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:
We just returned yesterday from a 3-day Hells Canyon trip. We had a great time, great weather and great guests- you could say we are pretty grateful for our work and our public lands in which we get to recreate. Spring time in Hells Canyon means many things: wildflowers, cool mornings, hot afternoons, blossoms, high water, snake river fishing, solitude, serenity and the list goes on. Spring is one of our favorite seasons for boating- and the weather in Hells Canyon is surprisingly great! And with all that combined, there is something very interesting that happens at the take-out: Pittsburgh Landing, each year. A very elaborate scheme with a dozen or so holding tanks, generators, pumps and even a full time employee moves in starting in February and stays until about April. The fall Chinook Salmon are being acclimated to the river’s water in order to be released. The pumps bring river water up and into the tanks where 500,000+ salmon are swimming, waiting for the big realease in order to improve the Snake River fishing population.
Because of the dams, the fish have a very hard time making it back up the Snake River. At one time in history, the Snake River housed the world’s second largest Salmon Run (second of course to Alaska). Since the dams were put in, the Salmon run is highly regulated and very costly. CLICK HERE for a well done report from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. If you don’t want to read the whole report, here are some of the highlights specifically referring to the Pittsburgh Landing site. If you’re lucky enough to see the Snake River fishing acclimation site in Spring, knowing why it’s there is really quite helpful, so read on for more information.
1996 Operation of the Pittsburg Landing Acclimation Facility (Project 199801005) began with a total of 114,000 fall chinook yearling acclimated and released. Adult fall chinook salmon passage over Lower Granite Dam: 1308 adults – 424 jacks 1997 Pittsburg Landing and Big Canyon (Project 199801008) acclimation facilities were operated with 345,000 yearlings and 253,000 sub-yearlings acclimated and released. Pittsburg Landing released 147,000 yearlings and Big Canyon 198,000 yearlings and 253,000 sub-yearlings. Funding for operations and maintenance provided directly from BPA starting in 1997. Adult fall chinook salmon passage over Lower Granite Dam: 1451 adults – 504 jacks
1998 Pittsburg Landing, Big Canyon and Capt. John Rapids acclimation facilities operated with 336,000 yearlings acclimated and released. Pittsburg Landing released 142,000, Big Canyon 61,000 and Capt. John Rapids 133,000. Adult fall chinook salmon passage over Lower Granite Dam: 1909 adults – 2002 jacks 1999 All three acclimation facilities operated with 530,000 yearling and 670,000 sub-yearling fish acclimated and released. Pittsburg Landing released 143,000 yearlings, Big Canyon 230,000 yearlings and 347,000 sub-yearlings and Capt. John Rapids 157,000 yearlings and 323,000 sub-yearling fish. Adult fall chinook salmon passage over Lower Granite Dam: 3384 adults – 1863 jacks
2000 All three acclimation facilities operated with 397,000 yearlings and 2,182,000 subyearlings acclimated and released. Pittsburg Landing released 135,000 yearlings and 399,000 sub-yearlings; Big Canyon 131,000 yearlings and 890,000 sub-yearlings; Capt. John Rapids 131,000 yearlings and 893,000 sub-yearlings. Adult fall chinook salmon passage over Lower Granite Dam: 3602 adults – 7112 jacks
2001 All three acclimation facilities operated with 327,000 yearlings and 1,732,000 subyearlings acclimated and released. Pittsburg Landing released 104,000 yearlings and 374,000 sub-yearlings; Big Canyon 113,000 yearling and 856,000 sub-yearlings; Capt. John Rapids 102,000 yearlings and 501,000 sub-yearlings.
April showers bring May flowers, right? Well in Hells Canyon- the nation’s deepest canyon, the wildflowers start popping up in March/April. So, getting a little Snake River rafting action in April means that there will be wildflowers galore! The weather is also very mild and it can offer a much needed “Spring Break” from the constant fluctuation in weather that an Idaho spring time can bring. So, when asked to take some guests into Hells Canyon for some shed hunting and lots of hiking, we of course said yes! We were ready to get in and see that marvelous Snake River rafting canyon in all it’s glory.
The plan was for a 4-day 3-night Snake River rafting trip. The guys were taking only one boat: Babe the Big Blue Ox and would plan on rowing downriver at a pretty good speed in order to get from one spot to the next. The guests would be hiking and shed hunting, in hopes of finding all the recently dropped elk and deer antlers. The morning of the launch was very chilly, in fact there was frost on the boat as we poured our second cup of coffee before heading out to load up in the truck. The drive into the canyon started in the dark, but we knew that once we dropped into the Snake River the temperature would start to climb, making the water seem just a bit more friendly. When at the ramp, we waited patiently for the sun to make it’s appearance (the Canyon walls are very steep, meaning it takes a bit for Mr. Sun to shine down) but once the sun hit us, the day was off to a great start!
