White water rafting trip tricks, tips, packing advice, recipes, and general river talk for river trips in Hells Canyon on the Snake River, Lower Salmon Rivers and beyond:
When we got back from our most recent adventure, I couldn’t wait to sit down and share the experience with our readers! America’s Rafting Company set out on Sunday Morning to take a group backpacking in the Seven Devils Mountains here in Idaho, in fact the trail head is just about an hour away from our back door (how lucky are we!). This trip gave us such great joy and appreciation that it’s going to be hard to fit it all into one post!
We are one of two Outfitters in Idaho that have a backpacking permit in the Seven Devils Mountains. We have a specific route that we can hike down to the Snake River and float out of the canyon on rafts, rather than having to back track. It’s one of the most unique trips that we offer. It happens to be one of my favorites as well. I have been backpacking for many years now, I love the simplicity of backpacking. It’s a very minimalist sport and I love that whatever I bring in to the wilderness is packed in by me. There is hardly any impact on the environment and I can travel to places so beautiful that not many people get to see.
Backpacking the Seven Devils Mountains is not a trip for the faint of heart, you have to have some really good, broke in hiking boots, a lot of will power and some humor to get you through the long days spent on the trail. If you can get all of that together and put some supplies in a pack, then I promise that anytime spent hiking in the Seven Devils will not be wasted. You will be in awe of the peaks and valleys and alpine lakes. It’s a trip that was on my bucket list for a long time and each time I visit the Devils, I think of another stretch of the trail to add to my bucket list, in fact, the trails have become a permanent fixture on my list. I am counting down the days until our next trip.
In next week’s post, I will write about some of the basics of the trails and the geography and landmarks involved.
Until next time, here are some pictures…
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.
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.
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.
We float the Salmon River, the Snake River in Hells Canyon and the Owyhee River. This past weekend we floated the Salmon River with a great group of people. The night before we put our boats on the water, the air was very chilly- not really what you’d expect at the end of June. But, looking at the forecast, we knew Mr. Sun was working up to a big weekend. The temperatures were predicted to be in the high 90’s low 100’s. When the mercury peaks that high, there’s one place that we like to be- on the river!
As we rigged our boats, the sun beat down on us, it was quite a contrast from before, but thankfully we had the refreshing water of the Salmon River right in front of us, and cooling off was just a short dip or quick wade away. Once the boats were ready and everyone was loaded into them we set off on a memorable Salmon River Whitewater Rafting trip.
There are four canyons on this section of the Lower Salmon River- Green Canyon, Blue Canyon, Show Canyon and Cougar Canyon. All these steep canyons offer amazing solitude rarely seen in this day and age with no road access or trails your only option is by boat.We float Green Canyon on our one day trips, and in order to experience the other two canyons, we recommend planning at least a 4 day, though ideally 5 day trip. The river corridors in Idaho are rich with history, and the Salmon River is no exception of that. Some of the most detailed and well preserved pictographs are located on the Salmon River. For most pictographs, there are a couple of figures, usually very simple in nature, but there is one pictograph on this river that has so much detail and design, you really have to stop and ponder what the meaning of it is. Taking a Salmon River Whitewater Trip is the best way to see the well preserved history, as the canyon walls are very steep, making it difficult to hike in.
Along with great history, the Salmon River presents some great whitewater! There are many class II rapids with calm, fun waves, there are also a couple of class III and IV rapids that can really get your blood pumping, then there is one single class V rapid that can give you quite the thrill! This is a very elusive rapid, as it’s deemed un-runnable at certain high water flows, yet at low water flows it’s barely a ripple in the river! This past weekend the flow was right around 14,000 cubic feet/second so it was perfect! It wasn’t anything that was going to knock us out of the boats, and was just a long wave train of big roller coaster rapids. We scouted the rapid, The Slide, just to be safe and certain that we knew the safest run.
*This is a shot taken with out Go Pro, entering Snow Hole Rapid.
