Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

Looking out on a bend in a wide river between mountains

Ranking as the second largest Wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System is only one of the many attributes of which the Frank Church-River of No Return can boast. Its namesake, Frank Church (Senator and lawyer) played a major role in passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, and in the creation of the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. The treacherous waters of the Main Salmon River slice through a chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon—hence its moniker as the River of No Return. Portions of this 2.4 million acre Wilderness are located on five different national forests—the Boise, Bitterroot, Nez Perce, Payette, and Salmon-Challis. Many of its visitors venture into these wild lands on the river corridors of both the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River.  Find out more about this and other wildernesses at

At a Glance

Permit Info: River travel is managed under a permit system to control the number and size of float parties. General backcountry travel is allowed with a maximum group size of 20 and length of stay up to 14 days. Maximum group sized for stock use is 20 and 20 head of stock. Visit the Salmon-Challis NF web site for details including permit information.
Restrictions: Timber harvesting is not allowed. New permanent or temporary roads and new landing strips are not allowed. Motorized or mechanized transport of any kind, including motorcycles, mountain bicycles, game carts, jetskis, and hang gliders are not allowed. Motorboats (except on the Salmon River) are not allowed. Dredge or placer mining in the Salmon River, Middle Fork, and tributaries of the Middle Fork is not allowed. New permanent structions or an installation is not allowed. (Existing structures may be maintained for administrative or historic purposes). Commercial enterprises (other than guides and outfitters) are not allowed.
Closest Towns: Grangeville, Idaho; McCall, Idaho; Salmon, Idaho; Challis, Idaho
Information Center: Red River Ranger District, 208-842-2245

General Information


The FC-RONRW can be accessed from areas close to Grangeville, McCall, Salmon or Challis, Idaho. There are a number of ways to travel through the Wilderness; by floatboat down the Middle Fork and Salmon Rivers, by jetboat on the Salmon River, by aircraft, foot or by horseback on the extensive trail system.

General Notes:

The Salmon River Mountains, located south of the Main Salmon and west of the Middle Fork, are the most massive range, and dominate the Wilderness. North of the Main Salmon River are the Clearwater Mountains and east of the Middle Fork are the Bighorn Crags. The Middle Fork of the Salmon and the Main Salmon are two famous whitewater rivers that traverse the Wilderness. The Selway River, another famous for whitewater adventures, begins in the extreme northeast corner.


Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Elevation : 
1970 feet - 10340 feet