Mackay Bar Outfitters offers Jet Boat Tours on Idaho’s Salmon River (AKA River of No Return) that are great for all ages. Starting from Vinegar Creek boat ramp 26 miles East of Riggins, Idaho you will cover 36 miles of river (72 miles round trip) getting to see many of the historic homesteads and sites along the river. Where many outfitters stop at Ludwig Rapid (above Mackay Bar Ranch), our boats will continue to go!
All the sites we see show evidence of their rustic existence in this harsh, rocky wilderness area that are preserved as artifacts and exhibited in crude cabins along the shorelines of the Salmon River. We can stop and swim at any of the pristine Salmon River beaches along the way, then feed our appetites with lunch at Mackay Bar Ranch.
If you prefer to encompass this tour into a overnight escape – please see our Overnight Getaway Packages to learn more!
Sites To See:
Historical Stops along the way:
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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polly_Bemis_House
You will stop for Lunch at our River Front Lodge. We will spend about an hour here for you to explore the grounds, use the indoor plumbing and have lunch.
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.
John 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 ]
An Idaho native, Reho In 1958 removed her seven children from the Lewiston public schools, taking them to a remote cabin. While the school district filed truancy charges, the Forest Service claimed she had no rights to the cabin. She fought both cases in court and the charges were dismissed. Her cabin and homestead remain as a icon of days gone by along the Salmon River.
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. The newly released book Merciless Eden was written about this place by the owner of the property, Doug and Phyllis Tims.
Flocks of people came through making the property’s extensive development worth the effort. Jim Moore said himself that between the years 1900 and 1902, 1,800 men came through his property as they headed upstream to Campbell’s Ferry, crossing the Salmon, and heading for the purported gold on Thunder Mountain. He said they came year-round, with backpacks and mules in the summer and snowshoes and skis in the winter.