Snake River through Hell's Canyon Rafting
One of America's greatest rivers has played host to ROW Adventures' guest for decades. If you have not experience rafting the Snake River, it's white water rapids, incredible hikes and history, the country's deepest river canyon with the world's greatest guides...you should not wait any longer!
Hells Canyon straddles the borders of Idaho and Oregon and is the deepest river gorge in North America. According to Nez Perce tribal legend, the mythical figure "coyote" dug Hells Canyon with a big stick to protect the tribe's ancestors in the Blue Mountains of Oregon from the "Seven Devils" across the gorge in Idaho.
Our Snake River rafting adventures through Hells Canyon are journeys through a land rich in myth and geologic wonder. Running south to north, the Snake River cuts through some of the most rugged, spectacular landscape on earth. Boulders and rock slides have rolled into the river to create the biggest white water rafting rapids in the Pacific Northwest. High-crested waves and paddle-swallowing holes drench us in white water excitement.
When you go to Hells Canyon with ROW Adventures, we send a cargo boat ahead to set up a comfortable wilderness camp. Instead of spending time setting up your own tent, you can be hiking, fishing or otherwise relaxing. Our meals are superlative, made with the finest fresh ingredients and prepared by our talented staff.
Between the Snake River whitewater, there's plenty of time to kick back and marvel at the snow-capped peaks that tower more than a mile above. Mountainsides are covered in golden grass and pine forest and we commonly see soaring eagles, ambling bears or wild mountain goats.
Extend your stay in Idaho after your Snake River trip by visiting our own River Dance Lodge just two hours from Lewiston, Idaho where your trip ends. Stay in a traditional log cabin with private hot tub, go hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking or just relax and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery.
Honoring Native People and Lands: Recognizing the significance of our travels through Indigenous territory, we would like to recognize the communities whose lands we visit. It is our hope, in doing so, to honor their legacies, their lives, and their descendants. To learn more about territory acknowledgement and specific information about the Native communities of this region, please visit our Territory Acknowledgement page.
Images & Videos
See full itinerary and trip details here
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.
Wild Sheep and Granite Rapids
Meet your team leader at 7:30am 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 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 tail waters of the rapids is almost always successful.
Around 4:00pm 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.
You'll wake around 7:00am 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 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.
Kirkwood Historic Ranch, Pittsburgh 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.
Today’s spectacular scenery and Hells Canyon whitewater is complemented by short history lessons. We'll see the ford used by Chief Joseph and the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce Indians during the famous 1877 exodus from their homeland. At China Creek we learn about the massacre of Chinese miners who were thought to have had a large cache of gold.
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.
Eureka Bar, Salmon and Snake River Confluence, Departure
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.
ROW Adventures is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider under permit from the U.S. Forest Service, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and licensed by the States of Idaho and Oregon. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-discriminatory basis. We also operate under licenses from the states of Idaho and Oregon.
Dates & Rates
|Dates||Adult (USD)||Child (USD)|
|May 23, 2021 to May 26, 2021 |
|May 29, 2021 to Jun 01, 2021 |
|Jun 06, 2021 to Jun 09, 2021 |
|Jun 14, 2021 to Jun 17, 2021 |
|Jun 22, 2021 to Jun 25, 2021 |
|Jun 30, 2021 to Jul 04, 2021 |
|Jul 08, 2021 to Jul 12, 2021 |
|Jul 16, 2021 to Jul 20, 2021 |
|Jul 24, 2021 to Jul 28, 2021 |
|Aug 01, 2021 to Aug 05, 2021 |
|Aug 09, 2021 to Aug 13, 2021 |
|Aug 17, 2021 to Aug 21, 2021 |
|Aug 25, 2021 to Aug 27, 2021 |
|Aug 25, 2021 to Aug 29, 2021 |
|Sep 02, 2021 to Sep 06, 2021 |
5-day Shoulder Season
|Sep 10, 2021 to Sep 14, 2021 |
5-day Shoulder Season
|Sep 17, 2021 to Sep 21, 2021 |
5-day Shoulder Season
4-Day Private Trip
Departures: Private Trip Rate = $25,330; May, June
5-Day Private Trip
Departures: Private Trip Rates:; May, June, July & August = $30,430; Sept = $26,265; Dates dependent on availability
6-Day Private Trip
Departures: Private Trip Rate = $37,315; Dates dependent on availability
FAQ & More
The quality of our food reflects the quality of the wilderness environment on the Snake River. We hand-select the freshest fruits and vegetables we can find and pack them carefully in huge ice-coolers. Likewise, these coolers carry fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients, we prepare bountiful, healthy meals.
Sustainably harvested wild Alaskan Salmon served with a fresh garden salad
Prime Rib combined with a fresh Chilean salad and Idaho mashed potatoes
Big salads of vegetables and fruit add color and variety to every meal
These are a few possible entrees. Our desserts are made each evening in our Dutch ovens and range from authentic cobbler to pineapple upside-down cake. We serve juice each morning and moderate amounts of bottled wine with dinner. We also provide two beers and two sodas or juices per person per day. There's always plenty of cold water, lemonade mix, tea, coffee, and cocoa. You're welcome to bring your own beverages or alcohol as well. We always have plenty of ice to keep your drinks cold.
