RIVER RATING: Class III-IV
TRIP MILES: 34 - 82 Miles (34 on 3-day trip / 82 on 4+ day trip)
PUT-IN: Base of Hell's Canyon Dam
TAKE-OUT: Pittsburg Landing on a 3-day trip and Heller Bar on a 4+ day trip
RETURN TIME: 5:00 PM MST Lewiston, Idaho
AGE LIMIT: Minimum age is 7 (12 in May and June with high water)
BOAT TYPE: Paddle Raft, Oar Raft, Inflatable Kayak
DAY 0: ARRIVE IN CAMBRIDGE, ORIENTATION MEETING
Travel from your home to Cambridge, Idaho, and meet ROW’s Team Leader at the Frontier Motel at 8:00 PM Mountain Standard Time (MST) for a one-hour orientation meeting to answer last-minute questions. You'll also receive your waterproof gear bags. Dinner on your own.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Frontier Motel (Not Included in trip cost)
- MEALS INCLUDED: none
DAY 1: WILD SHEEP AND GRANITE RAPIDS
Meet your team leader at 7:30 am for the two-hour bus ride to Hells Canyon rafting trip on the Snake River. We'll stop along the way for a ROW-hosted breakfast. Our launch point is at the base of Hells Canyon Dam, approximately 1,500 feet above sea level. Before launching rafts the ROW staff prepares you with a thorough safety briefing while a personal gear is loaded. The briefing covers how to ride in a raft, how to paddle, how to swim through rapids, and other tips for the days ahead. Once this is complete everyone chooses a raft and climbs aboard.
The Snake River has “pool and drop” characteristics. This means there's a long pool of calm water followed by a rapid. Not long after launching, we run several splashy Hells Canyon rapids that give a fun, roller coaster ride a taste of what's to come.
When we stop for lunch, some guides prepare the meal while others give a “camp orientation” to explain how we minimize our impact on the river. ROW adheres to "Leave No Trace" camping ethics, so you'll learn where to wash up, how the toilet system works, where to brush your teeth, place trash, etc. Then it’s time to make a sandwich and enjoy the open-air dining experience.
We usually run two big class IV rapids the first day – Wild Sheep and Granite. These impressive rapids never fail to get a guide’s heart pumping. This is also a great day for fishing. The water is a bit cooler at this elevation and fishing for trout in the tailwaters of the rapids is almost always successful.
Around 4:00 pm we arrive at camp with plenty of 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.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Riverside Camping
- MEALS INCLUDED: B, L, D
Day 2: SALT CREEK
You'll wake around 7:00 am to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee and tea. Breakfast is served around 7:30 and while we clean up the kitchen, you pack up your personal gear. We depart camp at about 9:30 for today's Hells Canyon rafting adventure. Plenty of rapids, sun, and dramatic scenery treat you and we'll explore a homesteader's cabin, root cellar, and farm implements. You'll get a good sense of what pioneer life would have been like 100 years ago.
After more Snake River whitewater rafting, the river mellows and we have time to jump in and float along with our rafts. The mountains tower above and you relax in the warm sun. There are over 100 Native American rock art sites along the Snake River in Hells Canyon and during the trip, we'll stop to investigate a few. Hells Canyon is unique because we find both pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (rock carvings) left by the different tribes that traveled the canyon.
Camp tonight is somewhere in the Salt Creek area. After dinner another peaceful evening awaits. The night sky creates a perfect time for connecting with family and friends. Bonds grow stronger and memories build.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Riverside Camping
- MEALS INCLUDED: B, L, D
Day 3: KIRKWOOD HISTORIC RANCH, PITTSBURG LANDING
Today we'll hike along the trail at “Suicide Point.” This incredible view offers sweeping panoramas some 300’ above your Snake River rafting trip. After the hike, we float to our next stop at Kirkwood Historic Ranch, a historic sheep ranch. We visit the sheering shed, blacksmith shop, and homesteader cabins. Before the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area thousands of sheep grazed in the surrounding mountains.
Soon the canyon opens up and we crash through some big wave rapids. When we arrive at Pittsburg Landing, where our 3-day trips end, we take a short hike to see one of the richest collections of Indian petroglyphs on the Snake. After Pittsburg Landing, the river narrows, and the area's beauty intensifies.
At camp this evening our guides may set up horseshoes or guide a hike. We'll refuel with a nutritious meal and the night sky and fresh mountain air will help you sleep like a baby.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Riverside Camping
- MEALS INCLUDED: B, L, D
The human drama in Hells Canyon rafting trips is as intriguing as the many natural wonders we discover, like the fascinating wildlife, plant life and geology. It’s been another full day of river rafting fun and discovery. Tonight we camp on a large, white sand beach.
