.

The Salmon is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. The river’s total course includes a staggering 425 miles from the Galina Summit headwaters in the Sawtooth Mountains to the graceful confluence with the Snake deep in Hells Canyon. On the Lower Salmon you will experience natural riparian zones unseen on any other North American river. Deluxe outfitter camping on huge, white sand beaches is unforgettable.

Wildlife includes mule deer, Rocky Mountain big horn sheep, coyote, song birds, birds of prey, upland game birds, and waterfowl. The semi-arid canyonlands host abundant wildlife in one of the West’s most remote areas.

Fishing opportunities include smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, fall steelhead and huge white sturgeon. White sturgeon and wild steelhead are “catch & release”. Outfitters offer custom summer and fall fishing trips.

The Salmon River was featured in the National Geographic Society (NGS) article “Down Idaho’s River of No Return” (July 1936). The article includes an image of the huge, wooden NGS scow navigating Class IV Snow Hole rapid in the heart of the canyon.

The Lower Salmon River is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Cottonwood Field Office. The lands along the Lower Salmon are a blend of predominantly public National Resource Lands (BLM), some Idaho State Lands, and parcels of private property. The Lower Salmon has been proposed for protection under the National Wild & Scenic River Act.


The put-in at Hammer Creek. Southwest of the town of White Bird just off U.S. 95.The take-out is at Heller Bar near the confluence of the Snake and the Grande Rhonde Rivers, south of the town of Asotin, Wash. To reach the take-out, drive to Lewiston, cross the Snake to Clarkston, Wash., and drive south up the Snake. Other access points are Pine Bar south of Cottonwood and Eagle Creek south of Lewiston.Camping: Camping is available near the put-in at the Hammer Creek Recreation Site, on U.S. 95, 1.5 miles south of White Bird. Drinking water is also available there.Permits: A permit is required to run the river. However, permits are available on request. Contact the Bureau of Land Management, Route 3, Box 181, Cottonwood, ID 83522, (208) 962-3245; or contact the Forest Service at the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, 3620-B Snake River Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501. Permits may also be obtained self-service style at the Hammer Creek Recreation Site, just off U.S. 95, a ½ mile south of White Bird.

Additional Information: A waterproof whitewater map for the lower Salmon is available from the BLM'™s Cottonwood Ranger Station for $2. John Garren's Idaho River Tours also contains a mile-by-mile description of the river.

River Stats



III- to IV

Trip Length

110 mi.


Early spring through late fall, except for spring high water.


USGS Realtime Streamflow