Floating the Lower Salmon River

Alzar School | 21.04.21

Alzar School is nestled in a maze of world-class whitewater. Among the many rivers entangling our campus is the Salmon River – the River of No Return, the longest river system contained entirely within a single U.S. state. For the last two weeks, students have been exploring the 53 miles of the Lower Salmon River and continuing on another 20 miles just past the confluence with the Snake River to their take-out. This time of year, while the spring showers are falling and the snowpack is decreasing, students have the chance to experience bigger waves and rapids featuring a mix of Class II and III whitewater.  

Students kayaking through rapids on the Lower Salmon

Planning and executing a raft trip is no easy feat. It takes a lot of preparation and hard work to get from one camp to the next. But with expansive, white sand beaches to set up camp each night, navigable rapids to learn on, and a chance to soak in the river and surroundings, the Lower Salmon is the perfect place to master the ins and outs of river travel. Traveling through one of the deepest canyons in the United States, our Semester 18 students will be surrounded by the echoes of chukars clucking in the rocky outcroppings, bighorn sheep making their way down the basalt cliffs to drink the cool water from the river eddies, and maybe they’ll catch a glimpse of the giant sturgeon lurking in the depths of the canyon. 

Camping along the river

Even though the Lower Salmon River is not designated as Wild & Scenic, it contains dramatic landscapes with a rich history. The Nez Perce tribe calls this area home and utilized the Salmon River corridor for centuries before the gold rush swept through the west in the mid-1800s, bringing large machinery that is still visible at old homestead sites and mines scattered along the river. The lower elevations of the Lower Salmon offer moderate winters which later allowed ranchers and livestock to infiltrate the area alongside the gold miners. Today, the Lower Salmon attracts many different recreationists, from the weekend rafter to Jet Boat racers as it is one of the best non-permitted, multi-day rafting and fishing destinations in Idaho. 

Students scouting rapids above the canyon

As Alzar School students paddle down the Lower Salmon River, they too will observe the myriad of ways to recreate on the river and use our natural resources. We are excited to hear about student experiences from their second expedition as they return next week, and the reflections they have on river travel through remote Idaho.