Day 3: Main Salmon - Devil's Tooth to Hancock

Trip Start Aug 11, 2011
Trip End Aug 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hancock Beach on the Main Salmon River
What I did
Whitewater Kayaking
rapid scouting

Flag of United States  , Idaho
Saturday, August 13, 2011

Today began with yoga on the beach. As we soon found out it was very warm during the day but cold in the early morning before the sun had a chance to reach all the way down into the gorge. We put a few more layers on to do yoga. We did about an hour of yoga out in the beautiful air and sunshine. Each yoga class focused on a different section of body that would help keep us limber since we were in our boats for about 6-8 hours each day.

After yoga was breakfast. We had eggs and bacon, there was always cereal, yogurt and fruit available as well. After breakfast we changed into our river gear and began rolling up the sleeping bags and mattresses and taking the tents down. We also loaded our large dry bags with clothes onto the raft while our guides broke down camp. 

We did some roll practice in the eddy since there were some swims yesterday. Anna talked to us about the size of the water here and the need to wait for a few seconds before trying to roll because of the size and power of the waves. We were told the river level was about 9,000 cfs today, a slight decline from yesterday and that we would be paddling about the same distance as yesterday, just about 13 miles. We were told we were going to make some stops but we weren't told what we were going to stop for. 

Once everyone was ready we began down river. We paddled only .1 of a mile before pulling over into an eddy and getting out of our kayaks. We were going to see the Devil's Toe Pictographs that were painted on a large rock in the cliffside. Our head guide Lisa talked to us a bit about the history of the area and about the indian tribes that used to live in the area. No one knows exactly what the pictograph panel means. We decided it was an account of how many people swam through Alder Creek Rapid!

We were paddling at a pretty leisurely pace. For the most part it seemed like this was a more mellow section of river than what we paddled the day before. We were told that there would be days that were more relaxing and some that we more intense in terms of rapids, today was more relaxing. It allowed us time to float and look at the scenery. We saw more big horn sheep down at the riverside. We actually saw them in several places today. 

We bypassed Elkhorn Creek Camp, Chamberlain Creek Trail, and Chukar Beach Camp before arriving at class II- Little Devil's Teeth Rapid. This was an easy rapid to run, you could basically pick any channel between the large rocks at the bottom that you wanted. We had one swimmer here so we waited a bit until she was back in her kayak.

We next passed by Blackadar Camp, Motor Camp, Big Squaw Camp. On our way we saw the Smith Gulch River of No Return Lodge alongside the river. We then passed Corey Bar Camp on our way to Pebble Beach. We pulled in here and the guides set up a quick lunch of sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit and cookies. I wasn't that hungry since we just ate breakfast not that long ago but we all had a little something and filled up our water bottles. Canyons makes sure that their guests do not go hungry!

Once lunch was loaded up we got back in our boats and paddled for about another mile and through what is normally class III+ Salmon Falls. Because the water was double its normal flow Salmon Falls was completely washed out and nothing more than a riffle. We then pulled over on river left. We were told to get out of our boats that we were going to scout a rapid. 

What we were scouting is the newly formed class III-IV Black Creek Rapid. It was formed during the flash flood in April 2011. It is now the steepest drop on the river and it's rather intimidating looking while scouting. The hike to get to the spot where we could properly scout was about a class V hike. We climbed over boulders, through bushes, past poison ivy. I was tired just from the scouting! I sometimes almost prefer not to scout as it makes me more nervous but I know its something I have to get used to doing. Looking at the rapid it was easy to see the entrance was to the left of center following the V formed by the current, from there it was almost anyone's guess. Anywhere and everywhere you looked it was a sea of foaming whitewater. I decided I was going to ride the tongue down with a little bit of left angle and try to plow my way through the huge waves. Karen, in the IK went in front of me. She hit the first wave caught huge air and was launched out of her boat. I was next and hit the first wave hard enough but got flipped. I set up and to my surprise I rolled right in the meat of the rapid! When I rolled up I could see another 4 people swimming! It was chaos! We named this the Black Creek Slaughter. 

