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Hells Canyon Whitewater Rafting: The Canyon’s History


Lately we’ve been talking all about the Salmon River, so let’s switch gears here and focus on a river that is close to my heart, in fact, it might just be my favorite river that we float. That’s not to say that I don’t love the running the Salmon or the Owyhee River’s or backpacking through the Seven Devils, it’s just that I feel like I know Hells Canyon better than any other river or trail out there. The familiarity with the river does not come just from charging it’s rapids and hiking it’s trails, it truly comes from the people, the history and the author’s that present the history of the canyon.

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Not only is the Hells Canyon Whitewater Rafting unsurpassed, but the rich history in the canyon is so well documented that it doesn’t take much research to get to know where the canyon came from and where it is headed. There are many books written about Hells Canyon, some of our favorites are Snake River in Hells Canyon by Carrey, Conley, Barton and Home Below Hells Canyon by Grace Jordon. The first book, Snake River in Hells Canyon is the ultimate guide to Hells Canyon, it is a book adored by most river guides and any river enthusiast with a peaked interest in the river and it’s history. The book starts out at with an introduction of the most notable figures involved in the river in many different capacities, from Captains to Ranchers, this book covers it all. After the introduction, the book follows the river, starting at Mile 1- Hells Canyon Dam and ending at Mile 81- Heller Bar. The authors highlight every creek, historical site, landmark and rapid along the way.

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I came to love the Canyon so much after one trip in particular. Parker and I decided to plan an 8 day Hells Canyon float trip. As outfitters in Hells Canyon, we hold a permit with the United States Forest Service, it is a prestigious permit to hold, as there are only 12 permits in existence. One way to preserve the Canyon’s beauty and history is by limiting the amount of people that are able to float the river during the peak season, so we are allocate 12 launch dates in from Memorial to Labor Day, which work out to be every 8 days. So, last summer, Parker and I had an early June launch date that we hadn’t filled, and my birthday was coming up, so we decided that we would plan a trip for the full 8 days and float from Hells Canyon Dam to Heller Bar (a trip that is usually done in 4 or 5 days). We started reading book at Mile 1 and continued as we passed each mile. We stopped and hiked up to each historical marker and took note of every landmark that we passed. We had each read the book, but never paid that much attention to the detail and matched the book up with each river mile. It was such a great experience, and have us so much more knowledge about the canyon, now when we float the river we can point out each landmark and share the story with our guests.

1 Comment

  1. Becky: We would like to possibility give Trent and Ariel a gift certificate to your Whitewater Rafting. Can you email us the prices and times.Thanks Bertha

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