Hughes River Expeditions

Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know more about the Hughes River Experience? Read below, these are questions that we commonly answer for clients wanting to find out a little more before booking with us.

Experience is important, and we have plenty of it. Hughes River Expeditions, Inc. is the senior outfitter on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Jerry and Carole have owned and operated HRE for 40+ years with no change in ownership.

But experience is only part of the story. No other Idaho outfitter puts as many resources back into its operation as does HRE. Those resources include keeping top, experienced guides year after year, providing excellent equipment (boat, camping gear, vehicles, etc), providing plenty of wholesome, fresh, delicious food, and maintaining an informative full-time office.

Jerry Hughes went on his first river trip in 1963 has 55+ year of experience working as a guide in this region. He has guided for countless river miles on the Snake, Salmon River CanyonMiddle Fork Salmon, Wallowa-Grande Ronde, Selway, Yampa, Green, Colorado, Owyhee, and Bruneau rivers.

Carole Finley started HRE with Jerry in 1977, and since then, she has done every job. Carole was one of the first women in the 1970’s to guide on all the Idaho rivers. Her advice on customer service, accounting, company efficiency, and much more has always been invaluable. Carole beautifully balanced raising a family with this small family business.

Colin Hughes is Operations Manager and Vice President and works year round with Jerry and Carole to manage the river company. Colin has worked as a licensed guide since the 2009 river season, and he worked as a gear boatman and warehouseman prior to becoming a licensed guide. Colin earned a degree in Conservation Science from University of Idaho.

Meg Hughes is Office Manager, and she is an invaluable member of the HRE team. Meg works part time as a dental hygienist in Missoula. During the summer she does countless chores in addition to managing the company finances.

When the Hughes family vacations, they usually go on a river trip. Family history is dotted with numerous boatman holidays. We love river running. We love sharing rivers with our guests. And we take great pride in the quality of our outfitting service and in protecting the invaluable resources where we operate trips.

Beginners are very welcome. And expect to have a great time!! The Hughes Crew is sensitive to our guest’s concerns, and the guides do their best to alleviate any worries you have. You’ll be amazed at how comfortable camping Hughes Style is, and we are confident that you’ll want to return.

These are great multi-generational trips – good for grandparents to grandchildren. So far as a maximum age, you are as young as you feel. Call if you’d like to discuss any age related issues or concerns. We have taken many people in their 80’s.

Minimum age varies with the trip you select. River trips are great family vacations. Jerry and Carole have rafted for years with their kids who now range from 35-32 years of age. The Hughes kids have gone on the rivers since they were tiny. We leave the final decision on the ages of children up to the parents. We routinely take 6-9 year olds, and have taken kids so young as 4 and 5. Young people under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Selway trips have a 12-14 year minimum age. Give us a call, so we can discuss the best rivers and dates for your children based on their experience and age. We love outfitting for families, and the trips are great family vacations!

Middle ForkMain SalmonSelway and Salmon Canyon are undammed, free flowing rivers, and flows depend on the winter snowpack, spring weather, etc. Check with our office for annual predicitions.

The Salmon Canyons are the warmest location in Idaho This low elevation river gorge is arid in nature, and receives less than 10 inches of moisture annually. Main Salmon trips in July and August are normally warm with hot afternoons. The Middle Fork of the Salmon is a high elevation mountain stream that begins at 5700 feet.  During the trip, the Middle Fork drops 3000 feet over 100 miles.  Weather on the Middle Fork warms up as you go down river.  Selway is an early season trip (mid-June through July).  Early Selway trips can be cool.  Be prepared for an occasional rain shower on all the trips.

Spring and fall trips have a greater chance of rain showers. But, spring and fall days can be spectacular. Summer temps often reach the 90’s and even the low 100’s. Always bring a rain jacket for a possible afternoon thunderstorm, or a summer shower. Check out our Gear List for the trip you are planning. Call the office to chat about weather for your trip and time of year.

Yes. We often outfit exclusive charter trips for groups of friends or organizations who want to have their own trip. We can tailor a charter to your group’s needs and interests. Call our office to chat about the available options. Some to consider include: fishing charter and various numbers of days. Let us know what you have in mind. We’ll do our best to make your plans a reality.

