Lower Salmon River
Guide

Introduction

Lower Salmon River is a 112-mile stretch of nature’s wonder that features lots of Bureau of Land Management-owned recreation sites where campers and day visitors enjoy outdoor activities that leave them thoroughly satisfied. This river, which forms part of the Salmon River, can be accessed via U.S. Highway 95 through Riggins and White Bird, Idaho. Lower Salmon River begins at Vinegar Creek, 25 miles above Riggins.

Much of Lower Salmon River is only accessible by boats, except for the recreation sites where visitors can access the river and launch their vessels to enjoy whitewater rafting, boating, and other water activities. Fishing is also a good sport on the river as salmon, steelhead trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, and smallmouth bass thrive here. Colorful birds soar the skies above the river canyon, providing bird watching enthusiasts with plenty of avian species to see and take pictures of. Raptors, for example, are commonly sighted here.

The BLM sites along this scenic river offer nature lovers amazing opportunities to see beautiful plant communities, and diverse fauna species that roam the area. You should visit the White Bird Battlefield Historical Landmark too to learn about the 1877 battle in the area.

Camping opportunities are provided in some of the BLM recreation sites along Lower Salmon River. If you’re looking for more, you can visit Nez-Perce National Forest, Clearwater National Forest, or Payette National Forest nearby.

RV Rentals in Lower Salmon River

Transportation

Driving

Lower Salmon River is accessible via US Highway 95, through White Bird and Riggins in Idaho. This river, which is the last 112 miles of the longer Salmon River (425 miles long), can be accessed via different Bureau of Land Management sites along the highway.

One access point is from Hammer Creek Recreation Site, about 2.7 miles from Highway 95, west of White Bird. Island Bar and Shorts Bar Recreation Sites, which lie east of Riggins on Big Salmon Road are other access points to the river. At milepost 203.8 along Highway 95, about 8 miles of Riggins, you’ll be able to get through to the river at Lucile Recreation Site.

If you’re coming in from Cottonwood, on Graves Creek Road, Pine Bar Recreation Site will bring you to the riverside. Guests coming in from White Bird can access Lower Salmon River along Highway 95 at Slate Creek, Skookumchuck and White Bird Gravel Pit Recreation Sites.

There are no direct public transportation services to these access points to the Lower Salmon River. However, RV and motorhome rentals are available in Nez County.

Parking spaces are provided at the recreation sites for cars and RVs.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Lower Salmon River

Campsites in Lower Salmon River

First-come first-served

Hammer Creek Recreation Site Campground

Hammer Creek Recreation Site lies west of White Bird, along Highway 95, and features 12 pet-friendly campsites that are surrounded by semi-arid mountain peaks. This site is a popular starting point for rafting, kayaking, powerboating, and jet boating on Lower Salmon River.

Amenities available in the recreation side include potable water, restrooms, and an RV dump station. The campsites are ADA accessible too. A picnic area with parking space is provided.

The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only.

Pine Bar Recreation Site Campground

Pine Bar Campground lies within the Pine Bar Recreation Site south of Cottonwood, on the Lower Salmon River. This campground is most popular for swimming, fishing, and picnicking. Camping is allowed here only at designated numbered campsites. There are six campsites available.

Potable water, picnic tables, and toilets are provided. All sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only.

Pets are allowed.

Slate Creek Recreation Site Campground

Slate Creek Recreation Site lies 10 miles south of White Bird, along Highway 95, and features six campsites that are equipped with fire rings and picnic tables. The site is developed, shaded and features a boat launch.

Vault restrooms, potable water, and a picnic area are provided in the recreation site. All the campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only.

Popular activities here are boating, fishing, and paddling. Pets are welcome.

Seasonal activities in Lower Salmon River

In-Season

Fauna

Amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are commonly seen by wildlife viewing enthusiasts along the Lower Salmon River. Toads are found in the side drainages, while various species of snakes reside in the canyon. Some of the commonly-sighted mammals along the river are otters, beavers, raccoons, and minks. It may be quite difficult to spot mountain lions and bobcat in the area, despite the fact that they are common, because of their nocturnal habits and secrecy. So, if you spot one, be sure to take a picture.

Other fauna you may observe in the area are mule deer, coyotes, and white-tailed deer.

Boating

The rapids and white sandy beaches on the Lower Salmon River promote boating and whitewater rafting among outdoor enthusiasts spending time at the recreation sites located along the river.

Designated as a Class II-IV rapid on the International Scale, this river features waves that vary from regular to irregular, with boiling eddies and the presence of dangerous rocks in places. So, you are advised to exercise extreme caution and be safe as you boat along the river course. It may be necessary to scout the areas you intend to explore ahead.

Flora

The Lower Salmon River flows through arid Canyon Grassland and a region that is home to rare and native plants. These native species include prickly pear cactus, Idaho fescue, bluebunch wheatgrass, poison ivy, curl leaf, and many more. Some of the rare plants that flora enthusiasts come across here include Salmon River sedum, Palouse goldenweed and thistle, Idaho phacelia, and broadfruit Mariposa lily.

The elevations in the river canyon range further enable unique plant communities to thrive in the area.

Off-Season

White Bird Battlefield

A popular site north of White Bird, along Highway 95, is the historical landmark situated where the first battle of the Nez Perce Flight took place in 1877. This battlefield now has an interpretive shelter that has signs telling the story of the battle.

A short interpretive trail is available here for visitors to hike using a trail guide that is keyed to numbered stops along the trail. Campers at any of the BLM recreation sites in the area often take the chance to explore this battlefield, and you should too.

Fishing

Numerous cold and warm water fish species swim in Salmon River, offering good angling opportunities to guests that love to fish. Some of these fish include salmon, steelhead trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, and smallmouth bass. Don’t be surprised if you catch catfish and 100-year-old white sturgeons too.

Some of the fish in these waters are listed as endangered, so if you catch them, ensure you return them unharmed. Good examples include sockeye salmon and Chinook salmon.

Bird Viewing

Come along with your binoculars and cameras because the sights and sounds of the birds in the Lower Salmon River canyon area will blow you away. The steep, shady sections of the canyons feature white canyon wren and chestnut brown, while you may see water ouzel or the sooty-gray American dipper playing around the river’s edge. Kingfishers commonly dive into the water too while making their loud, rattling calls.

Raptors are common in the Lower Salmon River canyon too, particularly golden eagles, American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, and turkey vultures.