The River of No Return


Many people all around the world come to Stanley, Idaho, to float, fish, or be near the River of No Return. If one was to travel north from Sun Valley, they would see a spectacular view of the Sawtooth and Boulder-White Cloud mountain ranges from the Galena Overlook. However, that is not all they would see. Directly below them is a thin dark line that meanders its way through the meadow. That thin, dark line is the headwaters to the River of No Return, or the Salmon River.

Let us talk about where our water starts, and where our water mingles with other water bodies along the way to the ocean. Right behind the Chamber of Commerce, there is Valley Creek. From there, the creek runs into the Salmon River, to the lower Snake River, connects downstream to the Columbia River, and runs clear out into the Pacific Ocean. Take out a map and follow that journey with your finger. That journey is over 900 miles! So why is this so important that we are standing at the headwaters of this amazing journey?

Photo Credit: Sarah Cawley

The importance of this watershed reaches far beyond our years. If we want to understand the importance, we must first briefly look at where it all started. The glaciers. As glaciers spread across the land, they carved out this rugged terrain and slowly whittled away at the stream beds as they receded. The fresh, crisp water from our mountains ran through and eventually mixed with the ocean.

Now, these stream beds currently hold minerals from the ocean, all because of the fish that swim those treacherous waters. Everything is connected from there on out. Humans, bears, and osprey eat the fish. Minerals and nutrients are then deposited in the forests. From there we have insects, fungi, carnivores, trees…. the list goes on and on to the different properties of our land that are affected. The Salmon River is one of the main reasons as to why we have life in many of the otherwise sterile forests and lakes in the Sawtooth mountains.

The River of no return Stanley, ID | Stanley Chambers

Photo Credit: Sarah Cawley

We encourage you all to come up and float, fish, or be near the River of No Return. There are companies here in Stanley that would love nothing more than to teach you the stories that flow through our waterways. These companies can be found on our main webpage under the “Do” selection. So please, visit us, spend some time fishing in the calm eddies of the river, raft down the Class 3 and 4 sections with some wonderful guides, and watch as the circle of life happens right before your eyes.