The Hughes Crew is made up of a wonderful variety of personalities and abilities. The crew is a blend of guys & gals, and everyone is an expert whitewater guide, a great cook, and much more. The guides vary in age from 18-70, and many of have guided for 25 or more years. The crew includes: college professors, lawyers, a chef, an officer in the US Navy (he only manages a couple of trips per year), a world champion whitewater & surf kayaker, high school coaches & teachers, a surgical nurse, an international guide, ski patrolmen, and many more.

Jerry Hughes and Carole Finley enjoy going on trips, and meeting our many guests at pre and post trip gatherings.

Certainly. The guides greatly appreciate gratuities, and the tips received on a trip are shared evenly by all the guides and camp helper on that trip. We are often asked what is an appropriate tip, and of course, that is a question that is impossible to answer. Tips are up to the individual, and they vary in amount from small to very generous. Because so many of our past guests have asked, we’ve tried to come up with some ballpark numbers that we intend to be helpful, and not as a high pressure effort to secure tips for the crew. Average tips vary from trip to trip and with trip length.

The normal range for tips is 15-20% of trip cost. Tips for a particular trip will often fall below or exceed these averages. The Hughes Crew equally share all tips on a particular trip.

Hot drinks, fresh fruit, & juice by about 7:00 a.m. Breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Break camp and on the river by about 10:00 a.m. Midday lunch break. Into camp by about 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres by about 6:30 p.m. Dinner around 7:30 p.m.

About 4-5 hours on the river is typical, although some river days are shorter and some are longer. We make stops daily to hike to historical sites, take a swim, fish a good hole, or to visit a point of interest. The length of time on the water varies with water levels, and the trip you choose. Once you select a river and dates, call the office if you want to discuss the normal pace for that particular trip and time of the year.

Even though we use hours of the day in this description, one of the most delightful parts of a river trip is changing over to “river time”. As much as possible, we simply follow the day itself – sunrise, sundown, day light, dark, etc.

River camping is easy, comfortable, and great fun. We provide freshly laundered sleeping bags and camp pillows, self inflating sleeping pads, tents, camp chairs, dining tables. The guides pitch and take down your tent. Each evening the river will lull you to sleep.

We provide waterproof duffles and camera boxes at the pre-trip meeting the night before your trip and explain how to pack your gear into each. For your trip, we will provide:

  • Roomy day bags (right by you throughout the day)
  • Heavy duty waterproof duffles (your closet for the trip)
  • Pelican high density plastic diving boxes (great for cameras, binoculars, etc.)
  • Pre-packed, and freshly laundered sleeping bag & pillow in a heavy duty waterproof duffle.
  • Self-inflating sleeping pad rolled and ready to go.

A hand wash system is available whenever we are in camp and at lunch. The guides do the dishes and cleanup after meals. To keep the river environment as clean as possible, solid human waste is collected and transported out of the river canyons in specially designed toilets. These are “camping” trips with no flush toilets, but the toilets we use are the best camp toilets available.

We provide unlimited of potable water throughout the trip. We start each trip with water from municipal water systems, and during the trips we use pure springs, or *purify water for drinking through special filter systems. Bring a small plastic water bottle for your personal use.

HRE has outfitting on Idaho rivers since 1977.  Jerry Hughes has guided in Idaho since 1967.  Most crew range from 20’s – 70, and many have 10-20 or more years of experience. Hughes River Expeditions is the senior permittee (longest ownership by same owners) on the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

On both Middle Fork and Salmon River Canyons a big custom designed supply raft carries duffle, kitchen gear, and extra ice chests.  On Middle Fork the gear boat floats ahead each afternoon to organize the camp.  On the Salmon Canyons, the gear boat can select a camp at 1:30 pm Pacific Time.  The gear boat crew unloads and gets a good start on these Salmon Canyon trips before the rest of the group arrives.

We provide a selection of top quality, self-bailing equipment: oar rafts (controlled by a guide rowing with oars), paddle rafts (controlled by a team of guests and a guide everybody paddles, and the guide captains the team), and inflatable kayaks (1 man or 2 man craft used in selected portions of a trip). Guests often plan to switch among the various craft. Let us know which boat(s) you prefer. We’ll do our best to match up with your interests.

Serious fishermen can arrange special fishing boats that accommodate 2 fishermen and a guide. Check for rates.