All in all it was a great trip, with great people. We enjoyed hot summer days, white sandy beaches to camp on, outstanding dutch oven cooking, enough whitewater to make anyone smile and just that general idea of being on “river time”.
Typically, people booking our trips plan months in advance, it’s not exactly something you can drop what your doing and the next day take off on a 3-Day whitewater trip. Some diligence, questioning and lots of preparation goes into it. However, that’s not always reality. I have always been a last minute planner, I can’t foresee what’s coming in my life for much further than two weeks out. That has always been the case for me, except when it comes to booking trips for our company, that I can do up to two years in advance, the nitty gritty may not be planned out, but the general outline is there. That comes with the territory I suppose, but it also takes some of the rush in packing and the thrill in knowing in just a few short hours, your plans went from another mundane day to a fun filled adventure! So, when we got a call last Sunday afternoon from someone interested in a Salmon River rafting trip for the very next day, I was thrilled, it was crunch time!
Parker was doing some yard work and I was working on that weeks blog post, when he came dashing up the stairs and said, “Hey, I just booked a Salmon River rafting trip for tomorrow!” I was sure he was joking and told him he wasn’t getting out of yard work that easily! He assured me that he did in fact book a trip, and I needed to call her to work out all the details and get payment. So, I did and we were set, plans were made to meet them for coffee in the morning to give our pre-trip safety talk and we’d be off down the river! In our warehouse, we have a general supply of food and treats for trips, but we always have shopping to do the day before to get things like bread, meat, cheese and fresh fruit, so we headed up the canyon and grabbed what we needed for the day.
In less time than it takes to mow the lawn, we had the cooler packed, the boat blown up and life jackets loaded. We even had time to finish our yard work and blog post. When you go rafting for a living, packing and unpacking becomes second nature, being married, we have been together long enough that we can work together quickly and efficiently to get the job at hand done!
So, the next morning, we had a cup of coffee with some great folks from Texas, they were in Idaho for the annual Weiser Fiddle Festival. They were very talented folks and we were thankful to spend the day floating the river and getting to know them. The Salmon River rafting trip went off without a hitch, we had a great lunch enjoyed riverside and the weather was perfect- not too hot and not too cold, but just right! So, the next time you are looking for a last minute adventure in Idaho, be sure to call us because it’s nice to mix it up every now and then, come float through the Green Canyon of the Salmon River!
See you on the river…
We live in New Meadows, ID. There are mountains, streams, rivers and valleys that seem to go on for eternity. There is one little stream that has had our attention for years, folks ’round here call it the Little Salmon River, it’s an eye-catching little river that runs along Hwy 95. The larger Salmon River flows unencumbered throughout Idaho, in fact it is the longest free flowing river in North America, meaning that there are no dams or other man-made features that hinder or alter the river’s natural course. But, enough about the Salmon River, that is another post all in it’s own right. Let’s get back to the Little Salmon, which we have been eyeing for quite some time, we’ve heard stories told that many people have floated it, but we had never had the pleasure of launching our boat on the water that flows right through our little piece of heaven of earth- Meadows Valley.
We have tried a couple of times, without success to organize a float, but hadn’t actually made it happen until recently. In fact, we (along with many close river guide friends) spent Easter Sunday afternoon scouting the river to see what it had to offer in terms of Idaho whitewater rafting.
The river is fed by snow melt off, it rages in the spring and very early summer and then slows down to a small stream in late summer and early fall, so our window of opportunity to find the perfect flow was small. For all of the rivers that we float, we keep an eye on their flow, we had been watching this flow all spring and when we scouted it on Easter Sunday, it was at 1700 cfs (cubic feet per second) that flow was definitely do-able, but with a little more water it would have been just right for us to take a raft down.
