Whitewater Rafting Four Western Rivers

Floating Four Western Rivers: Selway, Snake, Salmon & Middle Fork Salmon

The Selway River, (Wild Main) Salmon River, Hells Canyon-Snake River, and Middle Fork of the Salmon River (aka 4 Rivers) are located in the middle of Idaho and eastern Oregon and offer a wide range of floating opportunities.

These exciting rivers provide scenery, steep canyons, wildlife and whitewater thrills for thousands of river runners each summer during the floating season.

The 4 Rivers use randomized lottery drawings to assign launch reservations for their high-demand control (primary) seasons. Lotteries were initiated to provide a fair allocation of the available launches due to the high demand for these river permits. Limiting the number of permits helps preserve and protect these wild places.

The Four Rivers Lottery Control (Primary) seasons:

  • Selway River: May 15 - July 31
  • Hells Canyon-Snake River: Friday before Memorial Day - September 10
  • Wild Main Salmon River: June 20 - September 7
  • Middle Fork of the Salmon River: May 28 - September 3

Each river has different reservation/permitting requirements for pre/post season trips, according to the individual river’s management plan. A brief overview about each river is listed below. For more details about each individual river, including specific rules, equipment requirements, and trip information, click on the link in each River's name.

 

Four Rivers Lottery & Permit Reservation System

This web page contains information about obtaining permits to float the Middle Fork, Main Salmon, Snake and Selway Rivers.

Lottery applications are accepted December 1 through January 31, annually. Applications must be submitted online at www.Recreation.gov before midnight Eastern time on January 31.

This page also contains instructions, statistics, demand data, hydrographs and lottery launch calendars; "how-to's" for applying to the lottery, finding a cancellation, or reserving a pre/post-season launch date.

 

Middle Fork of the Salmon River 

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is 98 miles of free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness. It is a non-motorized floating experience, with many technical rapids (Class III and IV).

The Middle Fork offers floaters a wide variety of scenery and wildlife, in addition to natural hot springs, crystal clear water and catch-and-release fishing.

Permits are required year-round to float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and are limited to 7 per day.Permits are not transferable, and cannot be reserved by anyone being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation. A $4 per person per day special recreation fee is charged for each person.

Pre/Post Season Permits (before 5/28 & after 9/3):These are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at www.Recreation.gov (or at 1-877-444-6777) starting October 1st at 8 am Mountain time. Any cancellations are released randomly within 24 hours at Recreation.gov.

Lottery control season (5/28-9/3) Permits:These launches are initially allocated by lottery. An individual can only hold one reservation at a time during the lottery control season and can only have one permit per year during this period.

CANCELLATIONS: After the initial lottery, any declined, cancelled or unconfirmed launch dates will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis at www.Recreation.gov (or call 1-877-444-6777).

Note about Cancellations: August 15 through September 15 launch dates will not be reissued after March 15th as part of the mitigation measures being implemented to protect spawning Chinook salmon.

This river is managed by the Middle Fork Ranger District on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

 

Main Salmon River 

The “Wild” section of the Main Salmon River cascades for 78 miles from Corn Creek to Long Tom Bar through the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness and the Gospel Hump Wilderness. Due to agreements that existed prior to the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980, jet boats (permit required) also use the river.

Thousands of visitors navigate the Class III to IV whitewater on the Main Salmon and enjoy its peaceful beauty each year.

Permits are required year-round on the Wild Main Salmon River. Permits are not transferable, and cannot be reserved by anyone being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation. A $4 per person per day special recreation fee is charged for each person.

Pre/Post Season Permits (Unlimited before 6/20 & after 9/7):These permits can be reserved at www.Recreation.gov (or at 1-877-444-6777) starting October 1st at 8 am Mountain time. Any cancellations are released randomly within 24 hours at Rec.gov.

Lottery control season (6/20-9/7) Permits:These launches are initially allocated by lottery. An individual can only hold one reservation at a time during the lottery control season and can only have one permit per year during this period.

CANCELLATIONS: After the initial lottery, any declined, cancelled or unconfirmed launch dates will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis at www.Recreation.gov (or call 1-877-444-6777).

This river is managed by the North Fork Ranger District on the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

 

Snake River -- Hells Canyon 

The Snake River in Hells CanyonNational Recreation Area divides Idaho and Oregon, flowing through North America’s deepest river canyon. The 67-1/2 miles of Wild & Scenic River corridor passes through Hells Canyon Wilderness over part of its length, but is not itself a wilderness.

The river corridor provides both motorized and non-motorized recreation opportunities. The “Wild” Snake has several Class IV rapids with huge hydraulics. The “Scenic” section also offers less challenging Class II to III rapids with beautiful canyon vistas.

Lottery Primary Control Season (Friday before Memorial Day-9/10) Permits:These launches are initially allocated by lottery. An individual can only have one reservation at a time for a primary control season launch date. Permits are not transferable, and cannot be reserved by anyone being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation.

Visit our website for details about the different permit types and how to obtain them.

CANCELLATIONS:  After the initial lottery, any declined, cancelled or unconfirmed launch dates will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis at www.Recreation.gov (or call 1-877-444-6777).

This river is managed by the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area on the Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

 

Selway River 

The Selway is one of the most challenging whitewater rivers in the United States. The river’s course takes the floater through the 1,239,840 acres Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. Most of this large Wilderness is passable only by horseback, foot, or boat. From Paradise Guard Station at the mouth of White Cap Creek to Selway Falls, the river drops an average of 28 feet per mile, creating a very technical whitewater floating experience.

On the Selway River there are several Class III and IV rapids which require a high level of whitewater skill and experience.

Permits are required May 15 through July 31 on the Selway River. Permits are not transferable, and cannot be reserved by anyone being penalized for a no-show or late cancellation.

Lottery control season (5/15-7/31) Permits:These launches are initially allocated by lottery. An individual can only hold one reservation at a time during the lottery control season and can only have one permit per year during this period.

Pre/Post Season (off the river before 5/15 or launch after 7/31) Permits are not required for the Selway; however, pre-season boaters must be off the river before May 15th.

CANCELLATIONS:  After the initial lottery, any declined, cancelled or unconfirmed launch dates will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning March 16th at www.Recreation.gov (or call 1-877-444-6777).

This river is managed by the West Fork Ranger District on the Bitterroot National Forest.

 


Boat Sticker Required in Idaho

Photo of a group of people white water rafting down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

  • All Boats Must Have an Idaho Invasive Species Fund Sticker Anyone who wants to launch a boat on Idaho waters will have to buy an Idaho Invasive Species Fund sticker. This new Idaho law requires the owner of any boat and any non-motorized vessel (canoe, kayak, raft, drift boat, etc.) to buy and display this sticker to legally launch and operate the boat in Idaho. Inflatable, non-motorized vessels less than 10 feet long are exempt. Click here to purchase.These stickers are not available at the launch sites.