A big custom designed supply pontoon carries duffle, kitchen gear, and extra ice chests. Each day, the supply boat floats ahead, and the gear boatman organizes the evening’s camp. When you arrive the tents are pitched, the kitchen is organized, and you can conveniently move in for the evening.

I hope so. We do our level best to have the blend of oar rafts, paddle rafts, and inflatable kayaks that our guests want. However, with over 50 years of experience has proven that it is “virtually impossible” to have the perfect set of craft for every person, for every minute of an extended 4-6 day river trip. It is important to come with a good attitude about sharing the various boat opportunities among the members of the group on your trip.

Our considerations include: We cannot safely use inflatable kayaks in big, difficult rapids. We can only keep track of and offer support to a certain number of inflatable kayaks at one time (water level, water temperature, the river involved, ability of paddlers, etc., are all factors). Also, we are limited in the total number of craft on some rivers by the Forest Service. Once we commit to having a paddle raft on a trip, that paddle raft must be manned by guests for the entire trip. If we bring too many paddle rafts, and we are short of paddlers, the group is stuck in a tough spot. Example, if we are not sure we have sufficient paddlers to man two paddle rafts at all times during the trip, we will have to bring along 1 paddle boat, and paddlers will need to share spots on the boat. Also, our guests often think they want to only experience one style of craft, but once they are on the river, they realize they want to try other options. For instance, some people who think they only want to paddle raft, get to the river and realize that the fishing is great. In order to fish, they need to ride on an oar raft. The opposite is true also. Committed oar raft guests occasionally want to try a paddle raft for a portion of the trip. I list all these options, and all this information, in an effort to show you that we are very thoughtful about the boats we bring on a given trip. Safety is always our prime concern. Of course, your wishes and wants are also a prime concern to us. We will do our absolute level best to have the boats that you want on a trip. We ask that you come with an open mind and a good attitude about sharing opportunities within the group. If you have questions, please feel welcome to call our office.

Not just food, but FOOD! The Menu is wonderful, and there is plenty. The meals feature fresh meats (steaks, salmon, chicken, thick cut pork chops, Rock Cornish game hens, etc.), fresh fruits & vegetables, lunch & dinner salads, evening hors d’oeuvres, and Dutch oven baking (biscuits, cornbreads, muffins, layer cakes, and cobblers). Kid’s Food is available on request (burgers, hot-dogs, PBJ, cereals, etc.).

Let us know if you have a special diet. We’ll do our best to provide the foods you prefer, or you may bring them, and we’ll provide storage.

Our gear list runs through recommended garments. Basically avoid wearing heavy cotton clothes on the rafts because once they become wet, they will take a long time to dry. However, cotton is fine for camp.

On the rafts, guides typically wear nylon shorts or pants, light weight or syntetic shirt (collar & long sleeves help beat the sun), cap/visor, sandals (with heal straps) or tennis shoes, and keep rain gear, polypro underwear, polypro socks, etc. handy in a day bag in case the weather turns chilly. A good rule is to always keep your foul weather gear handy in your day bag. In camp light weight athletic pants that can be pulled on & off over shoes are convenient. Check the Gear List for the river you select.

As our contribution to the trip beverages, we bring a supply of soda, fruit juice, beer, and dinner wine. We provide about 3 canned beverages/day/person. These complimentary beverages are not intended to be the only drinks available on the trip. They are simply our contribution to the trip total. Bring some of your favorites, especially if you prefer particular brands or drinks. We have space to store the beverages you bring. Use canned beverages when possible. Don’t pack bottles or cans in your duffels. We have dry box & ice chest space to stow glass and aluminum containers. There is plenty of ice for the trip.

When you arrive, the ice chests will be filled to the brim, and some of our beverages will be on ice. At the beginning plan to use the beverages we already have chilled. As the trip proceeds, we can move your own favorite beverages into the ice chests to chill.

Please, no.

Yes. We often have instruments on the river. Don’t bring a valuable classic, and have a good protective case.

Cell phones “do not” work in the canyons. If you “must” bring a satellite phone, they are to be used only for emergencies, and cannot be used openly around the group. Hughes River Expeditions, Inc. carries a satellite phone for emergencies, that is used at the discretion of the guide crew.

Fishing is usually excellent. If you have your own fishing equipment bring it along. For young kids, many of our guests use closed faced inexpensive, disposable rod & reel sets.

