Outfitters predict a fun-filled summer season on Idaho rivers

Outfitters predict a fun-filled summer season on Idaho rivers

IOGA Press Release

By Steve Stuebner

The Norwegian Snow God Ullr finally woke up in January and the Idaho mountains made a strong

comeback through the Winter of 2023-24 to bring us to near-normal snowpack levels in most river

basins. The Owyhee River went off the charts at 200% of normal, and the Lochsa will have fewer scary

whitewater peaks with less snow, officials said this week.

“To me, it feels like it’s going to be a perfectly average year with the snowpack we have and the water

levels expected,” said Steve Zettel, owner of Idaho Wilderness Company, which runs trips on the

nationally famous Middle Fork Salmon River. “You can’t beat average on the Middle Fork – that’s as

good as it gets.”

“Considering the predictions with the El-Nino winter, I thought we are coming out better than expected

quite honestly,” said Colin Hughes, owner of Hughes River Expeditions, which offers trips on the Selway,

Middle Fork Salmon, Main Salmon-River of No Return section, and the Lower Salmon River. “I think we

lucked out a little bit.”

“All signs for me point to a great season,” adds Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips in Riggins.

Orange Torpedo runs trips on the Main and Lower Salmon, Riggins day stretch on the Salmon, Owyhee,

Rogue and Klamath rivers in Idaho and Oregon. “Perfectly average is definitely a great level for the

summer season.”

Every spring and summer, Idaho is a major go-to destination for whitewater rafting on nationally

renowned rivers like the Middle Fork, Salmon River, Hells Canyon of the Snake River, Selway River, and

other gems like the Lochsa, Payette, Owyhee, Bruneau, Murtaugh section of the Snake, Moyie and St.

Joe rivers.

On multi-day trips lasting up to a week, guests enjoy running whitewater rapids, Dutch oven gourmet

meals, relaxing and camping on white sandy beaches and being unplugged deep inside the Idaho


With robust snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, and 70-degree spring weather under

way, outfitters already have started their trips on those rivers this season. “The Owyhee is going to be

epic this year, and a really long season,” Weiseth noted.

Killgore Adventures and River Adventures, jet boat outfitters who offer trips on the Salmon River and in

Hells Canyon, are expecting a great summer season. “We’re hoping to have our busiest season yet,” said

Amanda Riger with Killgore. “We just bought three new jet boats, and we purchased the Salmon River

Lodge in Riggins and Kirby Creek Lodge in Hells Canyon, so we’ve all set up to take people for

unforgettable river adventure.”

Rich Friend, owner of River Adventures in Riggins, agrees that It’ll be an average water year, “business as

usual,” he said. People are signing up for the ”Bass Blast” fishing derby in Hells Canyon in May, with

individual prizes for winners. “The fishing is really, really good for bass. May is a phenomenal fishing

month in Hells Canyon,” he said.

Both Killgore and River Adventures have plenty of openings for Salmon River and Hells Canyon fishing

trips and scenic tours, officials said. It’s roughly $200 per person for a six-hour jet boat tour, including

lunch. If you stay at the Salmon River Lodge, guests receive a 10% discount on the jet boat ride.

On the Lochsa River, boatable flows are happening now. “We’re looking forward to another great river

season,” said Gia Fairchild, owner of Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures. “Normal is what we like. Montana had a

skinnier winter than Idaho, so we feel fortunate to have good boatable flows in Idaho. We’re still

booking trips in May and early June.”

Whitewater enthusiasts also should consider signing up with Idaho Guide Service to run the Middle

Snake River near Twin Falls and Hagerman. The Middle Snake River has excellent water flows right now.

Idaho Guide Service also offers trips on the Main Salmon River – River of No Return.

A new trend with Lewis & Clark and Orange Torpedo is offering a “Row Your Own” option for people

who have their own rafts and camping gear. Those trips cost considerably less than a normal trip,

officials said.

“This is our second year offering Row Your Own trips, and the interest has just exploded,” Weiseth said.

“They can put together a group or they can come as an individual. Since they have their own boats and

camping gear, we charge $750-$1,200 for a Main Salmon-River of No Return 6-day trip that normally

would cost $2,299.”

Some people may not realize how much you can save on a Row Your Own trip, Fairchild added. “Call us

and ask for a quote!”

If people want to book a trip on the Middle Fork, very few seats are still available for the 2024 season,

outfitters said, so people should inquire quickly about trip availability. Go to raftidaho.org to or the

Middle Fork Outfitters Association to shop for outfitters.

“I’m actually booking trips in 2026,” said Greg McFadden, owner of Canyons river trips, which runs the

Middle Fork and Main Salmon. “But we have seats open on the Main Salmon this summer.”

Canyons guests have the option of paddling their own kayak on the Middle Fork or Main. Canyons also

offer a unique, 12-day trip if people want to do a combination Middle Fork-Main Salmon back to back.

That’s a bucket-list item for any serious boater.

A big question on Middle Fork outfitters’ minds this year is whether log jams and mudslides will get

carried away in the top end of the Middle Fork canyon after heavy rains caused the washouts last fall.

Most are optimistic. “We’re still remodeling as we do every year,” McFadden says with a chuckle. “The

Middle Fork already has hit 4 feet on the gauge, and that moved the wood somewhat. I have a feeling

that everything will work out, and we’ll have a channel to get through. That said, we’ll need to be ready

for anything.”

Outfitters and private boaters will have the option of flying equipment and guests into the Indian Creek

launch point 25 miles downriver on the Middle Fork, if necessary.

Zettel says he isn’t going to worry about the log jams. “I think we’ll see another peak on the Middle Fork

in the 5 to 7 foot range in early June – that’s usually when it happens in an average year,” he said.

“That’s hopefully all we’ll need to clean up that upper end.”

Hughes said he’s hopeful as well. “I’m hoping peak flows will clean it out. But that said, I’m still getting

my sweep boat ready to fly.”

Steve Stuebner is an outdoor writer and author based in Boise and McCall. A former licensed

river guide, he’s been running Idaho rivers for 35 years.