Salmon River of Return
Posted: Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:01 am
The massive 2.36 million acre Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness Area is one of the largest protected wildlands in the contiguous United States. Combined with the adjacent Gospel Hump Wilderness and surrounding Forest Service roadless areas, it is the heart of a 3.3 million acre (13,000 km²) roadless wonderland. The Salmon River threads through its core.
Early trappers and explorers, including Lewis and Clark, feared and avoided the Salmon River and its deep canyons. It took the discovery of gold in the 1880s for westerners to fully navigate its turbulent waters. Thirty-foot flat-bottomed barges supplied mining activities. The Salmon River was too swift for these barges to return up-river, and hence the name "River of No Return."
In September 2012, Mike Curiak, Jim Harris, Forrest McCarthy, Andrew McLean, Tom Turiano, and Moe Witschard utilized packrafts to challenge the century old idea that paddling is a one-way event in the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness. Starting near the confluence of the Middle and Main Forks of the Salmon, they descended 60 miles through the heart of the wilderness to the confluence with the South Fork.
After an out and back side trip up the South Fork they spent two and half days hiking roughly 35 miles over Horse Heaven Ridge and Chicken Peak to the confluence Big and Monument Creeks. Twenty-five miles of paddling on Big Creek, and 20 miles on the Middle Fork, returned them to where they started.