Groups of travelers desiring to experience "The River of No Return" and the various historical landmarks along its shores, from Vinegar Creek up to the confluence of where the South Fork flows, can book a fascinating one day jet boat tour to get a glimpse of backcountry life from the gold prospecting era and into the mid 20th century.

Experience a Salmon River Historical Jet Boat Adventure Your Group Won’t Forget!

The River Of No Return is packed with fascinating historical landmarks.  

We take you on an exhilarating  jet boat tour from Vinegar Creek all the up past Mackay Bar Ranch, stopping at historical spots along the way and sharing the stories of the American West.

Our One Day Jet Boat Tours include stops at Polly Bemis Ranch, Buckskin Bill’s, and Painter Mine among other enchanting spots.    Your group enjoys a hot lunch served at our Mackay Bar Ranch’s main lodge or our outdoor pavilion, depending on seasonal weather. 

Hey friends, if you’re looking for a SUPER FUN DAY TRIP, into the heart of Central Idaho’s “River of No Return” Wilderness, you’ll dig this historical jet boat tour on the River of No Return. This is a treat beyond compare if you enjoy immersing yourself  in the beauty of outdoor Idaho!  And I know you do!

But don’t take my word for it. >>>> Trip Advisor gives ordinary travelers a way to tell us and share the reasons why they love Mackay Bar Ranch!  Stellar!

If you’re short on time, please feel free to contact us to reserve the best date for your group.

“Pioneer Days in Idaho County” – Vol. 2, Chapter IV – The Salmon River

“Flowing through a canyon exceeded in depth only by Hell’s Canyon of the Snake and the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, to which it is often compared, is the treacherous Salmon River, called “The River of No Return. “

‘Pioneer Days’ author, Sister M. Alfreda Elsensohn, gathered an expansive collection of stories and references about the history and accounts along the wildest interior section of the Salmon River, known today as the Frank Church “River of No Return” Wilderness Area.   The rich and colorful history of the peoples whose footprints touched upon the shores of the ‘River of No Return’ echoes in the tales Sister Elsensohn’s researched accounts dispel along this stretch of the Salmon River during the mid to late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s.

Mackay Bar Ranch hunting and fishing adventuresNow, as it was over 100 years ago, water transportation is still the prevailing method of access into this unforgiving wilderness along the Salmon River.  The trails are few, and navigating the rugged conditions via land,  make travel by motor vehicle impassable at times, and a tough nut to crack for all but the toughest of men and women.   Hunting groups have always traveled the steep mountainous trails via foot or pack strings of mules and horses to get to their base camp, but for the ordinary adventure seeker, rocky trails made for the hooves of animals is an option better left to the strong willed.

Today, access to “the River of No Return” along with all of its rich, colorful history,  is a breeze for all adventure seekers.  Services provided by Idaho outfitters,  including rafting companies and savvy jet boat operators offer guided services that welcome travelers from everywhere.

One Day Wild & Scenic Jetboat Tours by Mackay Bar Ranch


In a minute or two, we are pulled magically into the tossing, brilliant, bewildering water… for there we rested comfortably, while the water divided about us and rushed on smooth and green, very fast.  And just below, in the dazzling sunshine romped and played the whitecaps…” – From the diary of Countess Eleanor Gizycka published in Field and Stream for May and June 1923.

Groups of travelers desiring to experience “The River of No Return” and the various historical landmarks along its shores, from Vinegar Creek up to the confluence of where the South Fork flows, can reserve a one day jet boat tour for a fascinating glimpse of backcountry life from the gold prospecting era,  into the mid 20th century.

Whether visiting from Boise or McCall Idaho, Spokane, Coeur D’Alene, Lewiston, Grangeville or other points of interest, Mackay Bar Ranch offers group travelers a chance to engage in the fascinating Salmon River history via our One Day Wild and Scenic Jet Boat Tours.

Our Salmon River Jet Boat Excursions can be customized to be grouped with other packages.

We depart from Vinegar Creek boat ramp (26 miles from Riggins, ID)  and take you on a memorable Idaho jetboat tour right through the heart of the Frank Church Wilderness, passing many of the historic ranches that define the beautiful Salmon River canyon.

We will stop at some of the ranches along the way, sharing our knowledge about the history and diversity of the Idaho Salmon River Canyon.

On hot summer days, as an option, we can stop and swim at any of the pristine Salmon River beaches.

All guests on our jet boat tours will enjoy a hot lunch at Mackay Bar Ranch.

After lunch, your jet boat trip will continue up through one of the rockiest rapids on the river, Ludwig Rapid, and take you to Buckskin
Bill’s fortress and museum.Remnants of the history of Buckskin Billy on the Salmon River


Prices for Mackay Bar’s popular group jet boat tours can be found by visiting our Rates page and then clicking on the tab labeled Fishing & Jet Boat Rates.  

What historical tales and landmarks are shared on the one day jet boat tour?

Embarking on a one day jet boat tour, you’ll enjoy stops and stories about the people and places of bygone days including:

Polly Bemis CabinPolly Bemis Ranch

The Polly Bemis Ranch is a designated National Historic site. The Ranch is a 26-acre estate located on the main branch of the Salmon River, 44 miles east of Riggins, Idaho. It lies in an area protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and is surrounded by 2.2 million acres of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area–the largest protected wilderness area in the continental United States.

