The Salmon National Forest, administered by the Salmon-Challis National Forest, is located in the east-central portion of Idaho and is comprised of 1,772,114 acres. There are five developed campgrounds which meet the selection criteria.
The Salmon National Forest, the birthplace of Sacajawae and explored by Lewis and Clark, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith, is a rugged, rough, and lonely place. The nearest major towns to the Salmon National Forest are Idaho Falls, Idaho and Missoula, Montana and each is some 150 miles away. This fact alone tends to keep the crowds down and helps to maintain the Forest's pristine nature. The Salmon National Forest is a place for daring river runners, robust outdoor people, avid fishing enthusiasts. But it is also a place for the hikers seeking solitude and challenge, families looking for a great camping vacation, and wildlife watchers.
The Salmon National Forest with its rugged landscape, harsh climate, and short growing season made it challenging to establish settlements in the area. Evidence of various attempts to homestead the area can be seen on the drive down Forest Route 030 along the Salmon River to Corn Creek campground, a portal to the River of No Return Wilderness. Although not identified by the Forest Service as a "scenic drive," the journey down this Forest Route 030 offers visitors a great way to see just what the Forest is made of.
Just after the turn onto Forest Route 030 in the tiny community of North Fork (they have delicious pies at the cafe) are a series of gulches, such as Donnelly, Buster and Jones, named for early settlers. Next comes an abandon mill and workings of Salmon uranium mines. Soon a heliport used for fire fighting and other emergencies straddles the roadway. Then there is Berry Creek named by William Clark (Lewis and Clark fame) which was home for Widow Niece and her family in the early 1900s and became Camp #92 of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Further is the community of Shoup, formerly a mining community and smaller than North Fork. Here visitors can stop for a cold drink and tour of the old mine.
Upstream from Shoup, the Salmon River illustrates just why it was known as River of No Return. The rapids and whitewater give the inexperienced pause and fills experienced raft and kayak enthusiasts with delight. Soon a bridge crosses the churning Salmon River and nearby is the Sheepeater Archeology site. This rock shelter was the summer hunting home of the Native people who harvested Salmon River's bounty before Lewis and Clark wandered by. Another few miles and the canyon begins to open up and the recreation vehicle (RV) and motorhome-friendly camping locations of Ebenezer campground which straddles the roadway. At one time, Ebenezer Snell's placer mine was located here. Later, the CCC built their camp at this location. Today, a few apricot trees and weed-covered foundations provide the only evidence of the camp's one time presence. Frequent visitors to Ebenezer campground are the mountain sheep who live up the draw and enjoy a late afternoon nibble of the campground's sweet, green grass. Elk and mule deer have been known to wander through the campground, too.
About three-miles upstream from here is a uniquely Salmon National Forest item. At the Long Tom picnic area is an outhouse built into the canyon's rock face. The next ten-miles are sheer rock walls and towering conifers, a few "postage stamp" patches of cabins, and the roar of rushing water until Corn Creek campground appears at a portal to the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. Incidentally, the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness is 2.36 million acres, which is slightly larger than Yellowstone National Park, and actually managed by 6 National Forests including the Salmon.
Very different from the area along Salmon River is tranquil Wallace Lake. With the lush Subalpine firs and surrounding glacier-carved mountains reflecting in the mirror-like surface of the lake, the Wallace Lake campground provides a delightful forest camping experience. Far more available to the casual visitor to the Salmon National Forest but equally tranquil, is Twin Creek campground just off US Rt. 93. Used by those passing through the Forest and those who are looking for a destination campground, Twin Creek is nestled among mixed conifers that provide cool, lacy shade to the camp sites near a sparkling creek. This campground has the delightful ability to make cares and stress of travel evaporate like morning dew. Another place for solitude and quiet reflection is along Panther Creek. It is a strange combination of magnificent splendor and harsh beauty that further illustrates why people who call this area home are a special, rugged breed of folks.
Another interesting aspect of the Salmon National Forest is the number of taverns and inns scattered throughout the Forest. Places like the M T Saloon, Panther Creek Inn, and Duncan's Outpost offer cold drinks, hot showers and delicious food along with great conversation and friendly company. Visitors may wonder how these businesses manage to stay open but they do and are great fun. Barbeques and mud wrestling contests sponsored by these business are some of the highlights of the area's social calendars.
Dispersed camping is very popular in the Salmon National Forest, however it is not included in this campground review. Dispersed camping is when an individual finds an undeveloped location and establishes their camp and such locations do not meet our criteria.
Time spent in the Salmon National Forest isn't only about fishing, whitewater, geology, wildlife viewing, and exploring ghost towns. It is also about discovering the wonders of a rugged, rough, lonely place of magnificent beauty. Looking for country that is untamed, uncrowded, and unhurried - Salmon National Forest is the place.
Salmon, Idaho 83467
RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES
Leadore, Idaho 83464
North Fork, Idaho 83466
Salmon, Idaho 83467