The River of No Return

Photo: Mike Leeds

Photo: Mike Leeds

The River of No Return

Whitewater paddlers ought to thank the late U.S. Senator Frank Church, the father of the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, for legislation to preserve free-flowing rivers. Closest to Church’s heart was Idaho’s Salmon River, a whitewater river bisecting a 7,000-foot canyon and critical habitat for bighorn sheep, mountain lions and gray wolves. Lewis and Clark were turned back by the Salmon’s Class II-IV whitewater in 1805, but prospectors braved the river during a gold rush in the 1860s. A few daring entrepreneurs learned to run boats loaded with provisions and mining supplies through the whitewater. Those boats could not return upstream, and the Salmon became known as the river of no return. In 1980, Congress designated a 2.3-million acre wilderness, and later gave it a name honoring the Salmon’s gold rush legacy and their colleague: The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. —CM

Redux Route: The Lower Gorge of the Salmon’s Main Branch starts at Pine Bar and runs 52 miles to the confluence of the Snake River, in the dark depths of Hell’s Canyon. The takeout is downstream on the Snake at Heller’s Bar. Besides spectacular scenery in some of the deepest canyons in North America, this four- to five-day trip boasts campsites on sand beaches and abundant Class III whitewater. (Info: canyonsinc.com)

Powell Country   Redux Routes

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