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USA Radio

Spotlight: 4 Rivers, Idaho and Oregon

Four Rivers Lottery – Selway, Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon Rivers, Idaho, and the Snake River, Oregon

This is the second largest area of protected wilderness in the U.S. after Death Valley—3.3 million acres of roadless land, with mountain ranges separated and split by rivers as big as the landscapes that surround them. Coniferous forest, dry, open, white sand beaches, campsites, catfish, bass, salmon, steelhead trout, mountain lions, grey wolves, remnants of old rock houses made in the 1800s, Native American rock art, pioneer homesteads, golden eagles, pine-scented mornings and one of the starriest skies you’ll ever seen.

What You’ll Find

The River of No Return Wilderness Area was named ages ago, before the sole purpose of the kayak and river raft became a means to an adrenalin rush; and pioneers, gold miners and Native Americans navigated down the river out of necessity—but were unable to navigate back up.

In 1984 it was renamed in honor of U.S. Senator Frank Church, who introduced the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, preserving rivers in “free-flowing condition,” so that “their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”  The Main Salmon runs through this section. 

The Middle Fork and its 100 miles of whitewater is a tributary of the Salmon River, which is the main tributary of the Snake River. You’ll find six natural hot springs here.

The Snake River, Oregon—aka “Hells Canyon” probably got its name when white explorers misinterpreted the Shoshone and Nez Perce description of the abundant fish, their livelihood, for the word “snake.” It’s the largest tributary of the Columbia River.

The Selway River is located in north central Idaho within the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. These rivers were all included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Find It

The nearest airport is in Boise, Idaho. To obtain names, addresses and phone numbers for shuttle or flight services, equipment rental or suppliers, contact the Chamber of Commerce in the neighboring communities or go to

Make Sure You

Respect the wilderness. Adhere to all the guides, rules and permit regulations; and be a responsible and ethical camper. Also, jump in and go for a swim in the pools at the end of every rapid. The water’s warm and the weather is usually perfect all summer and fall.

Try This

Aside from whitewater rafting, jet boating, camping, fishing and hiking, take a day to explore all the historic sites and learn about the area, which is tied closely to the Nez Perce and their ancestors.

Don’t Forget

To pack out your trash and don’t use soap—even biodegradable—in any fresh, free-flowing water areas.

Gear Up

Along with your camping stuff, you’ll want to bring what you need to bear-proof your food. Depending on what you want to do, bring your fly-fishing gear, bathing suits, sunscreen, and clothes that dry quickly.

By Christina Scannapiego

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