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Fly fishing in the Salmon River

Idaho, Oregon

Spotlight: 4 Rivers, Idaho and Oregon

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  • States:
    Idaho
    Oregon

The Four Rivers Lottery System includes the Selway, Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon rivers, Idaho, and the Snake River, Oregon, making up the second largest area of protected wilderness in the USA after Death Valley.

The 3.3 million acres of roadless land features mountain ranges separated and split by rivers as big as the landscapes that surround them. You'll find coniferous forest with white-sand beaches, campsites, catfish, bass, salmon, steelhead trout, mountain lions, gray wolves, remnants of old rock houses made in the 1800s, Native American rock art, pioneer homesteads, golden eagles, pine-scented mornings and one of the starriest skies you’ve ever seen.

A System of Protected Rivers

The River of No Return Wilderness Area was named ages ago, before the sole purpose of the kayak and river raft became a means to an adrenalin rush, and pioneers, gold miners and Native Americans navigated down the river out of necessity, but were unable to navigate back up.

In 1984, it was renamed in honor of U.S. Sen. Frank Church, who introduced the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, preserving rivers in “free-flowing condition,” so that “their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”  The main Salmon runs through this section. 

The Middle Fork and its 161 kilometers of whitewater is a tributary of the Salmon River, which is the main tributary of the Snake River. You’ll find six natural hot springs here.

In Oregon, the Snake River – also known as “Hells Canyon” – probably got its name when white explorers misinterpreted the Native American description by the Shoshone and Nez Perce of the abundant fish, their livelihood, for the word “snake.” It’s the largest tributary of the Columbia River.

The Selway River is in north central Idaho within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. These rivers were all included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Exploring the Middle Fork of the Salmon River flowing through steep canyons

Exploring the Middle Fork of the Salmon River flowing through steep canyons
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Have Fun, Be Safe and Respect the Land

Respect the wilderness. Adhere to all the guides, rules and permit regulations; and be a responsible and ethical camper. Also, jump in and go for a swim in the pools at the end of every rapid. The water’s warm and the weather is usually perfect all summer and fall.

Kayaking the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho

Kayaking the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho
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Try This

Aside from whitewater rafting, jet boating, camping, fishing and hiking, take a day to explore all the historic sites and learn about the area, which is tied closely to the Nez Perce and their ancestors.

Rafting on the Snake River with mountains in the background in Oregon

Rafting on the Snake River with mountains in the background in Oregon
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Be Prepared for Your Stay

Along with your camping gear, you’ll want to bring what you need to bear-proof your food. Depending on what you want to do, bring your fly-fishing gear, bathing suits, sunscreen and clothes that dry quickly.

While there, don't forget to pack out your trash and don’t use soap – even biodegradable – in any fresh, free-flowing water areas.

The Snake River, the largest tributary of the Columbia River

The Snake River, the largest tributary of the Columbia River
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Getting There

The nearest airport is in Boise. To obtain names, addresses and phone numbers for shuttle or flight services, equipment rental or suppliers, contact the Chamber of Commerce in the neighboring communities.

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