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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Howdy.
We are scrambling to jump on a multi-day in three days (MFS on fire, so we cancelled that trip). I'm currently choosing between Lower Salmon (Hammer to Heller) and Snake (Dam to Heller - or Pittsburg). I've not been on either of these. I have run the Main a couple times... 2 kayaks. Self- support. Which would you choose? Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I should prolly qualify that: Low water on Lower (2.5k) vs 14k on The Snake. Both still pretty much great choices? No preference? Is one more remote? Fewer people? Better whitewater?
 

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Howdy.
We are scrambling to jump on a multi-day in three days (MFS on fire, so we cancelled that trip). I'm currently choosing between Lower Salmon (Hammer to Heller) and Snake (Dam to Heller - or Pittsburg). I've not been on either of these. I have run the Main a couple times... 2 kayaks. Self- support. Which would you choose? Thanks!
I have floated both many times. Salmon has nice big sand bars for camps. Snake has mostly gravel and dirt with grass, as the dams have stopped the sediment and floods. Snake has more rapids, the lower has basically two, Snow Hole and China. Granite, Wild Sheep, Rush Creek and waterspout can all flip a boat on the Snake. It is big water, different than Middle fork or even Main. It will move you where it wants to. Both canyons are beautiful, the snake is a little more rugged. Both are the same after the Salmon flows in, a 20 mile lake with upstream wind. Lots of history in each.
 

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At this level, the lower salmon is a beautiful float trip with some fun splashy hits. Hell"s will give you the previously mentioned 4 big fun rapids ( with some smaller mixed in) and you need to be aware of the bubble from the dam. When you hit the snake from the salmon you need to pay attention to this also. Once you are past Pittsburgh landing, my understanding is that the rapids are similar size/difficulty to the lower salmon. So, I guess if you want some big rapids for the first 2 days then run hells to heller (if you can get the permit) and run the lower if you want fewer jet boats and beautiful sandy beaches.
 

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I’ve done both many times. For IKs the Snake will be pushy at all flows, it’s just big water with strong eddy lines even at low summer flows. The lower will be more relaxed gentler paddle. My kids packraft and sup just about every river we float including all rapids. They have yet to do the Snake from the dam to Pitt. They are experienced enough to understand what big water does to small boats. You’ll also have jet boats on the snake and only on the lower at the confluence.

If you do the lower get a jet up from confluence to Pitt.

A great alternative would be the main over either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you. Main won’t be available in time for us to grab it. We have crossover hard-shell Kayaks. They’re big as far as kayaks go. We don’t mind big water. Seems like it really is the choice between more wilderness and more whitewater..
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
WAIT. Main is available - I was thinking Middle. Good idea. Might look at that as well.
 

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I like both floats. Everything said so far is accurate. For me, I'd base my decision on the logistics. Hells is a lot less time in a car for me and a bit cheaper shuttle dam to Pittsburg. Hammer to Heller is a long drive home. But, with only two kayaks, I'd look at Hammer to confluence and a jet up to Pittsburg. It's some added cost but you don't have to charter the big jet for a full group so shouldn't be too bad. I'd flip a coin in your situation depending on where you're driving from. Or get a Main permit. That river will probably be busy right now but with only two kayaks, plenty of little beaches to grab for camps.
 

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A few notes on Pittsburg to Heller (at August flows):
  • Cliff jumps galore
  • Good fishing
  • Jet boat traffic
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Really easy rapids, not many of them
  • Big camp beaches (below the confluence)
  • Tie up your boats well (daily 3-4' vertical change in water)
  • Snake Lake aka lots of potential for flatwater rowing into headwind

I felt it was a stretch calling anything down there class III at late summer flows.... one of those "class III if you need the credit, class II if you don't" situation. The best hit was the last rapid before the take-out... don't remember the name. It had a short but big/fun wave train. Maybe class III on that due to size, but completely straight forward.

We had complete novice raft rowers handle a loaded gear boat totally fine.
 
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