Over the years we have made significant contributions to the evolution of the river outfitting industry. In 1966 Frank Ewing and Dick Barker abandoned the use of war surplus rafts, which was the common craft among river outfitters at the time, and designed rafts specifically for the type of water they ran and with the safety and comfort of their clientele in mind. These rafts had to be custom manufactured and at the time the expense was considered daunting. However, those unique rafts, with improvements added over the years, have become the standard craft now utilized on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park. When white water trips were added to the company's operations a new raft was designed and built just for that stretch of river. This may have been the first raft built with self-draining floors. Self-bailing rafts are common today on most rivers.
On the Salmon River a unique raft design is used to transport gear and equipment for the needs of comfortable camp life on a multi-day trip. Unlike the raft designs mentioned above, our sweep boat is not a new invention, but rather a redesign of a historically significant craft which made its first appearance on the Salmon River in the mid 1800's- about the time of the Civil War. The original craft was made of wood and was steered with two tillers (sweeps) mounted fore and aft. With a dimension of thirty feet in length, eight feet wide, and sides three to four feet high, it was capable of carrying heavy loads of mining equipment and supplies to the Salmon River Canyon's pioneers. Usually, two boatman were required to maneuver the craft. This venerable craft has lost favor with modern river runners, and the skill to navigate sweep boats is nearly a lost art. Only a handful of river outfitters continue to use the descendant versions of the sweep boat. The Salmon River Rafting Company is proud to be among the few who keep this traditional skill alive. Our custom made sweep boats are twenty-two feet in length, eight feet wide, with twenty-six inch diameter tubes, and are run by a single guide. These rafts are inflatable with separate air chambers and a self draining inflatable floor for safety and logistical reasons. The capacity of these craft exceeds two tons each and allows us to provide amenities which may be in short supply on trips using only oar powered rafts. For instance, we usually carry five hundred pounds of ice assuring chilled beverages and a menu based on fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. Our sweep boats also incorporate spray skirts which repel most of the splash and spray from the river, and provide a drier alternative for guests who do not wish to participate in the navigation of the river in our smaller six person paddle rafts.
During the spring and autumn lodge accommodation trips we do not need the camping and cooking gear which the sweep boats would normally transport for the summer camping trips. With the additional space we are able to rig the boat to comfortably carry eight passengers with special seats providing a firm back support and arm rests.
For most of our guests, the paddle rafts provide the greatest attraction and the most fun. These craft are also custom manufactured for us and to our specifications. They are sixteen feet long with three cross tubes and foot stirrups for extra security. Six to eight paddlers can be comfortably accommodated on these rafts. Additionally, hand holds are designed at the center of the cross tubes which allows non-paddling participants, such as young children, to ride along with their parents. Children are, of course welcome to ride on the sweep boats if adult conversation should over ride the fun of experiencing the river in the smaller rafts.
For the more adventurous river travelers on our summer camping trips we also provide smaller two person inflatable kayaks (rubber duckies). These craft are surprisingly stable but nevertheless offer a somewhat greater possibility for swimming. Accordingly, we provide and require helmets for those who choose this most personal experience with the river. Instruction in the use of the kayaks is provided by the guides and "river rules" attendant to their use are explained during a safety orientation prior to launching on the river. Participants may alternate between craft as they desire. Of course, properly adjusted life jackets must be worn at all times when riding in any of our rafts.
In the late 1920's Congress passed legislation (the Jones Act) which states, "The transportation of passengers or cargo for hire between two U.S. points must be conducted in an American made hull." This legislation obviously was not intended to apply to river rafting. However, the law exists, and attempts to have river rafts exempted from the legislation have failed. Although many river outfitters ignore this obscure statute our rafts are manufactured in Friendsville, Maryland by Demaree Inflatable Boats. This is the same company that supplies a variety of craft for the Navy SEALs and many other specialized inflatable craft operators.
A fourth type of river craft is incorporated into our river logistical package whenever water levels permit. Only four rivers in the United States offer the opportunity to experience a whitewater jet boat ride. Jet boats predate the enactment of the Central Idaho Wilderness Act, which created the River of No Return Wilderness Area, and Congress grandfathered their continued activity on the Salmon. This is appropriate because it was the power boaters who successfully defeated the dam proposals for the Salmon River Canyon before floaters established a strong presence on the river. They saved the river for themselves and for us. Jet boat use on the Salmon is restricted by the Forest Service and we expect to see them infrequently, perhaps three or four times a day. Their use requires highly skilled boatmen and their presence provides the possibility of faster evacuation from the canyon in the event of illness or injury. Salmon River Rafting Company has elected to include this rare opportunity for its guests as an exciting means of egress from the canyon whenever possible. We believe this three and a half hour adventure provides an exciting conclusion to your Salmon River odyssey. If the presence of these unique and historic craft does not appeal to you, we'll be glad to recommend a reputable outfitter on a different river.
In some very dry years river flows prohibit the safe utilization of jet boats and we substitute chartered aircraft for a scenic flight out of the canyon on the last river day. Salmon River Rafting Company does not own or operate either the jet boats or aircraft. We contract with the most experienced providers of those services to complete our logistical package.
Salmon River Rafting Company endeavors to provide durable, high quality camping equipment to ensure a comfortable outdoor experience for river trip participants. Tents are external frame design of dense denier fabric with double stitch seams and heavy duty zippers on doors and vents. They are rated for four people, but we intend their use for two people, or perhaps adequate for a couple with a small child. Single participants can expect a private tent. Freshly laundered fiber fill sleeping bags are manufactured by Slumberjack. They are long, have large heavy duty zippers, and plenty of foot room (no mummy bags). Two inch thick, full length, self-inflatable air mattresses are manufactured by Thurm-A-Rest. Most of our guests take some pleasure in selecting their personal tent site and erecting their shelter for the night. However, our staff is always willing to help with this task or erect the tent for you if that is your preference.