We'll have time for playing on the beach, sunbathing and another evening of laughter and camaraderie under Idaho's star-studded sky.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Riverside Camping
- MEALS INCLUDED: B, L, D
We continue to float and marvel at the dramatic scenery. By now you’ll be completely adjusted to “river time” as you welcome a new day of adventure. There are some big waves and big rides on this section of the Snake River and also some long stretches of flat water. Depending on the river flow we may join the rafts together and use a small, quiet outboard motor to cover some of today’s river miles. As we travel downstream we'll see the original Nez Perce trail descending down the canyon to a ford used for centuries by the Nez Perce as they traveled east from the Wallowa Mountains (in today’s northeast corner of Oregon). Between the white water rapids, look for golden eagles soaring overhead. Learn about the copper mines at Eureka Bar and the era of steamboats that traveled along the Snake. In the afternoon we'll pass the river's confluence with the legendary Salmon “River of No Return.”
The Salmon, where we run our Salmon River rafting trips, ends its journey and mingles with the waters of the mighty Snake in a powerful joining of forces. We now float on double the volume of water as compared to just the Snake River alone. We stop for another fine lunch on a sandy beach then dawn big smiles for a group photo. After a few more miles of magnificent scenery, we reach our take-out spot below the Snake River's confluence with the Grande Ronde River. Gear is untied and everyone carries their personal gear to the waiting bus.
It’s a quick 45-minute ride back to the town of Lewiston, Idaho. Depart the next morning to head home, or consider visiting our own River Dance Lodge, a beautiful log cabin adventure resort just two hours east. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and biking are a few of the available activities. If you're on your way to Glacier National Park this is a great stopping point for a day.
Next Morning Departure: If you drove to Cambridge and had your car shuttled north it will be waiting for you at the hotel. If you're flying there’s a free shuttle from the hotel to the Lewiston airport. Or you can take a taxi two hours north to the Spokane airport. The best rate we have found is $200 for shuttle service from Lewiston to Spokane by Michelle's Car service; they can transport up to 4 guests and be reached at (208) 305-5636.
- ACCOMMODATIONS: Hell Canyon Grand Hotel, Lewiston Idaho (Not Included in trip cost)
- MEALS INCLUDED: B, L
In order to minimize the driving time to and from the river, we start our trip in Cambridge, Idaho (two hours northwest of Boise) and end in Lewiston, Idaho. ROW provides transportation from the Boise airport to Cambridge, Idaho for the start of your trip and then to Lewiston, Idaho after the river trip.
Meeting Time: Once everyone has arrived in Cambridge, we'll meet you at the Frontier Motel at 8:00 pm to give you your waterproof bags to pack, have an orientation meeting and answer any last-minute questions. This is an important meeting, so please be on time! Early the next morning (usually about 7:30 am) we leave in a van or bus for a two-hour drive northwest to our starting point at Hells Canyon Dam, arriving there about 10 am.
Option A – Fly into Boise, Idaho the evening prior to your departure date and take the ROW shuttle up to Cambridge. Then after the trip return home via Lewiston, Idaho or Spokane, Washington. Arrive in Boise no later than 4:00 pm Mountain Time the day before your trip. The shuttle van will meet you outside the baggage claim doors in the “taxi” lane at 4:30 pm for an easy two-hour drive to Cambridge. If your ﬂight arrives in Boise early in the day we recommend that you spend extra time exploring Boise rather than going to Cambridge, which is a very small town with few amenities.
Rent a car and drive two hours to Cambridge. Then have it shuttled to the ending point of the trip.
Take an airport shuttle from Boise to Cambridge. Contact either Boise City Taxi at 208-377-3333, Yellow Cab at 208-345-5555 or arrange an Uber. If you are unable to schedule your ﬂight into Boise by 4:00 pm or if your ﬂight arrives late and you need to arrange other transportation, the cost for this transportation will be at your expense.
After your trip you can:
- A) Fly out of the Lewiston Airport (Airport shuttle provided free by the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel) to your hometown or next destination. Lewiston is serviced by Alaska Airlines or Delta Air.
- B) Take a shuttle van/taxi to Spokane, Washington (two hours north) for other airline selections as Spokane has a much larger airport. If you choose to shuttle to Spokane you can arrange an Uber or use Michelle's Shuttle Service 208-305-5636. Be sure to clarify how many are in your party and how much luggage you may have when reserving with them.
- On all 3-day trips and some 4-day trips, your car will go to White Bird or our actual take-out at Pittsburg Landing. The approximate cost of this shuttle is $145 not including fuel to be paid directly to the Frontier Motel.
- On all 5- or 6-day trips and some 4-day trips, your car will be shuttled to Hells Canyon Grand Hotel in Lewiston. If you have your car shuttled to Heller Bar for the take out you will need a $35 discovery pass. The approximate cost of this shuttle is $200 not including fuel to be paid directly to the Frontier Motel.