Forget those images of leaky tents and camp food out of a can. You’ll be amazed how comfortable camping can be when done the ROW way. On trips with 13 or more guests, we use a large 22-foot cargo raft to carry the bulk of the camping gear, food, etc. This allows our smaller oar-powered rafts to be lighter and more maneuverable.
The cargo raft, along with two- support crew, arrives at camp ahead of the group and gets the kitchen set up including dining tables and chairs. The crew also sets up the spacious two-person tents that ROW provides. When we arrive in camp all you have to do is carry your personal gear (stored in a ROW-provided easy-to-use waterproof bag) to the tent of your choice and roll out your sleeping bag, flannel liner and thick, self-inflating foam sleeping pad (also provided by ROW). This gives you an extra half-hour of time for doing something you'd enjoy rather than setting up a tent. (Note: In rare circumstances, we may have a trip with less than 13 guests. In this case, due to economic and logistical reasons, we may not run our cargo raft. On these smaller trips guests and gear travel together down the river. Our guides are still happy to set up your tent if you like or you may enjoy doing it yourself.)
The elevation on the Snake River in Hells Canyon is only 1,500’ at the put-in and around 800’ at the take-out. This means the weather is typically much warmer than other parts of Idaho. This trip is excellent throughout the season, but the Snake River in Hells Canyon is an ideal choice for spring or fall vacations because of the mild climate and few other people.
Hells Canyon Dam controls water flow so there are excellent levels year round but the highest water is typically in June and September. Air temperatures in the spring and fall range from 65-85 degrees and most nights cool to around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. It's warmer in late June through late August with daytime temperatures between 85-95 degrees, dropping to 65-70 degrees at night. It rarely rains in Hells Canyon, but sometimes we'll witness a dramatic thundershower which instantly freshens the air. Water temperatures are usually around 60 degrees in June and September, and 70 degrees in July and August.
In addition to the cargo boat that carries all the camping gear, we use two other kinds of river craft.
The traditional raft is a 16-foot self-bailing, oar-powered raft which a guide controls with two large oars. (Many companies use 18-22 foot rafts, which take a good deal of the fun out of the rapids.)
We also offer smaller 14-foot paddle rafts. Four to six people paddle while a guide steers.
Many people enjoy rotating between crafts during a trip. On some stretches of river, we can add inflatable kayaks to the mix. You have the choice to ride in any of these boats, and many people enjoy trying all three during a trip. On the few trips we operate with less than 13 guests, we may not have enough people to support a paddle raft. (We will still have inflatable kayaks on smaller trips if requested.)
On any river trips, the guides are the most important factor for your safety, enjoyment and the success of the trips. ROW guides are exceptional people with years of river experience.
We maintain a tobacco-free policy and most of our guides have taken interpretation courses from certified instructors. We look for guides who are willing and eager to share, teach, listen, learn, laugh, play, discuss and, above all, work hard to provide a safe, relaxed and spontaneous adventure.
While in camp two or three guides are preparing dinner while the others are free to spend time with you. They might show you the way to a nearby hot spring, give a fly-fishing lesson or just to sit and visit with the group. Our guides are the main reason many of our guests return to ROW time and time again. (References gladly provided.)
We believe the Snake River offers one of the world's premier rafting experiences and deserves a minimum of five days to appreciate its many wonders. Our Forest Service permit is very restrictive, allowing just one trip every eight days, so we like to maximize our guests' time on the river.
From late June to late August we offer primarily five- or six-day trips. Both five- and six-day trips float 82-miles through Hells Canyon, but a six-day trip affords more time for hiking, fishing and lounging. In June we only offer four-day trips. The water on the Snake River is usually high and moving quickly which allows us to float the entire 82-mile stretch of Hells Canyon in just four days. However, water flow is controlled by Hells Canyon Dam so we cannot guarantee the full 82-mile trip. In the event of lower flows in June, the 4-day trip floats 34-miles to Pittsburg Landing. We spend less time on the water but more time exploring the remote canyon, hiking, fishing, etc. (May and June are great times for our Snake/Lochsa combination trips, for those seeking Idaho’s ultimate whitewater trip.)
One of the reasons that Hells Canyon is such a fabulous trip is the incredible variety of things to do and see along the way. ROW takes pride in historical interpretation and takes advantage of as many side excursions as possible.
We share stories of the early pioneers and hike to at least one old homestead cabin.
We explore at least two different Native American rock art sites. If the group wants more we know a couple dozen other points of interest along the way. Not only do we show you these places, we help you understand them.
If you're interested we'll talk about the geology, plants, and animals that inhabit Hells Canyon. We strongly believe that deepening understanding builds greater appreciation and we hope our love of this canyon is contagious.