On a Tuesday morning in early June, Parker and I were working in the office, getting some mailers out to past/present/future guests, and we got a call from a friend of ours, they were in town, had their boats loaded and were headed to our warehouse. That was the call we had been waiting to make and here it was, knocking at our door, the time had come to float the Little Salmon River, the flow was just right, the air was warm and we had plenty of well trained, professional river guides to share the river with. What a great way to spend a Tuesday! Parker and I hurriedly got our boats loaded, grabbed our dry suits, life jackets, throw ropes and our faithful river dog, Scout and headed down the road.
A short drive later (15 minutes from our back door) we were at the river and rigging boats. In our group, we had two different types or water craft: two rafts and two inflatable kayaks, there were 7 of us and 3 dogs. We were set.
One of the crew had floated the river a few weeks earlier and for the rest of us, it was our maiden voyage. We decided to set out with one raft in the lead, the two kayaks in between and our raft pulling up the rear.
We all stayed close together and kept a watchful eye on each other. We knew that this was a small river, packed with some of the best Idaho whitewater rafting! It is a narrow river, with a lot of rocks, rapids and no time for regrets. Once we launched, we quickly realized that this was not a leisurely float, this was an all-in-intense ride. We kept our eyes down river and each man on the oars had to make quick decisions. This river drops at 75 feet per minute, meaning that the water moves quick, much quicker than the larger rivers we spend most of our time on. The Snake and the Salmon rivers are both classified as large pool and drop rivers, where you’ll charge through a rapid, and then have a large pool to slowly meander through. The Little Salmon River was all rapids, no rest. We were able to pull over a couple times to catch our breath and dry out a bit, but once we got back on the water we were drenched from head to toe, hearts pounding making sure that each stroke of the oars counted.
I don’t mean to make it sound scary, but this was an extreme little stretch of river that should only be approached by very experienced boaters and luckily for us, a large part of our group of friends are all river guides and have been for years, so we floated along without any mishaps and had a great time. At some point during the day, we each said, “I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to float this” and my favorite quote from the day was “gosh, this little river is packed with adventure!” So, the next time you are driving north on Highway 95, through New Meadows and on into Riggins, look to the side and you’ll see the Little Salmon River, that is the stretch that we floated and can’t wait to so it again next Spring.
See you on the river…
In honor of our first blog post, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the team at America’s Rafting Company. We are an Idaho Rafting Company based in Central Idaho. We are very excited to be entering into this platform for reaching our readers. We have a lot of plans and visions for this blog and hope that with each post it gets better and better. The ability to research and become educated on various topics is limitless in this day and age of computers and the web, we plan to present ideas, tips and tricks, reviews and share our trips with you here. We would like to be a trusted source for all the various adventurers that the northwest has to offer. Whether you’re wanting an honest review of a new life jacket, or to get a sense of what a trip down the Salmon River will be like, this will be a great place to see some pictures, read some fun stories and get a feel for who we are and what we represent.
Enough about the blog, here’s a little about us. I will start with myself since I am writing the blog. My name is Becky, I grew up in Winnemucca, NV. I was involved in all kinds of activities from 4-H to basque dancing. After graduating I went to the University of Nevada, Reno and then California State Chico. It was in Chico that I was first introduced to Whitewater Rafting. I went on some trips with friends, and thought “hey, this rafting stuff is sure a lot of fun!” So after I graduated I moved back home to Winnemucca and found Parker (more on that later).
Parker Arrien also grew up in Winnemucca, NV. He went to the same high school as I, but led a different path after graduation. Unlike Becky, Parker was introduced to Rafting at a very young age, his family has been enjoying Idaho Whitewater Rafting since 1985. Parker attended Idaho State University in Pocatello and was a river guide during the summers. When Parker was done with school at ISU, he moved back to Winnemucca and found me.
Once Parker and I found each other it was just a matter of time before they started making plans for their future, and moving to Idaho was never left out of the conversation. So, one day we decided to make the big move North. We have set up our home base and warehouse in Meadows Valley (which in our opinion is the most beautiful spot in the world) see for yourself…
So, there you have it, Parker and Becky are excited about this new chapter and look forward to sharing it with you through this great thing we call the internet.