Lower Salmon River - Wildlife


Many species of both cold and warm water fish are found in the Salmon River, including steelhead trout, salmon, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and catfish. White sturgeon, as much as 12 feet long and 100 years old also swim these waters.

The Salmon and Snake Rivers and their tributaries provide important habitat for steelhead trout and chinook salmon. These anadromous fish, which require both salt and freshwater in their life cycles, use the rivers as passageways to travel the 500 to 900 miles between the Pacific Ocean where they spend their adult lives and the Idaho streams where they spawn. Fall chinook salmon spawn in the Lower Salmon River in November. Sadly, Idaho's wild salmon and steelhead runs today are only a fraction of their historic size. Sockeye salmon are listed as an endangered species, and fall chinook salmon, spring/summer chinook and steelhead are all listed as threatened species under the Threatened and Endangered Species Act.

Amphibians and Reptiles

Western toads are common along the river and tailed frogs and spotted frogs are found in side drainages. Western rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, rubber boas, racers and garden snakes are all found in the canyon. The Western fence lizard and Western skink are often spotted.


The sights and sounds of nature's acrobats fill the air of the Lower Salmon River canyon. Listen for the chestnut brown and white canyon wren's fluid song of decelerating, descending notes resembling the sound of laughter. Look for them in steep, shady sections of the canyon and cliffs. The sooty-gray American dipper, or water ouzel, may be seen bobbing along the water's edge or diving, swimming, and even walking on the river bottom in search of food. A blue and white belted kingfisher may hover and then dive headlong into the water form the air. They can be easily recognized by their deep irregular wing beats and their loud, rattling call.

Chukar partridges, natives of India and Pakistan, were introduced to the canyon in the 1950s. These brownish gray birds, with black and white barred flanks and red legs and bill, have a distinct and rapid "chuck, chuck, chuck" call. They like rocky desert areas and arid grasslands and are frequently seen at the river's edge during the summer. Bank swallows nest in large colonies, burrowing into river banks. The more common cliff swallows build gourd-shaped mud nests along the canyon walls. Canada geese and mergansers are common.

The Lower Salmon River canyons also feature one of the highest concentrations of raptors in the world. Golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, Northern harriers, American kestrels, common nighthawks and ospreys are year round residents, while bald eagles winter in the canyons.


Many mammals can also be seen and heard along the Lower Salmon River. Beavers, otters, minks and raccoons are all area residents. Cougar, also called mountain lion or puma, and bobcat are common, but due to their secretive nature and nocturnal habits are rarely seen. The howl of coyotes can add a special dimension to a river trip. Mule deer, which can be easily identified by their white rumps and narrow white tail with a black tip, and white-tailed deer are often observed in the area. American elk, or Wapiti, winter in the upper elevations of the canyon, but are rarely seen. However, sharp eyes may spot Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep in Blue Canyon and along the Snake River.

Great Blue Heron