Once everyone was sorted out we continued downriver past Black Canyon Beach Camp and through some smaller unnamed rapids for about two miles. We then pulled over on river left and were told to get out of our boats. I was hoping we weren't scouting again. Our guides then told us we had arrived at the Hot Tub Springs. We took our boating gear off and made the slippery climb up to the hot tub. There carved into the cliffside was a hot tub, there was a pipe with both hot and cold water pumping into the tub. Where the pipes and water came from I have no idea but it was really nice. The hot water felt really good! We stayed there for awhile just soaking in the hot water and the sun. We brought some biodegradable shampoo and the bailing buckets up to the hot tub so we could wash our hair. 

That's another issue while you are on the river. Only biodegradable soaps and shampoos can be used and no soap is allowed to be rinsed in the river. You need to get wet in the river and go up above the brush line to soap and lather up. You then need to have a bucket of river water to rise off with. Since we were well above the brush line we wet our hair in the hot tub then got out of the tub to apply the shampoo and rinse off. One nice thing about kayaking is that you are in the water all day so you don't really get too dirty. But washing your hair every other day or so feels nice.

When everyone was done washing their hair we scrambled back down the cliffside, got our gear back on and got into our boats. We passed by Sunny Bar Camp, and past the interesting looking Barth Hot Springs, whose hot water flowed into the river. Maybe that's where the hot water in the hot tub comes from? We also bypassed Sandy Hole Camp, Poor Bar Camp, Nixon Bar Camp, and Bruin Camp on the way to our next rapid.

Next we hit class II Hancock Rapid which is a long fun wave train. We were told that our camp, Hancock Camo would be on river left partway through the wave train. We pulled in and began our routine of taking off our wet gear and laying it with the boats to dry. We then got out tents and set them up. We were told to put rocks inside the 4 corners of the tent because the wind was picking up and we didn't have tent stakes. We got our mattresses inflated and our sleeping bags unrolled and then we got changed into dry clothes. 

Our guides had made parmesan herb dip, crackers and carrots for appetizers, we also had an assortment of beer or wine to choose from. We did a bit of a spa day on the beach while dinner was cooking. We put on mud masks, used leave-in conditioner on our hair, and used scented moisturizer on our hands and feet. The combo of water, sun and the arid air and drying on the skin and using a good moisturizer is a good idea. We cleaned up the beauty gear and sat and talked around the fire for quite awhile.

For dinner we had steak, salad and mashed potatoes and baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I really can't say it enough but the food Canyons makes is delicious. I couldn't believe the quality of the food they can make in the wilderness.

After dinner we talked around the campfire, learning more about each other. Tonight the sky was very clear and it was a good night for looking at the stars. It was also a full moon. We watched the moon rise in the sky. I don't know whose idea it was or exactly how it started but several of the ladies decided to go skinny dipping! While I was taking pictures of the full moon all I could hear was laughter. I got to the rivers edge and there was Anna, Mary Frances, Erica and Leila buck-naked running into the river. They talked me into joining them. Then Kathy came down because she heard the noise, so we got her to join us. As the laughter got louder and louder more women came down the beach, stripped and jumped into the river! It was so funny, I guess that's the type of thing that happens under the full moon, lunacy. In truth though it was very freeing, I never did before and the river water that late at night was very refreshing. 

We got dressed and then sat around the fire to warm up for a bit and then headed off to bed still laughing. Since it was still pretty warm outside most of us pulled our mattress pads and sleeping bags outside and slept under the stars. It was really nice falling asleep to the sounds of the river and watching the shooting stars in the light of the full moon!
Main Salmon River Info:

Girls at Play:

Canyons, Inc.:

Main Salmon River:


Salmon River Guidebook:

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