5- and 6-day trips end at Heller Bar, from where we transport you one-hour to the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho. If you had your car shuttled north from Cambridge, it will be waiting for you at the hotel. Our 3- and 4-day trips (except June high water 4-day trips) end at Pittsburg Landing. If you had your car shuttled it will either be at our takeout point, or it will be waiting in the town of White Bird. If it's in White Bird, we'll take you there on our bus, which takes about one hour. Typically we get you to your car in White Bird around 4:00 pm. If you ﬂew to Boise, we'll transport you by van to Lewiston, about 3 hours north. You can ﬁgure on arriving in Lewiston around 5:30 pm. We recommend that you plan to spend the night in Lewiston at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel. It's best not to plan to ﬂy or drive home that night, as you'll be ready for rest and a hot shower. If your schedule requires that you ﬂy home the same day the trip ends we'll return you to the hotel in Lewiston, from where you can get a taxi to the airport in Lewiston, which is about 15 minutes away. You should not plan on a ﬂight departing any earlier than 7:00 pm. ROW will not be responsible if you miss a ﬂight out the same evening a trip ends.
All of our multi-day rafting trips are active adventures that involve some level of physical exertion and possible exposure to the elements including but not limited to wind, rain, heat, sun, cold temperatures and cold water conditions. ROW Adventures is able to accommodate people with physical limitations, disabilities, and medical conditions; please speak with your Adventure Consultant if you think you will require any additional assistance while on the trip. We ask that you consult your Doctor if you have health or medical conditions that could impact your ability to participate in an active and outdoor adventure. In general, all trip participants must be able to do the following:
- Wear all protective and safety equipment that is required by ROW Adventures and recommended/required by industry-wide standards.
- Load and unload, on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion, the bus and/or van providing transportation for ROW Adventures activities.
- Reach the river access points (put-in and take-out) on their own, or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Enter and exit the raft, kayak and/or inflatable kayak on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Remain seated and balanced in a floating raft, canoe, kayak or inflatable kayak w/ the aid of adaptive equipment, if necessary.
- Perform all on water activities, including following instructions that like paddling commands from the guide in class I and higher whitewater on their own or with the assistance of a qualified companion.
- Float on their back when entering moving and still water. The participant must be capable of turning from face-down to face-up in the water with the aid of a Personal Floatation Device and must be able to hold their breath while underwater.
- Remain calm and keep breathing under control in the event of a whitewater swim.
- Get out from under a raft, whether the raft is up-right or capsized, in moving water.
- Climb into the raft, with the help of another person, should an involuntary swim happen at any point on the river.
- Make progress toward the shoreline or a raft by swimming in moving water and must be able to exit the river and ascend the shoreline once reached.
- Participate as an active paddler when instructed by the guide for the duration of the trip.
- Move about the campsite on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion on all trips that include overnight camping and/or lunch.
Packing properly for a river trip is CRITICAL to your enjoyment while on the river. We recommend that you prepare yourself for three basic scenarios:
- A cool day on the river.
- A warm day on the river.
- Time spent lounging in camp.
Take care of these, and you are free to let the river and the canyon work their magic.
Weather in the northwest is unpredictable. You must come prepared for the cold/wet weather and hot/sunny weather – sometimes even on the same day! The following information will help you be prepared for the expected as well as the unexpected events of your trip. You may not use all of the gear listed below, but we recommend bringing it all!
DRYBAGS THAT ROW PROVIDES
One large waterproof bag (16” in diameter x 33” tall) per person. This will contain your sleeping bag as well as your personal clothing and items. This bag is NOT accessible during the day as it goes ahead of the group with our cargo raft.
Note: This bag will also contain additional gear provided by ROW: Sleeping bag, flannel liner & pillow
A small daypack (9” in diameter x 20” tall) for items you want to access during the day such as rain gear, sunscreen, camera, medications, etc.
ITEMS FOR ON THE RIVER
Two T-Shirts (1 quick dry and 1 cotton for a hot day)
One light long-sleeved shirt for sun protection and cool evenings. Popular options are a rash guard or sunscreen shirts.
Two pairs of shorts (nylon quick drying always better than cotton).
Light pants are great for sun protection or on a windy day. Lightweight zip off pants works great.
Swimsuit – two-piece suits are easier for women - tankinis and river shorts are a great option.
One pair of river sandals (must have an ankle strap, no flipflops!) Velcro is okay if in good condition. Popular name brands include Chaco, Teva, Keen, or Merrells. Tennis shoes with polypro socks are a good option if your feet tend to get cold.
One Cap, Sun Hat or Visor (ROW hats are available when you arrive).
