Experience a white-water adventure along the Main Salmon River through some of the most pristine wilderness in the country. This isn’t your typical outdoor adventure; as we unwind in this piece of paradise deep within the river canyon, a professional chef will satisfy our taste buds with gourmet meals prepared with Whole Foods Market® 365 Everyday Value, organic and regionally sourced products, including micro brews and regional wines from the new Whole Foods Market store in Boise, Idaho. This is a rafting trip like no other.
Perhaps the most popular rafting trip in Idaho and the main section of the longest undammed river in the mainland U.S., the Main Salmon offers a rich river experience. Inappropriately dubbed the ‘River of No Return’ by early river runners, the Salmon is in fact a river you’ll want to return to repeatedly. Free-flowing Class III whitewater that’s great for any age and experience level, big sandy beaches perfect for camping and playing, beautiful mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a natural hot spring are among the hallmarks of the Main. As we challenge ourselves with new experiences on the river, and take in the natural beauty around us, along the way we enjoy impressive restaurant quality, organic cuisine deep in the wilderness. Learn the history of the original settlers including food traditions, storage methods and trading. The river was a rich source of food for the area’s indigenous people, who relied on the abundant salmon species and other wildlife. Our chef offers tips and demos for preparing gourmet camp dinners.
About Chef Brandon Liggett
As early as Chef Brandon Liggett remembers, under the tutelage of his grandmother, his passion for cooking began. But at the age of 15, when he began his first job at a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria and stepped foot into a professional kitchen for the first time, Chef Liggett’s culinary passion grew into a career. Early on, to further his knowledge and skills, he found his way to Jean Jorge NY in San Diego where he gained a vast amount of experience working under the restaurant’s former chef de cuisine. From there, Chef Liggett moved to Hawaii where he spent time working in a bakery before his need for adventure led him to Alaska to run an intimate chefs table in Ketchikan. Now, focused on honing his skills in world cuisine, you’ll find Chef Liggett working alongside The Dish’s Chef Jered Couch in Boise, Idaho. Here, with an emphasis on farm fresh organic produce, as well as fish and seafood, he follows the motto: No culinary boundaries.
DAY 1: Arrive Boise
Highlights: Downtown Boise, The Modern Hotel in downtown Boise’s Linen District.
The day before our trip begins we will arrive at the Boise Airport. Upon arrival, you will board a shuttle to The Modern Hotel in downtown Boise for our pre-trip meeting and welcome reception. Our trip leader will provide a thorough trip orientation and pass out your waterproof bags so that you can pack your belongings that evening. The trip leader will also reconfirm the meeting time for the following morning and give you an opportunity to ask any last-minute questions. Those who are up for exploring Boise following the pre-trip meeting and welcome reception may then grab a bite to eat in Boise’s cultural district in the heart of downtown, or try the new Whole Foods Market tap room and enjoy a local craft beer with your rafting mates.
DAY 2: Boise — Salmon
Highlights: Scenic flight to Salmon, Killum and Gunbarrel rapids
From Boise, we’ll take an early scenic flight to Salmon, ID (included in the trip). Upon arrival, we will drive approx. two hours to our put-in at Corn Creek, reaching the river late morning, where we’ll be greeted by the O.A.R.S. crew and our boats! After an informative safety talk and some brief paddle raft/inflatable kayak instruction, we’re off on our adventure! The first day’s whitewater action includes rapids such as Killum and Gunbarrel.
After an eventful first day, it’ll be a beautiful thing to reach camp that night, to find that our guides have kindly set up our accommodations for the evening. (No need to, but if you’d like to learn feel free to join). Meanwhile, Chef Christian Vargas will prep the first of many fabulous multi-course meals on the river.
DAYS 2 – 5: Rafting
Highlights: Salmon Falls, Big Mallard and Growler rapids, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill’s homestead and Jim Moore’s place, Barth hot springs, hikes, paddle boating and inflatable kayaking, Native American rock art, cooking demos with Chef Vargas
As we journey into the pristine heart of the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church Wilderness, each day brings new discoveries: exciting Salmon Falls, Big Mallard and Growler rapids, historical sites such as Buckskin Bill’s homestead and Jim Moore’s place (maybe you’ll find the fortune he buried in the hillside!), and the much anticipated Barth Hot Springs.
The surrounding scenery transfixes us, and for the duration of our trip, we’re mesmerized by the beauty of the Salmon River canyon – the second deepest gorge in North America. This broad canyon is heavily forested with towering pines and conifers and, early in the season, blanketed with vibrant wildflowers. We may be welcomed to the river by a family of otters swimming near our boats, a herd of bighorn sheep scaling a steep canyon wall, a giant elk or moose wading in the shallows, or if we’re lucky, a black bear standing sentinel on shore. The fishing is excellent during these days, and on trips in August, warm air and water temperatures encourage frequent refreshing dips in the river.
Typically, a day on the river includes a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a hike to stretch our legs, a visit to a Native American pictograph, historical site or a soak in a natural hot spring. Come lunchtime, we pull over to a sandy beach and enjoy a delicious picnic. After feasting and relaxing on the beach (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, a nature walk… ), we get back in our boats for more floating and exciting whitewater. Be sure to try your hand at the paddleboat and inflatable kayak! Mid- to late-afternoon, we stop to set up camp, read and nap.
Join Chef Vargas for a demo or just sit back and laugh with friends as we set up camp while Chef prepares dinner. After a satisfying feast, the evening is ours to spend however we wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together at night; maybe the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection in the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.
On Day 5 you will enjoy your last float on the river and arrive at our overnight lodging accommodations at the Mackay Bar Guest Ranch. Mackay Bar is one of the most unique lodges along the Main Salmon, and offers modern creature comforts, along with a rustic backcountry feel. With much of the food grown and sourced on site, you can expect a delicious family style meal prepared by the lodge owners, Buck and Joni.
Day 6: Departure
After enjoying a hearty breakfast we will proceed to MacKay Bar and bid farewell to the river and guides for your scenic flight back to Boise (approximately 55 minutes). Upon arrival in Boise, you can then catch a connecting flight from the Boise Airport.