One of the best ways to explore the northwest is to follow the rivers, just like countless explorers and natives have done in the past. The rivers are basically natural highways for watercraft and civilized areas can be found along the banks. Following a river uphill to the headwaters in the mountains always presents an opportunity to see majestic views and many adventures await along the way. Historical places will be encountered and cultural exchange will take place on tribal lands that will greatly enhance the western river touring experience. Of course there will be endless opportunities for rafting, canoeing and angling along the way, so just pick any river out west and plan a great escape from the modern world!
The Salmon River is one of the best waterway touring routes in the west and there are two paved roads that follow this river all the way to the headwaters in central Idaho. The headwaters are located at Galena Summit in the Rocky Mountain Range, so as can be imagined plenty of snow melt water in this region feeds the Salmon River. The Salmon River winds its way downhill through the Sawtooth Valley going west and it merges with the Snake River at the western Idaho Border. From the confluence, the Snake River eventually connects with the Columbia River, which heads directly to the Pacific Ocean.
For those who have never seen the Columbia River, it is a very wide powerful river that acts a an inlet for ocean fish like Chinook Salmon, which spawn way upstream in the shallow fresh waters of the connecting Snake and Salmon Rivers in Idaho. The Columbia River is also the pathway for freshwater fish going out to sea, like Salmon River Idaho Rainbow Trout that become Steelhead after living in the salt water ocean. It is said that long ago a person could walk on top of the millions of fish in these rivers to cross to the other side, but that has all changed with the advent of modern man made dams. Because so many spawning pathways are blocked along the Snake River, the numbers of spawning food fish in the river waters upstream have dramatically declined. Fortunately the modern fisheries keep these rivers stocked, but because of limited spawning, the numbers will continue to decline until the dams are removed. When touring the Salmon River, understanding the fragile ecosystem and the threat to this natural Chinook Salmon fishery will provide insight into the predicament that currently exists.
The Salmon River most definitely is one of the top fly fishing destination in the entire west and catering to angling excursions is a major economic driver in this region. The BLM manages the land along the Salmon River, which was once subject to rampant gold dredge mining. Those days are long gone and the BLM now protects the Salmon River with a seemingly endless series of riverside recreation areas and public fishing access points. A visitor will literally find one small recreation area after another along the Salmon River from the Snake River Confluence all the way up to the headwaters north of the Sawtooth Valley.
The mountainous terrain in the region is exceptionally beautiful and the peak summer temperatures are pleasant this far north, so it is easy to see why this is such a popular vacation destination for anglers. Whitewater rafting abounds along the Salmon River too and organized excursion companies can be found in nearly every town along the river banks. Light watercraft rentals are available too, so spending time canoeing or kayaking this river is also an option.
Each recreation area or public access point along the Salmon River has its own set of regulations that are based upon common sense. Where there is a long sandy beach, the access point will likely be suited for group river rafter staging or landing area. Narrow stretches of land along the banks are usually designated as day use fishing spots or picnic areas. Wider areas along the banks may qualify for dispersed camping or overnighter fishing ventures. For campers, the official BLM Recreation Areas along the Salmon River are the equivalent of luxury resorts, because these destinations usually have a very well manicured fully developed campground that only costs a small fee. As can be seen in the photo album, there is a wide variety of recreation area modes to choose from along the Salmon River. For this reason, just plan on strapping the kayak on the roof of the car and pack the fishing gear, because the Salmon River definitely is the place to be during the summer season!
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