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California Salmon River

Join a white-knuckle whitewater adventure in emerald-green wilderness

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If you’re into adrenaline, you’ve found your whitewater dream trip. The California Salmon River, or simply “Cal Salmon,” isn’t for the faint of heart—or paddle. This two-day trip is filled with pulse-quickening Class IV-V rapids. Two hours northeast of Eureka near the California-Oregon border, starting in deep in the Six Rivers National Forest near the tiny community of Somes Bar, this is a wilderness lover’s paradise. But plan accordingly: Cal Salmon’s pristine waters have a short rafting season, usually only late March until the end of June—much earlier than many of California’s rivers.

Unlike many California rivers lined with rugged and often sunbaked terrain, the Cal Salmon, which is an offshoot of the mighty Klamath River flowing south from Oregon, winds through canyons that are green, lush, and wet. Dramatic geology provides the whitewater excitement—car-size boulders, emerald-green waters, a granite inner gorge, and thrillingly steep drops. Think “wet and wild” and you get the picture. Deer and black bears patrol the riverbanks, bald eagles ply the waters for trout, and city life seems a long way off. Cell reception? Forget about it.

Although the trip is advanced, Momentum River Expeditions lets adventurous beginners and intermediates take the plunge on the Class IV section on Day 1 of a three-day trip and, if they’re ready, progress to the Class V rapids on Days 2 or 3. All camping gear, river equipment, and meals are provided. If you’re short on time, All-Outdoors offers one-day trips, and W.E.T. River Trips offers two-day trips.

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