Along the Salmon River in Challis, Idaho is an impressive and extensive grove of black cottonwood trees. In the constantly changing environment by the Salmon River, these trees thrive and create a unique ecosystem full of life and natural beauty.
Cottonwood Recreation Site is a scenic and picturesque destination that lies along the Salmon River and is surrounded by beautiful black cottonwood trees. Fishing and camping in this quiet and secluded setting are almost therapeutic recreational activities as you enjoy nature at its finest.
Cottonwood Recreation Site has something for everyone and offers several individuals, group, and ADA accessible campsites and facilities for RVs, as well as tent campers. The recreation site also offers a boat launch area and plenty of other water-based recreational activities that visitors can partake in to enjoy the winding deep blue waters of the Salmon River.
There are several campgrounds within the region that makes up the Sawtooth National Forest along the upper Salmon River. Cottonwood Recreation Site is one of the many other recreational sites maintained and managed by the Bureau of Land Management at the confluence.
People of all ages and interest levels will find something to their liking in this quaint and beautiful recreation site, making it perfect for families and couples. One can enjoy plenty of water-based activities, fish for steelhead and trout, photograph, hunt, or just enjoy a nice peaceful time by the river-side.
Cottonwood Recreation Site is less than a 20-minute drive away from Challis, ID and less than an hour’s drive away from Salmon, ID in Lemhi County.
To reach this stunning destination, start driving north from the city of Challis, on to State Highway 93 and drive on for approximately fourteen miles. You’ll find the Cottonwood Recreation Site on the left, nestled between the highway and Salmon River.
There aren’t any gravel roads, with only paved ones leading to the recreation site. What you do need to be careful about are vehicle-wildlife collisions as they happen frequently along the river corridor. When you reach the Challis Bridge area, drive slowly, stay vigilant, and keep an eye out on the road for any wildlife that emerge from the forest.
Cottonwood Recreation Site offers a developed campground to its visitors, which was renovated in the early 1990s. This campground boasts 14 sites that can be taken up by tents, as well as RVs. Two of these campsites are ADA accessible.
Each campsite comes with a picnic table, a raised tent square, a fire ring, and an attached BBQ grill. The area around the picnic table and fire ring are graveled. Dump station and garbage collection facilities are provided. Two sets of vault toilets and potable water are also available for campers and visitors to use. Pets are allowed at the campground but horses are to be kept away.
All the roads leading to the campground and to the campsites are paved and the grounds are well maintained. The campground provides easy access to the boat ramp area and horseshoe pits. The campground also offers a reservable group shelter and a day-use area with parking.
An interesting thing about the Cottonwood Recreation Site is that visitors who’d like to experience primitive camping are encouraged to camp at non-designated areas as long as they stay a good distance away from roads and trails. Practice the Leave No Trace policy and come prepared for the dry and arid conditions of the high desert climate.
Cottonwood Recreation Area is located on the shores of Salmon River and provides a boat ramp for those who wish to see the Salmon River from up close, and enjoy the rhythmic motions of paddling on these calm blue waters.
There are plenty of boating opportunities that one can avail themselves of here, including kayaking, canoeing, and river rafting. From Challis, Salmon River broadens significantly and its gradient decreases. As it continues onwards it turns into Class II rapids, that make perfect waters for beginner rafters.
Salmon River offers some first-class angling opportunities and the Cottonwood Recreation Site provides a comfortable fishing dock for an enjoyable angling experience. You will need a fishing license or a salmon and steelhead permit to toss in a line in these pristine waters.
The best time to catch steelhead and salmon is near the end of October and early November which is a brief period where the recreation site can be quite populated.
Salmon River, combined with clusters of cottonwoods, provides an ideal habitat for avian creatures. Resting by the river, you’ll see bald eagles and osprey on a lookout for fish. Blue herons are also seen perched on the cottonwood trees and rookeries can be spotted all around in the foliage overhead.
Many bird species can be spotted here by the keener-eyed bird watcher so make sure you bring your binoculars along.
A place this peaceful and serene lures picnickers from far and wide. You can spend your entire day picnicking by the Salmon River. It’s a popular recreational activity here and the Cottonwood Recreation Site promotes it with a day-use area, as well as a large picnic area.
There is a covered group shelter that needs to be reserved in advance, two horseshoe pits for both campers and picnickers, and a large lawn to laze around on.
Upper Salmon River is part of the Sawtooth National Forest and wildlife in the area is abundant. There are mule deer seen along the banks of the river and if you stare past the river and trees towards the hills, you just might catch sight of Rocky Mountain elk.
Anywhere near the river, animals are in great numbers so be careful when you are driving along. The perfect time to catch the animals and even photograph them is from dusk to dawn when the wildlife is migrating from upland and back to their homes towards the lower elevation.
Photographers wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of capturing the many sights and views awaiting them. Boaters enjoying the slow meandering pace of the river waters, anglers sitting on the dock without a worry in the world, blue herons soaring above, and plenty of wildlife occasionally peeking out from the dense woodlands. It all offers plenty of opportunities for memorable and stunning photographs.