Wilderness travel and whitewater rafting have inherent risks and ROW does a number of things to manage these risks. It begins when you first contact us. We'll help you select a trip that matches your experience and abilities. On the river you will find that our guides are carefully chosen, skilled professionals with the appropriate training and experience. We use the best available equipment and give a thorough safety briefing prior to all departures. If you're nervous about whitewater, you might want to start off on our Missouri River canoe trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail in Montana or a milder whitewater trip such as the Grande Ronde.
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 (provided by Caldwell Transportation Service) will meet you outside the baggage claim doors in the “taxi” lane at 4:00 pm for an easy two-hour drive to Cambridge.
After your trip you can:
A) Fly out of the Lewiston Airport (Airport shuttle provided free by the Red Lion Inn) to your hometown or back to Boise, Idaho to connect with your round-trip flight. Lewiston is serviced by Horizon Air or Delta Air only.
B) Take a shuttle van/taxi to Spokane, Washington (two hours north) for a better selection of flights as Spokane has a much larger airport. If you choose to shuttle to Spokane.
Drive to Cambridge, Idaho and arrange for the Frontier Motel to shuttle your vehicle north while you are on the river.
Plan to arrive in Cambridge in time for the 8:00 pm Orientation meeting.
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 cost to have the vehicle shuttled to Whitebird is $110 (not including fuel). If you have your car shuttled to the Pittsburg Landing the cost is $145.
On all 5- or 6-day trips and some 4-day trips, your car will be shuttled to Lewiston for $200. If you decide to get your car shuttled to the take out at Heller Bar you will need to have a Washington State Discover Pass. If your flight arrives later than 4:00 pm into Boise, you have two options:
Rent a car and drive two hours to Cambridge. Then have it shuttled to the ending point of the trip, as per the above paragraph.
Take an airport shuttle from Boise to Cambridge. Contact either Boise City Taxi at 208-377-3333 or use 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.
ROW makes this easy... You bring the clothes you want to wear at camp and on the river. Then, once you make a reservation ROW will send you a complete packing list. ROW provides the camping equipment, food, and beverages.
On many of our summer trips, frequent swimming leaves you feeling clean. For those who want to soap up, we always do so well above the river's high water line (not even "bio-degradable" soap goes in the river). We also take sun-showers on many of our trips and the hot water is great for shampooing and taking a sponge bath. Buckets of river water help with the process.
At each camp we set up a special, private tent with a portable toilet inside, which works just like yours at home, without the flush. This is available from the time we get to camp until we leave the next morning. The views from our toilet locations are simply inspiring. Nearby we set up a handwashing system. During the day, liquid waste goes in the river by simply wading into the water or going for a swim. A day-use toilet is available too for solid waste. If you have any other questions or concerns please call our adventure consultants.
For feminine hygiene, come prepared with some small zip-lock bags. These are useful for disposal during the day while on the river and can be put into our trash containers at camp. Along with our toilet supplies, ROW will have extra pads and tampons available. Using portable toilets allows us to carry out all human waste.
Yes! Everyone on a ROW trip wears a Coast Guard-approved PFD (personal flotation device). These are designed to keep you afloat in the event that you find yourself in the river. Many non-swimmers go on rafting trips and they have a great time. It is more important that you are not afraid of the water. Non-swimmers should not go on class IV+ or class V trips. Please call us if you have any concerns about this.
All our guides are certified in first aid and river rescue. Many have had advanced training specific to the wilderness environment in which we operate and are certified as Wilderness First Responders or Emergency Medical Technicians. Thus we are able to cope with most on-river accidents. If in our judgment, evacuation is deemed necessary we have several options depending on weather and our location. Sometimes we are near remote ranches or roads that we can use to evacuate. We carry a satellite telephone along with a GPS on trips lasting three or more days. (Cell phones don't work in the remote areas where we travel.) We can use these to contact emergency transport, including helicopters. Evacuation, if needed, can take from as little as a couple of hours to as many as 24 hours, or in extreme cases, longer than this depending on the situation, weather and location.
What should I do if I fall out of the boat? Before you go on any trip you'll be given extensive instructions on what to do if you fall in and how to float in the river. Believe it or not, many people love falling out of the boat. It's exciting. But it can be disorienting and a little overwhelming at first. Many people have taken multiple trips and never fallen in. Some people fall out on their first trip. Follow your guide's instructions and your "swim" could be the most exciting part of your trip!
It's important to drink plenty when you're outdoors so ROW provides fresh drinking water at all times. In camp, there's also juice, herbal tea, black tea, coffee, and cocoa. We provide two complimentary sodas and two beers per person, per day and complimentary wine with dinner. If you wish to bring more sodas, beer, or other alcoholic drinks to enjoy in the evening, bring them along. We'll have cocktail ice.
If you're riding in an oar-powered raft on one of our multi-day trips then you can fish between the rapids during the day. We also offer special fishing trips.
Absolutely! You will want to capture the stunning scenery. A waterproof camera with extra batteries and a memory card is highly recommended. While many guests use their smartphones, please realize you will not have cell service or power source for charging and we highly recommend a waterproof case. Portable power banks are a great source for recharging.