Thousands of off-roaders descend on Salmon

Thousands of ATV and UTV riders from across the country have arrived in Salmon for the annual Rally in the Pines, a dayslong off-road motorized vehicle event that is being held there for the first time. Stock photo / Getty Images

SALMON Thousands of people from across the country flocked here this week to be part of a dayslong off-road motorized vehicle event that will see 1,500 participating in 22 different rides on public lands outside town. 

The so-called Rally in the Pines, organized by BAM Film Productions, which is behind the TV show PowerSports Adventures, has switched locations to Salmon from Mackay and this year is hosting a crowd estimated at 3,000, organizers said. The event’s website said participants from 33 states have come to Salmon.

The bulk of visitors are staging from Lemhi County Fairgrounds, which is packed, or have parked their RVs or campers on a 100-acre lot nearby. The rides started today and include such journeys as a nighttime trip to the one-time gold-mining town of Leesburg in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

George Crist, sales manager of Wild Side Sports, which sells all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, and which is sponsoring a breakfast for hundreds on Saturday at the fairgrounds, said the event turned out many more people than locals expected and should surpass expectations for the number of adults and children attending.

“Salmon has never seen a crowd this size before; it’s ridiculously crazy. It’s a great time for everybody,” he said.

The rally is set to run through Monday and has been granted permits from relevant entities such as the U.S. Forest Service, according to a Rally in the Pines website.

Wild Side is among the dozens of ATV and utility vehicle (UTV) vendors at the fairgrounds, where 2019 demos, professional Yamaha racers and teams prepared to engage in side-by-side soccer are on hand.

The influx has proved both a boon and overwhelming at times for local businesses, including the town’s single, full-size grocery, where some produce aisles and shelves were nearly empty Tuesday night in the aftermath of an abundance of shoppers, according to Saveway Market.

“We were absolutely packed with all sorts of people who had never been to Salmon before,” Jessie Osgood, produce clerk, said of the store beginning Monday. The market had expected more patrons over the coming weekend so was not immediately prepared for those who poured in at the beginning of the week.

“But everyone who’s coming to town is pretty pleasant and we knew to expand the order coming in Wednesday,” Osgood added.

Nick Bertram, owner of Bertram’s Brewery in downtown Salmon, said the influx is a welcome development.

He estimated a sizable increase — up to 20 percent — in dinnertime patrons on Wednesday.

“This is incredibly helpful to local businesses,” Bertram said. “It’s beneficial not only while they are here in town but when they leave with a favorable impression and decide to come back. It puts us on the map.”

Crist said a wrinkle the rally hopes to iron out for next year’s event is to successfully petition the Idaho Transportation Department to temporarily lower the speed limit on the highways in and around Salmon so visitors can legally ride their ATVs and such to and from town.

He said by law ATVs are not allowed on highways where the speed limit is posted at more than 45 miles per hour. That means a segment of those at the fairgrounds had to stock up on food and other supplies as they entered the area while trailering their off-road rigs.

Crist said safety concerns surrounding the event included the sheer drop on some mountain roads, most of which are unfamiliar to visitors.

“If you get too close to the edge, you could slide and roll off,” he said.

Yet those guiding tours have, for the most part, ridden trails in the area and precautions like observing safe speeds are in place, Crist added.

“They’ve brought teams of people prepared to go out and get anyone who’s broken down or who’s out of fuel and, while there are a few dead spots in cell reception, it’s not winter so no one is in danger of freezing to death if they have to wait for a while,” he said.