ITEMS GOOD TO HAVE IN YOUR DRY BAG ON THE RIVER
- One rain suit, jacket & pants (windbreaker without cotton liner works well, but no cheap ponchos)
- Mid-weight to light-weight long underwear tops and bottoms. Best worn over a swimsuit and undershorts.
- One synthetic or wool mid-weight sweaters for layering on the river on cool days.
- Sunglasses with retaining cord/device
- Bee Sting kit for those allergic to bees
- Sun Screen
- Water bottle with carabiner
- Extra Cap, Sun Hat or Visor
ITEMS FOR TIME AT CAMP
- Two Short sleeve shirts (Enjoy clean and comfortable)
- One pair of pants (lightweight nylon, cotton or fleece)
- Pair of shorts
- One synthetic mid-weight sweaters for cool evenings
- Underwear and socks
- Flashlight or headlamp with extra bulb and batteries
- Skin lotion, lip balm, waterproof sunscreen, etc.
- Toilet kit - toothbrush and paste, soap ( biodegradable is best, no soaps can be used in the river), camp towel, washcloth, comb, handkerchief, a small pack of tissues, small mirror, moist towelettes, shaving stuff, feminine sanitary supplies, etc.
- Extra eyeglasses and/or contact lenses strongly suggested. ALL glasses need a head strap!
- One pair of tennis shoes or walking shoes for cooler weather and hiking. (We don’t recommend you bring large hiking boots as they take up too much space and aren’t necessary.) Flip-flops are also comfortable for easy walking on sandy beaches!
- Stocking Cap/ Beanie for cool nights
ADDITIONAL CLOTHES FOR COOL WEATHER (Early and late season – June & September)
- Two pair wool or polypro socks to wear on the river
- One additional synthetic pile or wool shirt
- Wool or poly gloves & wool or poly cap (like a skiing hat)
- Camera – waterproof digital with extra batteries & memory card recommended. Many guests use smartphones (there is NOT cell service on the river). A waterproof case is also highly recommended for protection and ease of use.
- Paddling Gloves
- Sarong – many uses for both ladies and men
- Sundress for camp – ladies
- 2-3 Carabiners for clipping items to the boat
- Plastic garbage bags (2-3 for separating dirty/wet clothes in your waterproof bag)
- Cards, games, books, musical instruments, journals
- Fishing gear and Idaho fishing license if you plan to fish - must be in a protective case & disassembled. Only catch and release fishing with single barbless hooks is allowed!!
LAYERING FOR OUTDOOR COMFORT
Clothing layers are the thermostat of the wilderness. As you get ready for your river trip, think about dressing in layers. By adding and subtracting layers you can keep yourself perfectly comfortable. If you were to look into the dry bags of a well-prepared river guide you would see packing for three weather scenarios -- cold, wet days; hot, summer days; and cool evenings and mornings in camp. All of your on-river clothing should be made from synthetic fabrics with names like fleece, pile, polypropylene, Capilene™ or polyester. A cotton T-shirt is used occasionally on hot, sunny days, but cotton clothing is best saved for on-shore camp use.
- LAYER #1: The layer next to your skin should be close-fitting and thin. Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or wool shirt as a base layer. You do not want to wear cotton on the river on cool rainy days. The evaporation of water from a wet cotton layer will actually make you colder! Synthetic fibers maintain insulative properties when wet and "wick" moisture away from your skin.
- LAYER #2: The next layer should also be made of a synthetic fiber, but should be a bit heavier in weight. If you get too warm you can always peel this layer off.
- LAYER #3: The outer layer is what is known as the "barrier" layer. This layer should be waterproof and loose-fitting enough to give you a good range of motion. The idea of this layer is to seal out water, and seal in the warmth generated by you and insulated by layers # 1 and # 2. A good rain suit can do the job, or a good paddling jacket and pants. Not only will this protect you from rainstorms, but chilly water temperatures when running rapids as well!
ROW provides Farmer John style wetsuits for our cold weather trips in May/June (long legs, but no sleeves). These are often worn with your polypro long underwear underneath for extra warmth. You will still need your fleece sweater and rain jacket for warmth on your upper body. Wool or fleece socks can also be worn with the booties if your feet tend to get cold.
Like anyone in the service business, river and outdoor adventure guides appreciate gratuities. Our guides are some of the best and most highly trained in the business. They not only guide your raft down the river, but set up camp, cook and serve gourmet meals, provide interpretation on the natural and cultural history of the area and strive to provide the highest level of hospitality. Tipping is ultimately a personal decision, however if you appreciate the service your guides provided, then as a guideline we suggest a gratuity of 10-20% of the trip price.
Tips can be given to the ROW Team Leader at the end of the trip in the form of cash or personal check. The Team Leader distributes them equally among the guides and gives a portion to ROW’s behind-the-scenes, unsung heroes like our drivers and food shoppers.
Terms and Conditons
Please see our full Terms & Conditions HERE.