Rafting the Main Salmon River (August 1987)

Up until 2008, our past endeavors were retained only as memories and on 35mm slides. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the slides haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring a bit of our past into the 21st Century. The photos below are from a few of those old slides.

For most of the 1980s, my main outdoor pursuits had been climbing and mountaineering with a group of like-minded friends. In August of ’87, a bunch of us decided to take a break from trying to defy gravity and give river rafting a try. It would be my first (but by no means last) guided river trip. After resolving mutual scheduling conflicts, all of us got on a World Wide River Expeditions trip down the Main Salmon River in Idaho.

I don’t recall many details of the trip, other than it was a LOT of fun. Most of us rowed down the river in heavy, bathtub-like, fiberglass “sport yaks.” These were hard to steer, hard to right if overturned, and probably dangerous to be around, but a real thrill in a rapid. These are history now, replaced with vastly more nimble (and safer) inflatable kayaks. I also vividly remember how green it was along the river, with the forest coming right down to the water in places where it was not otherwise too rocky. The juxtaposition between forest, river, and open ground was fascinating. It therefore came, when The LovedOne and I repeated this trip in 2017, as quite a gut-punch to find that numerous wildfires since the 1980s had obliterated so, so much of the forest I remember. The rafting was still fun; only now tempered with a twinge of sadness. 😥
Aside from the sport yaks and the trees, these snapshots remind me of how little the rafting experience has changed over the years. Breakfast, break camp, pack the raft, float and row, marvel at scenery, rapids, wildlife, stop for lunch, more float and row, continue to marvel at scenery, rapids, wildlife, find a campsite, unpack the raft, setup camp and kitchen, dinner, hang out around the campfire, visit the groover (hopefully while it’s still light out), sleep, repeat.   Sounds repetitive but it’s not.  And, yes, it’s habit-forming (but in a good way). 😀

Put-in at Corn Creek
Attempting to master the sport yak
The sport yaks put up quite a struggle…
But eventually we learned how to stay in them while getting through rapids
Morning on the river
Packing the rafts
Eddying-out after a rapid
On the river and through the trees…
A sport yak bobs through a rapid
Wandering around Jim Moore Place, still one of the iconic stops along the Main Salmon 
One of Jim Moore’s old hand-hewn cabins
Sport yaks on the water
Sport yaks on their lunch break
Evening on the river
Take-out at Wind River

There are many ways to salvation, and one of them is to follow a river.” David Brower


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