What is so special about the Salmon River?


Through a lucky set of circumstances I got a job as a river guide in Grand Canyon when I was a college student.  I worked for a company that also ran rafting trips on the Salmon River in Idaho.  From time to time the company would send Idaho guides to Grand Canyon when extra guides were needed on trips.

At the time I along with seemingly everyone else bought into the belief that the Grand Canyon was the ultimate white water rafting trip, everyone that is except the Idaho guides.  They were generally upset that they had to come do Grand Canyon trips and they headed straight back to the Salmon River when the trips that they were assigned to were over.  As a somewhat cocky Grand Canyon guide, (Cockiness is an occupational hazard in Grand Canyon.)   I could never understand why they liked the Salmon River so much.

Through another set of lucky circumstances I with a group of partners were able to buy the Idaho portion of the company that I worked for and I started to learn about and love the Salmon River just like all those guides from  years past who reluctantly came to the Grand Canyon.

The first thing that I learned about the Salmon River was that it was completely undammed and was known as the last of the major wild rivers in the West.  I also learned that the Main Salmon Canyon is actually deeper than Grand Canyon.  I immediately noticed the difference in the Salmon River water.  It was comfortable and you could swim in it and enjoy it.  Something that you never did in the Colorado River because it was so incredibly cold from coming out of the bottom of the 700 foot high Glen Canyon dam.  The Salmon River water was also clear, not muddy red like the Colorado is most of the time.

The temperature in the Salmon River canyon was also a pleasant surprise.  Day time temperatures on the Main Salmon generally range for the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s unlike the brain baking temperatures of Grand Canyon where 100 degrees is considered mild.

I also learned how much more our passengers could be part of a trip on the Salmon River as opposed to Grand Canyon.  In Grand Canyon passengers generally sit and ride.  On the Salmon passengers have the choice of rowing style rafts where the guides do the work and passengers ride, but they also have the option of paddle boats where everyone has a paddle and a guide gives instructions.  In addition many trips offer smaller inflatable kayaks that passengers are able to use if they choose.  Instead of one boating experience, passengers on Salmon River trips are exposed to multiple boating experiences.

With nearly seventy trip though the Grand Canyon I have great memories and I tell everyone that loves rafting that they need to Grand Canyon at least one time, but when people ask me what my favorite river is I always say the Salmon River and my favorite portion of the Salmon River is the Main Salmon.

I love the great rapids, the crystal clear comfortable water, the pristine white sand beaches backed up to pine forests, the deep wilderness canyon, and the extensive variety of big game animals and wild like.  I always tell anyone that asks that the Salmon River is truly the best wilderness white water river in the west.

In this blog I am going to try and share my over thirty years of experience on the Salmon River especially my favorite section of the Salmon River known as the Main Salmon River.  I am going to also explain why I feel that wilderness river trips are especially important in our current technology driven age.  I invite you to come along and share the journey.


Verle Duerden

Action Whitewater Adventures


Action White Water 202