We’ve all let our minds drift from our work desks to somehow floating the mighty Grand Canyon—on the life bucket list for boaters since it was first run by John Wesley Powell in 1869. But the Grand takes either big bucks or big chunks of time for, respectively, a commercial trip or a private expedition launched via a permit lottery system (needing some skill and diligence), which can take years.
Thankfully, another U.S. river system offers all the wilderness and whitewater, without the fuss and fanfare. Explored by Lewis and Clark a whole 67 years before Powell spilled the beans on the Big Ditch, Idaho’s Wild & Scenic Main Salmon is the second-longest, free-flowing river in the Lower 48. Located in 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest contiguous wilderness in the Lower 48, it also carves one of the deepest gorges in North America, deeper even than the Grand. Its watershed comprises the most unsung region of rivers and mountains in the contiguous U.S., just waiting to be hiked, biked, paddled and explored.