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Lower Salmon River - Frequently Asked Questions

Are Permits required on the Lower Salmon River?

Yes. Permits are required for all boating between Hammer Creek and Heller Bar. Permits are available at the launch sites at Hammer Creek, the White Bird Gravel Pit and Graves Creek or from the BLM office in Cottonwood. Self-issue permits are also available at the White Bird Gravel Pit Boat Ramp. While the permits are required, they are not limited, and do not need to be obtained in advance.

Does the BLM charge a fee to boat the Lower Salmon?


How long is a trip on the Lower Salmon?

The average trip length is 5 days and 4 nights to float the 74 miles between Hammer Creek and Heller Bar. Depending on your schedule and desire to row, trip lengths of 1 to 10 days are possible.

Are there power boats on the Lower Salmon?

Yes. Summer power boat use is generally low. You can expect to see many more power boats once you get on the Snake River below the mouth of the Salmon.

Is the number of boaters limited on the Lower Salmon?

There are no limits on the number of people or parties who can launch on any day. However, there is a limit of 30 people per party floating below Hammer Creek.  There is no limit from Vinegar Creek to Hammer Creek.

How does the Lower Salmon compare to the Main Salmon or Hells Canyon?

Whitewater on the Lower Salmon is very similar to both the Main Salmon and Hells Canyon. You will see about the same amount of development along the banks of the river. The Lower Salmon has much the same canyon scenery as Hells Canyon, larger camping beaches than either the Main Salmon or Hells Canyon.

When is the best time to run the Lower Salmon?

July through September. Flows are between 3,500 and 15,000 cfs, and the weather is generally hot and sunny. The Lower Salmon is runnable year-around, except for high flows during spring run-off. Most people consider flows over 15,000 cfs too dangerous to run.

Are camp fires allowed on the Lower Salmon?

Wood camp fires are allowed all year unless there is a posted emergency fire closure. All fires must be contained in a fire pan, and all ash and charcoal must be packed out (do not put your charcoal in your portable toilet!).

What about human waste?

It is mandatory to carry-out all solid human waste with an approved portable toilet system. An approved system must be reusable, washable, water-tight and compatible with Santizing Container with Advance Technology (SCAT) Machine or RV dump. Portable toilets with snap-on lids (such as ammo cans or plastic buckets) are required to have a rubber gasket in the lid. Plastic bag liners are NOT acceptable nor are WAG BAGs, RESTOP, or any other type of plastic bag system.

We recommend urinating in vegetation at least 100 yards from camp areas or on wet sand or moving current. There is a SCAT machine for emptying your toilet at Chief Looking Glass park in Asotin (on your way home from Heller Bar) and in Riggins, ID. SCAT machine costs are $1.00 per cycle. There are also RV dump stations at Slate Creek and Hammer Creek.

What are the river campsites like?

There are numerous large sandy beaches for camping. Very few of the camps have shade.

Are the campsites crowded?

Generally not. However, there may be rare times when bottlenecks occur, and you should be prepared to share a camp with another group if necessary. A first rule of camping etiquette is that small groups should leave large camps for larger groups.

What hazards should I expect?

Besides the obvious hazard of running whitewater, you can expect to see slippery rocks, poison ivy and cactus, all of which are numerous and common. Rattlesnakes are also common, but are rarely seen. Wasps, bees and yellow jackets are present late in the season.

Are emergency services available along the river?

No. You should be prepared to deal with any emergency. The BLM runs frequent river patrols and carries a satellite phone for emergency response. Many outfitters carry satellite phones as well. The few residences along the river are not equipped for emergency response.

What kind of fish can I catch?

Salmon and Steelhead are in the river in the fall, winter and spring. Rainbow trout, small mouth bass and sturgeon are in the river year around.

What kind of wildlife will I see?

Mule deer, whitetail deer and bighorn sheep are common. Black bear and cougar are common but rarely seen. River otter and beaver are often seen. The Lower Salmon has one of the highest densities of nesting raptors in the world. Well over 100 species of birds are found in the canyon.

Lower Salmon River