As part of our service, we bring some rods and tackle for the group to share. We are happy to give fishing instruction. Feel welcome to call to discuss. We recommend that serious fishermen bring their own gear. When customers book fishing boats, we provide all equipment as part of fishing boat service.

You can purchase an Idaho fishing license by calling 800-554-8685. Order by phone with either MasterCard or Visa. Another option is the Idaho Fish & Game website. Or, you can purchase a license in Cambridge, Stanley, Lewiston, etc. before your trip.

There are few if any mosquitoes on the rivers. Idaho and eastern Oregon are relatively arid, and we encounter only a few biting bugs. Both Middle Fork and Selway can have some bugs – mosquitos and no-see-ems.  Seasonally and especially during dry years, we encounter yellow jacket wasps.  Bring bug spray.  You shouldn’t have to use it extensively.  If you are allergic to yellow jacket wasps or bees, communicate with our office.  You should bring an epi-pen if you have severe allergies.

Yes. Call our office to explain what you need. We often keep medicines in the raft ice chests during the trips.

All of our guides are trained in 1st aid, and many have WFR (Wilderness First Responder), Advacanced Wilderness First Aid, EMT, Winter Emergency Care, or 1st Responder Training. If we cannot provide 1st Aid for an injury or illness, the guides will make a decision about possible alternatives for evacuation. Evacuation costs are born by the person being evacuated. This is a good reason to consider purchasing Trip Insurance.

Although we spare no effort to assure a safe trip, a river expedition is not without some risks. We are equipped to handle emergency 1st aid. In case of illness or accident, HRE will attempt to provide 1st aid and/or arrange evacuation when your guide determines that evacuation is necessary. Cost of specialized means of evacuation, such as helicopters, or bush planes, etc. and medical care beyond 1st aid are the financial responsibility of the ill or injured person.

We encourage the purchase of vacation trip insurance which covers personal property, personal injury, and cancellation. Many insurance companies offer such policies, and we will send you information on such programs when you make reservations or on request.

We suggest Travelex Insurance Services. 800-228-9792 or They offer a variety of programs: Travel Basic, Travel Select, and Travel Max.

We also encourage guests to purchase Life Flight insurance. Life Flight provides backcountry helicopter services to assist with wilderness and backcountry evacuations. While it is rare that this service is needed, in certain cases it may be the only option and it can be costly. You can enroll in their insurance starting at $69 online at

Yes. The following books are available for purchase through the Hughes River Expeditions office (406-540-4450) or through the Hughes Company Store.  Shipping costs apply to book purchases.

A. Rapids are rated on an International Scale that applies to both difficulty and risk. The application of this scale is very subjective and no definite answers exist. Difficulty and risk vary with many factors, including the actual rapids, water levels, weather conditions, water temperatures, remoteness of the area, number of groups on a river, etc. If you have questions check with our office for details about the river and time you selected.

Typical Ratings Spring Summer Extreme High Water
Middle Fork Salmon III-IV III-IV IV-IV+
Main Salmon III-IV II-IV III-IV+
Salmon Canyon —- * II-IV —- *
Selway III-IV III-IV+ —- *

*HRE does not run at extreme high water flows on the Salmon River Canyons or Selway trips due to specific rapids on those stretches including: Slide Rapid (SRC) and Moose Juice (Selway).

International Scale of River Difficulty
I. EASY: Waves small, passages clear, no serious obstacles.
II. MEDIUM: Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear.
III. DIFFICULT: Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks & eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow chutes requiring expertise in maneuvering.
IV. VERY DIFFICULT. Long rapids; waves powerful, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required.
V. EXTREMELY DIFFICULT: Exceedingly difficult; long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; river bed extremely obstructed; big drops, violent current, and very steep gradient. DANGEROUS.
VI. UNRUNNABLE. Often requires portage or lining of rafts. Limit of navigability. Generally considered unrunnable.

If you suffer from severe allergies consult with your physician and be sure to bring the appropriate medications. EPIPENs for bee/wasp and other allergies, and any other meds specific to your allergies. Let the Hughes Office know about your allergy and any other medical issues.

Guest Experiences

I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Main Salmon (8/11-16) trip.  As usual the guides were amazing, the group was very fun (great kids!) and a good time was had…. Til next time – carry on and be well.
Powell, Ketchum, ID (2021)

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