Day 0: Travel from your home to Cambridge, Idaho and meet Team Leader at the Frontier Motel at 7:00 pm Mountain Time for a one hour orientation meeting to answer any last-minute questions and give you your waterproof bags to pack. Dinner is on your own in town.
Day 1: Meet your team leader at 7:30 am for a two-hour bus ride to Hells Canyon, stopping for a hosted breakfast en route. Our launch point is at the base of Hells Canyon Dam, approximately 1500 above sea level. Spring and fall weather are warm but variable. Summer weather is typically dry and hot, with daytime temperatures in the 90’s and nights in the 60’s. Before we launch, our staff prepares you with a thorough safety orientation while your personal gear is loaded onto our rafts. This orientation provides instruction on how to ride in a raft, how to paddle, how to swim through rapids, and other tips that prepare you for the days ahead. Once this is complete, everyone chooses a raft (paddle or oar-powered) or inflatable kayak, and climbs aboard. After a few exhilarating miles, we stop for lunch. Our delicious riverside lunches are smorgasbord affairs. While some of the guides set up the first lunch, another will give you a “camp orientation” talk to explain how we minimize our impact on the river, where to wash up, how the toilet system works, where to brush teeth, place trash, etc. Then it’s time to make a sandwich and enjoy the open-air dining experience. After lunch the river continues to alternate between calm pools and exciting rapids. We travel between 6 and 14 miles the first day, depending on water levels, trip length and other factors. We usually run two big class IV rapids the first day – Wild Sheep and Granite. We usually stop and scout these impressive rapids that never fail to get a guide’s heart pumping. This is also a great day for fishing for trout and bass. The water is a bit cooler at this elevation and fishing in the tail waters of the rapids is almost always successful. Around 4:00 pm we arrive at camp. After you carry your personal gear to the tent of your choice, enjoy free time for hiking, fishing, reading or just relaxing. Hors d’oeuvres are served around 6:00 and dinner around 7:30. The evening sky darkens and the first shimmering stars appear, inviting contemplation on the day and conversation with friends, new and old. Included: (L), (D).
Day 2: We wake you around 7:00 am with the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Breakfast is served around 7:30 and, while we clean up the kitchen, you pack up your personal gear. With rafts loaded, we depart from camp about 9:30 for a rafting adventure filled with rapids, dramatic scenery and fun. We visit Bernard Creek to explore an original homestead cabin, root cellar and farm implements and get a good sense of what pioneer life would have been like 100 years ago. Below Bernard Creek we find more Snake River whitewater. After lunch the river mellows and there’s time to jump in and float along with the rafts, gaze at the towering mountains and relax in the sun. There are over 100 sites of Indian Rock art along the Snake River in Hells Canyon and during the trip we stop at several. Hells Canyon is unique in that we find both pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings) left by different tribes that spent time in the canyon. The carvings were left by those tribes we now refer to as the Shoshone, who were originally a Plains Indian. When the fur traders of the early 1800’s first met the Shoshone and communicated with them in sign language, the Indians used a sign, in referring their own name, that the traders interpreted to mean “snake.” Hence they called them the Snake Indians, and they named the river they lived along, the Snake River. As other tribes were pushed West by white settlement in the east, the Shoshone were pushed from the Plains to the northern Rockies and desert canyons of Idaho. Camp tonight is somewhere in the Salt Creek area. After dinner, another peaceful evening awaits, with time to connect with family and friends, as bonds grow stronger and memories build. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: If we didn’t do it the previous afternoon, anyone wanting to, may hike along the trail at “Suicide Point” for sweeping panoramic views some 300’ above the river. Back on the rafts, the Snake River carries us slowly along to our next stop at Kirkwood Historic Ranch, an historic sheep ranch. We visit the sheering shed, blacksmith shop, homestead cabins and numerous farm implements. Prior to the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area thousands of sheep were grazed in the surrounding mountains. After Kirkwood, the canyon opens up wider and we enjoy big – wave rapids rapids. Soon we arrive at Pittsburg Landing, where our 3-day trips end. One of the richest collections of Indian petroglyphs is revealed to us after a short hike from the river. After Pittsburg Landing the Snake River narrows again and the scenery intensifies in beauty. After a full day of learning and fun, we arrive in camp. The hot weather and warm water invite everyone in for a swim. Our guides have a bagful of games and we may set up horseshoes or take a hike up a mountain. Summer evenings in Idaho are long, with darkness not arriving till past 9:30 in July and early August. The night sky and fresh mountain air will help you sleep like a baby. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Today’s spectacular scenery and whitewater is complemented by short lessons in history. At Dug Bar we see the ford used by the Chief Joseph and the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce Indians during their 1877 exodus from their homeland. At China Creek we learn of the massacre of Chinese miners thought to have a large cache of gold. The human drama in the canyon is as intriguing as the many natural wonders we learn about, including the fascinating geology. It’s another full day of river rafting fun and discovery. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: We continue to float and revel in the scenery. Between the rapids, look for golden eagles soaring overhead. Learn about the copper mines at Eureka Bar, and the era of steamboats on the Snake. In the afternoon we pass the confluence with the Salmon River, another of Idaho’s magnificent rafting adventures. This is a powerful place where the legendary Salmon “River of No Return” ends its journey as it mingles with the waters of the mighty Snake. We’re now floating on double the volume of water compared to just the Snake alone. Tonight’s camp is set on a large, white sand beach. There’s time for frisbee, sun-bathing and another evening of laughter and camaraderie under the star-studded sky. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: You’ll be completely adjusted to “river time” by now and welcome the new day of adventure. There are some big waves and big rides and also some long stretches of flat water and, depending on the flows, we may join the rafts together and using a small, quiet outboard, motor through some of today’s river miles. As we travel downstream, we see the original Nez Perce trail descending down the canyon to a ford used for centuries by Nez Perce traveling from the Wallowa Mountains (in today’s northeast corner of Oregon) to points east. Every year some Nez Perce would cross the Rockies to hunt buffalo in the Plains. We also pass the place where it is thought that John Ordway, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, came to the rivers edge in June of 1806 while traveling with a couple of Nez Perce guides. We also float past the border between Oregon and Washington on the left side of the river. We stop for another fine lunch on a sandy beach and a big smile for the group photo. A few more miles of magnificent scenery and then around 3:00 PM we reach our take-out just below the confluence with the Grande Ronde River. Gear is untied and everyone carries their personal gear to the waiting bus. Then it’s a quick 45-minute ride back to the town of Clarkston, Washington, across the Snake from Lewiston, Idaho. Enjoy a hot shower and change of cloths and then meet your guides for hosted dinner at a local restaurant around 7:00 pm. Included: (B), (L), (D).
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