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Originally established as Salmon River Forest Reserve in 1906, this Idaho park was reclassified as Salmon National Forest in 1908. The change granted it some additional protection from overzealous mining and logging companies. It wasn’t until the 1970s or 1980s when people realized the vast potential for recreational opportunities. Only then did National Forest Service begin to seriously work at blazing trails and creating buildings and structures that would help grow the tourism industry.
In 1996, overwhelmed National Forest Service combined Salmon National Forest with Challis National Forest and a portion of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in an effort to streamline administrative work and budget, and thus the Salmon-Challis National Forest was born.
The closest large towns depend on which entrance point one is using. Both, Challis and Salmon, have small hospitals with emergency health care services and a variety of shopping and dining options that center around the recreational industry. Both towns each are roughly 30 miles from the northern and southern entrances.
Out of a combined 4.2 million acres, which is one of the largest National Forests in the lower 48, Salmon National Forest encompasses around 1.8 million acres. Salmon National Forest has several popular destinations and geological features like the Borah Feature, which is Idaho’s highest peak and Salmon River, a highly popular fishing and whitewater rafting river. Salmon River’s original name was “the River of No Return” because it was often too difficult for boats to go upstream due to the fast current and dangerous rapids. Today, however, these rapids, which can attain a difficulty rating of as high as Class IV, are extremely popular with kayakers and whitewater rafters.
Well over, 600 miles of trails wind and weave through the dense forests across some of the most treacherous terrain that Idaho has to offer. The grueling, rugged terrain appeals to many outdoor adventurers seeking solitude and a true test of their survival skills. While journeying along one of the trails, keep an eye out for rock shelters that were used by proto-Native Americans. Often, they left evidence of their presence in the form of pictographs and petroglyphs. Here and there, hikers can spot forgotten remnants of mining excursions. Crumbling ruins of homes, foundations of buildings that once marked a fledgling settlement, and collapsed dams that were once used for mining operations.
A fisherman’s haven, many streams, and rivers have a healthy population of fish, including the northwest salmon, steelhead, several species of trout, and in certain areas, warm water fish. Note that all fishermen must have an Idaho fishing license. Anglers should keep a sharp eye out; bald eagles and golden eagles have been known to steal catches right off the hook.
Most campgrounds were created in the 60s when trailers and RVs were significantly shorter and smaller. Though there have been expansions to update and modernize the campgrounds, they are still few and far between. Keep that in mind, when selecting your rental camper for the RV camping adventure in Salmon National Forest. One thing that hasn’t changed, and likely won’t for the foreseeable future is there are no hookups in any of Salmon National Forest RV campgrounds.
Wildhorse Canyon Campground is a small campground near MacKay, with 13 RV sites. Although there are no hookups, there are hand pumps for water and two vault toilets. This campground is operated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Copper Basin region has a few campgrounds for RVs. Star Hope Campground, for example, has 21 sites, hand pumps for water, and three wheelchair-accessible vault toilets.
Though this part of Idaho is remote, with the help of a motorhome rental, exploring the far-flung mountain towns is a snap. In between Chilly and MacKay, ID, are a few historical markers that detail the significance of certain spots in the region and the role they played in shaping the towns’ heritage.
Many small towns operate historical societies and museums to honor their town’s heritage and history, and Stanely, ID, is no exception. The Stanley Museum, found near Sawtooth National Forest, is one of the oldest museums in the state; it was founded in 1890. The museum has on display not only artifacts and tools used by the local settlers and miners but also fossils and interesting geological finds that give visitors a glimpse into the very ancient past.
At the end of a long day of exploring, fishing, and hiking, kick up your heels outside an RV rental and listen to the sounds of nature as the sky darkens. The soft hoot of an owl as it prepares to hunt. The distant howl of a wolf as it sings to its compatriots. And the hum of insects. Find your perfect RV camping adventure in Idaho today!