Polly Bemis House was the home of Idaho County, Idaho pioneers Charles Bemis and his wife Polly Bemis, who lived alongside the Salmon River in the late 19th and early 20th century. Polly was a Chinese American former teenage slave whose story became a biographical novel and was fictionalized in the 1991 film A Thousand Pieces of Gold.[2][3]

Chamberlin Basin

Chamberlain Trail is a historic spot along the Salmon RiverBetween Salmon River’s Middle and South Forks, Chamberlain Basin occupies a high plateau above deep river canyons, while Bargamin Creek drains a substantial northside section in that wild river area. Elevations rise from about 2,200 feet above Mackay Bar to 8,490 feet on Sheepeater Mountain.

During Idaho’s gold rush era, primarily through 1869, with several periods of later resurgence, prospectors investigated about every remote, inaccessible area, including Chamberlain Basin.

An attractive hunting area because of its isolation, Chamberlain Basin gained additional prominence as a dude ranch area. By 1922, hunters were gaining access there by plane, and regular flights were available by 1928.

Dax enjoys all outdoor activities and keeping guest entertained. Campbells Ferry

Campbell’s Ferry is a beautiful piece of property above the river that was homesteaded by William Campbell. He ran a ferry that helped thousands of miners cross the river on their way to the Thunder Mountain area. Warren Cook built the historic cabin that still stands at the location in 1906 after Campbell’s original cabin burned.

Painter Mine

The 38-acre old mine site sits just upstream of the famous Buckskin Bill Cabin on the river that attracts thousands of boaters annually.

Lots to do and see in the rugged Frank Church River of No Return WildernessJohn R. Painter bought the property in 1908 and built a hunting lodge on it, according to the book “Spirits of the Salmon River” by Kathy Deinhardt. Later, with DuPont investment, he built a mill for processing gold ore. Others continued mining with no long-term success.

“The Painter Mine has a fascinating history of the people who worked on the mine long ago” said Mike Wilson, of Vancouver, Wash., the last in a line of owners since the Jersey Creek Bar was claimed for mining by Edward Oscar Eakin in the early 1900s.
[ Information about Painter Mine offered by Rocky Barker’s Letters from the West ]

Buckskin Bill MuseumBuckskin Billy’s Fortress and Museum at Five Mile Bar

Five Mile Bar is the former home of one of the Salmon River’s most famous residents. This is the location where Sylvan Hart, better known as Buckskin Bill,  carved a life for himself out of the wilderness. Hart first came here in 1929 and lived out his life on the property. In all, Buckskin Bill spent fifty years on the Salmon River.

The property is now occupied and maintained by Heinz and Barbara, who’ve spent three decades on the Salmon. They first came to the canyon in 1981 and got the job caretaking Buckskin Bills place a few years later.

In the 1990s they were able to buy one of the lots around Buckskin’s place where they built their own house. They also created the Buckskin Bill Museum and Store.

[ Info provided by Outdoor Idaho ~ Salmon River Lodges and Legends ]


068Wildlife Viewing

“There is always something mystic, remote, yet infinitely appealing about animals, unsuspecting and undisturbed in the wild” – From the diary of Countess Eleanor Gizycka published in Field and Stream for May and June 1923.
Along the shores and steep rocky canyons of the “River of No Return”, numerous wildlife sightings are possible as we traverse the river, providing a thrilling experience for guests.



Mackay Bar Ranch

On the south side of the Salmon River near where the South Fork flows into it, is Mackay Bar, named after an Irishman named Johnny Mackay in the early 1860’s.

R.G. Bailey, author of “Down the River of No Return” met Mackay in 1903 on a bar where he was washing out gold with his primitive rocker.  A tacit loner, Mackay was not much for talk and focused on seeking gold in the waters of the Salmon River and its estuaries.

Mackay Bar Ranch today is an oasis of pampered comfort and scenic beauty.  Guests arrive via jet boat to enjoy lodgings in beautifully maintained private cabins and private rooms, in addition to the handsome main lodge and grounds surrounding the exquisite guest ranch that sits along the shores of the Salmon River.

This is a vacation destination sought by fishing buddies, hunting pals, families, corporate groups, wedding parties, and travel groups.

Mackay Bar Ranch offers escape from the modern day hectic world in exchange for time immersed in the luxuries of a soothing paradise, in defiant contrast with the primitive and rugged wilderness that surrounds it.

salmon-river-terrain_1421The River of No Return – R.G. Bailey

Roll on, roll on, mighty Salmon,
Mystic “River of No Return”
Through these mighty hills, eternal
Let your ways be ever stern.

Buried in the deepest canyons,
Gliding on with no concern —
Ever Idaho’s greatest treasure
Valiant “River of No Return.”


For extended overnight or multi-day packages, Mackay Bar Ranch offers comfortable lodging, home cooked hot meals, warm and personable hospitality,  scenic landscapes and an unforgettable experience.

We are family friendly and encourage discovery of a world that is exempt of digital gadgets and cellular connections.   Rekindle your family bonds and fun adventures with friends by planning a stay at Mackay Bar Ranch.  We can customize your itinerary to include swimming, fishing, horse trail rides, group sports, jet boat rides and activities your entire group will enjoy.

We invite you to peruse our website for information and details about our group packages and rates, and then contact us to reserve your best dates for summertime adventure at Mackay Bar Ranch on the shores of the River of No Return.

Check Trip Advisor to see the quality of guest comments posted about Mackay Bar Ranch.


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