LEWIS & CLARK, and THE RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS TOUR ~ July 08-17,2019




HISTORICAL INFORMATION

IDAHO’S MOST FAMOUS
SALMON RIVER - BACKCOUNTRY
PIONEERS


FUN ADVENTURES

  • Explore hilltops and mountaintops (hikes optional)

  • Float (guided) down the Salmon River (options of oarboat, paddleboat, or kayak) 5 days camping in the wilderness

  • Straddle a source of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers

  • Travel by ten rivers play in four

  • Accomplish what Jeffy could not in his “Head & the Heart Letter”

  • Prepare Charbonneau’s recipe Boudin Blanc on the river with “two dips, and a flirt”

  • Enjoy fine dining along the Clearwater River with music & optional dancing

  • Campfires, storytelling, laughter and stars

Editor’s Note: These backcountry folks lived far from pavement, but close to the ground. They crossed over an invisible boundary to a different way of life they like to call eden. Their life during modern times was not too different than the 1800s, where you read the landscapes were full of wildlife, and the rivers full of fish, and america’s natives and new england explorers and trappers where traveling across the country. These folks are resourceful, and well read. They can read the water, and listen to the atmosphere’s teachings to make wise decisions, and most hold university degrees. They share a bond and a language, not much known in modern hours. You can read about a few of Idaho’s most famous, that live or lived along the river that you will soon travel, in our “books to read” section, of this website. Below please find a few notes on some of the most colorful that lived along the Salmon River. During your tour you will glide past several old homesteads, some are still active. You may even stop in for a visit at a few. The pioneers below are now gone but their memory will live on, into the future. Marred with dust and blood, and sweat and tears, these folks loved living life in a Roosevelt and Thoreau-ian style arena. They knew great efforts with errors, and great triumphs with enthusiasm. Their spirits still remain very much alive here, and their colorful stories are still shared. Join a select group of people that float this protected river, and designated wilderness area - few people per year get to venture here!


Sylvan Hart - aka Buckskin Bill (1906-1980) 5 mile Bar, Salmon River , ID ”LAST OF THE MOUNTAIN MEN”

Sylvan Hart - aka Buckskin Bill (1906-1980) 5 mile Bar, Salmon River , ID
”LAST OF THE MOUNTAIN MEN”

Buckskin in front of his cabin

Buckskin in front of his cabin

Buckskin Bill’s Fivemile Bar along the Main Salmon River in Idaho

Buckskin Bill’s Fivemile Bar along the Main Salmon River in Idaho

Arrive Buckskin’s “5-mile Bar”and visit his museum, gardens and a beautiful white sandy beach on day 4 of your 5 day Salmon River float.

Chana Cox (1992) writes about Buckskin in A River out of Eden,He dresses with a distinctive flair, but bear fur britches, buckskin shirts, and horned copper helmets can hardly be described as Vogue slick. Even when Sylvan dresses to go into town in his best suit and backfelt hat, he looks more like a Greek Orthodox priest or a rabbi than he does a dandy. From a distance , people often take Buckskin for a man of the cloth or a Menonite. It’s a coming face to face with those three-inch cougar or bear claws in Sylvan’s necklace that breaks the spell. And Sylvan always wears a claw necklace out to town.”

Harold Peterson (1969) writes about Buckskin in The Last of the Mountain Men, “one twentieth-century man is still really living in twentieth-century American wilderness, a life that was the guiding aspiration of the visionary American eighteenth century. The importance of Hart is his existence is visible, tangible proof that the Jeffersonian, Thoreauesque vision of total independence and self-sufficient freedom continues to be a practical (and even luxurious) alternative.”

buckskin bill
(last of the
mountain men)


La Lu Nathoy “Polly” Bemis Ranch on the Salmon River

La Lu Nathoy “Polly” Bemis Ranch on the Salmon River

charlie and polly bemis c1920.JPG

Polly and Charlie Bemis on their ranch on the Salmon River

Your last day of your ODYSSEY TOUR on the Salmon River takes you to the Bemis Ranch across from Shepp Ranch in Idaho’s primitive River of No Return Wilderness.

Your last day of your ODYSSEY TOUR on the Salmon River takes you to the Bemis Ranch across from Shepp Ranch in Idaho’s primitive River of No Return Wilderness.

Once a young Chinese farm girl living in northern China, La Lu was sold by her impovershed family and taken to San Francisco. Here she was auctioned to a saloon owner for prostitution. During the Gold Rush in Idaho, a kind gentleman rescued “won” her in a poker game, and befriended “Polly.” Although now typically free, the sentiments of the era were anti-immigration. Charlie and Polly soon married and they built a ranch along the Salmon River. Now, Polly had rights to own the land that was also hers, beating the Chinese Exclusion Act from excluding her from owning property. Through Polly’s strength and struggles, she beat the odds dealt her in terms of racism & sexism, in large part due her strength, luck, and to the kindness, friendship, and acts of one man Charlie Bemis.

Charlie &
Polly Bemis

Polly Bemis became a legend after her death when her story became a biographical novel and was fictionalized in 1991, by Ruthanne Lum McCunn in the movie, Thousand Pieces of Gold.
Learn more


William Campbell’s Ferry to haul livestock and goods in 1900

William Campbell’s Ferry to haul livestock and goods in 1900

A few cable cars are common on the river to pull residents across.

A few cable cars are common on the river to pull residents across.

Frances Zaunmiller Wisner at the helm

Frances Zaunmiller Wisner at the helm

Day two you’ll float by Campbell’s Ferry with the uphill airstrip to it’s right.

Day two you’ll float by Campbell’s Ferry with the uphill airstrip to it’s right.

Landing @ Campbell’s Ferry

Taking off @ Campbell’s Ferry

It all began when William Campbell came to the river to start a garden. After the Gold Rush hit at Thunder Mountain in the late 1800s, Campbell built a ferry to haul miners and their supplies across the river which made him wealthy.

In 1933, enters Joe Zaunmiller, who along with his wife operated a sucessful hunting and fishing business along the river for several years. After Joe’s death colorful Frances continued living in the Idaho “backcountry,” as local folks like to call it, writing weekly articles about her pets (bears) and life on the river for the Free Press newspaper in Grangeville. You can read her articles in My Mountains Where the River Still Runs Downhill. One of the lengends of the river, oak signs at each end of the 285-foot-long bridge honor her name “Frances Zaunmiller Wisner Memorial Pack Bridge.”

campbell’s ferry


Join the fun:

Step into beautiful landscapes, hear about the history, enjoy fun adventure, as you peer into a different world - of not so long ago.