Idaho – Salmon, Small Town Living

We just swung through Salmon for a week to hang out with friends. Staying in a driveway is the best way to travel. Lots of time to hang out, but still have your own bed, stuff, and place to retreat. Kurt moved there almost a year ago and it was our first time seeing him and his new bride Shauna since they wed. They had room for us in their driveway and we just barely fit — I mean we were totally squeezed in with just a few inches on either side of the RV. But we had power, water and easy walking distance to Downtown Salmon. We couldn’t ask for anything more (well maybe 30 amp – but there is always next year). 

Salmon is on the banks of the Salmon River and is known as the birthplace of the Sacajawea (in the Lemhi valley). Lewis and Clark passed through here in their travels across the US over the Continental Divide and through the town of Salmon. With a relatively stable population of 3,000 it is filled with a mix of retirees, ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and life long residents. 

I had never been to Salmon and didn’t know what to expect. The downtown is small and cute, with a single main street filled with small local businesses. Downtown boasts 2 stop lights, a couple of fast food restaurants (Burger King and Subway) and easy access to the river. Walking across Main street is relatively easy any time of day and several small restaurants in town earned our business along with lots of outdoor activity. 

I think almost every day was all about where and what we planned to eat next. We made it to the Pork Peddler for brunch and lunch – a nice outdoor patio and yummy fish tacos. The Last Chance for lunch of pizza and beer. The Owl Club for live patio music and drinks while we hung out with the locals (great people watching). And my favorite the Junkyard Bistro for Thai noodles and pasta – very eclectic menu with lots of good stuff and a great back patio area. 

Of course, our very best meals came from the smoker – we had dry rubbed ribs that melted in my mouth and smoked brisket we snacked on for days (thanks Bob and Kurt). I think life is only complete if you have meals with friends and enjoy great food and lots of laughs. We were blessed to be invited to several homes for Sunday family meals, birthdays and going away parties. Sitting on patios, having a drink and enjoying views of the Bitterroot Mountains as cows graze in the green fields is what Salmon was all about for us.

There are a number of Jeep trails around town and we took off to the Continental Divide Trail. Unfortunately, the snow had other ideas and we had to turn around just short of the top. But the trails are still fun and the spring flowers are out everywhere. We hiked around the Sacajawea Center for beautiful views and little education from the interpretive signs. There is a museum, but we had places to be and food to eat – so we didn’t stop there. 

White water rafting, hunting, and fishing are almost required activities for anyone living in Salmon. With the rivers extremely high from spring melt-off – we skipped river fishing and rafting. We did get to spend a day on Williams Lake in a drift boat (thanks again to Bob). What a great day!  I had no idea that fishing could be so fun. I think we landed about 20 fish and I perfected the ‘single hand long release’.  Of course, that was just for the safety of the fish – and he was the biggest one of the day. Despite the fish tales, we landed lots and had fun catching and releasing. Dave and I almost always had 2 fish on at a time – making for lots of exciting activity.  We had a big beautiful Bald Eagle who followed us all day and kept us company. With no other fishermen on the lake, we had our pick of the fish. And they practically jumped in the boat with us. We highly recommend getting out on the lake, even if it is just to enjoy the views. 

Salmon is a small town that is not super easy to get to. With no major airport and at least 2-3 hours drive from any major city, it has some of the small town issues. A single grocery store, lack of diversity in the residents as well as the food available. Some storefronts on the main street sitting vacant.  But other great qualities are knowing your neighbors, friendly faces and waving EVERYWHERE we went. Small but amazing businesses, like the local Salmon Fly Shop, who took great care of us. It reminded me of Bend Oregon or San Juan Island Washington. Both small towns that have since swelled in population as they gained popularity and lost some of the friendliness that Salmon still retains. 

Overall our Salmon visit was amazing and I must admit that I am making plans for a longer return trip. Between stories of epic river fishing, the colors on the river as the seasons change and opportunity for more time with friends. We will be back and they may have a tougher time getting rid of us!

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