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River of No Return Driving Tour: Riggins to White Bird

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By MCR Contributor (952 McR Points) on Apr 10, 2012

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Written Directions

Simply take US Highway 95 between Riggins and White Bird.

Scenery

Characterized by the river it follows, this ride winds through the Salmon River Canyon from Riggins to White Bird. If you come during May/June, be warned that it's salmon season and much of the roadside near Riggins is literally packed with vehicles and bank-side fisherman - slow down and use care until you get out of town. Crossing Time Zone Bridge just outside of Riggins, moves you from Mountain to Pacific zone (be aware of the time change) and puts the Salmon River on your left, where it stays for the rest of the drive. From here, you head into the close, sheer rock cliffs of the canyon which is home to eagles, hawks, falcons, river otter and a number of historic markers. The traffic is slower going, but it's just the right speed to enjoy the wildlife and rugged scenery. This stretch of 95 can reach higher temperatures in the summer, so we suggest you bring plenty of drinking water. Coming out of the canyon, you move through the close mountain foothills and down into Salmon River Breaks until you pull into White Bird. Between June and September, the river is full of brightly colored rafts paddling through sparkling white water rapids. White Bird Grade isn't included in the official stretch of scenic road but you don't want to miss it - plan to drive up and down - the panoramic view of White Bird Battlefield is breathtaking and the curves are the stuff of legend; Along the Route: Salmon River of No Return, Time Zone Bridge; Near the Primary Route: White Bird Grade, White Bird Battlefield/Nez Perce National Historical Park, Nez Perce War Interpretive Site.

Drive Enjoyment

Coming out of Riggins, and the opposite end of the canyon, the roadway is tight and calls for lower speeds; it can be slightly rutted and not quite as well as maintained as the beginning and end points of the ride. Within the canyon, the roadway is well-maintained pavement and the ride is full of rolling curves that can be hugged while going as fast as the law allows; pullouts are evenly spaces within the canyon. Extending the ride up White Bird Grade serves up dramatic s-curves on a 2-lane roadway that lets riders pass slower vehicles and roll through the curves; most of the grade allows for clear views of upcoming curves before they're entered. Heading down White Bird Grade, some of the tighter curves aren't banked as well as they could be but both sides of the the road are well maintained and fully paved with several packed gravel pullouts.

Tourism Opportunities

Fuel is available in Riggins and at Hoot's Cafe, just before White Bird. Restaurants in Riggins range from steakhouse dining to cafes and BBQ with family-style service. Roadside camping at Lucile.

Motorcycle Road Additional info

To learn more about the MANY travel and recreation activities in North Central Idaho check out the North Central Idaho Travel Association website For current Idaho road conditions check out Idaho Transportation Department Road Conditions

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