The crew hit the water in a hurry and headed down river, they had places to hike and sheds to see. I was voted in as the shuttle driver, so I enjoyed my leisurely drive back to the Boat Shop and then 3 days later headed out in the early afternoon to pick the trip up from Pittsburgh Landing. The drive to Pittsburgh is quite possibly my favorite shuttle- you get to see so much beautiful country and on the way home hear about all the Snake River rafting, it’s almost as good as being on the trip! But, somebody has to drive and I don’t mind one bit! The trip was a success, the guys got lots of sheds, not as many as they had hoped. The sheds (and the wildlife) is seated very high in the canyon right now, we didn’t get as much snow as normal, so the animals weren’t pushed as far down into the canyon as we would have liked. But, that’s ok, the trip was great, the weather was good and there were only a few blisters due to the extreme gains in elevation (the guys were hiking to about 6,500 feet) a couple times per day.
There you have it, first trip of the season was a success, we’ve got the bug and are now more ready than ever for summer to get here!
Have you ever had one of those weekends that is so full of yard work and projects, you’re ready for Monday to come just for a break!?! Ya, we had one of those weekends! It was full of all kinds of projects, such as digging the new boat house’s dirt floor out, replacing it with road base, pulling strings across to make sure it’s levels and then packing it down with what I think is a jackhammer with a large footprint on the bottom (although, I’m sure that there’s a more technical term) Anyways, this rafting company was busy getting the boat shop ready for the concrete truck to show up this week.
Now, I know you’re wondering what we did with all that dirt? Oh, you weren’t wondering that, but you are now! Well, since you asked, we dropped it in a huge pile and then carefully and mostly pain-stakingly screened it one wheel barrow full at a time to dump into our new raised beds. My word, those silly little raised beds wanted a lot of dirt! It was quite the process, but now we have 4 raised beds full of dirt and awaiting plants. Although it’s still a bit cold for this rafting company to be transplanting tender young plants. That is a chore for another beautiful weekend around the warehouse. We’ll soon have fresh lettuces, beans and fingers crossed: tomatoes on our rafting trips! For now, I will keep checking the little seedlings posted up in the window, basking in the warm sunshine!
Hope your weekend was great and spent outside, even if it involved shoveling dirt and chores!
Spring has sprung here in Idaho and we couldn’t be happier! The snow is melting, the trees are waking up from their slumber, birds are singing and there first hints of flowers are blooming. It’s a very exciting and beautiful time in Idaho. Spring is so refreshing, everything is new and fresh, bright and shiny- I love shiny! But, what I love even more is being that much closer to our white water river rafting season. I’ve been editing photos from this past summer, getting our media and information updated, and seeing all the previous photos has really given me a hankering for a river trip! White water river rafting here in Idaho is on it’s way, but before we get there, we still have some things to get done around the shop and on our calendar.
Our summer is booking quickly, which is amazing, we’re very excited! A busy summer will mean that we need to be prepared, all of our ducks better be in a row, as they say. So, we’ll spend the rest of Spring getting our gear in tip top shape, updating some of our equipment, streamlining our packing and unpacking process and prepping our guides quarters for their arrival. Phew, good thing the days are getting longer and the temperatures are warming up, that will make for a smooth transition from Spring to white water river rafting season, AKA: Summer!! Best season of all, if you ask me! Now, here are some images of Spring in light of today’s date:
In recent light of Friday the 13th, I decided to write a post about rituals and suspicions on the river. Of course, there is all the folklore and myth surrounding Friday the 13th, I am not a superstitious person, so my day went off without a hitch. I’ve never been one to avoid walking under a ladder, black cats don’t spook me when the cross my path and I have been known to open an umbrella inside, you know, to tempt fate I suppose. But, when it comes to whitewater rafting trips, or just being outside in the elements in general, there’s always a bit of risk involved, many things outside are out of our control, we have to leave the fate of the day up to someone else, who or what that is, depends on the person.
When planning any kind of trip- whether it’s an afternoon hike or multi-day whitewater rafting trips, we tend to pay attention to certain things: the weather is one of the most important, and it’s 100% out of our control. We’ll need to know what kind of gear to bring or what kind of clothes to pack. Along with that there are many people with superstitions, maybe you might see an incoming rain shower as bad luck and postpone the hike for another day, maybe weather has nothing to do with it, maybe your lucky hiking boots are looking a bit under the weather and going hiking in a new pair of shoes is bad luck. On Friday the 13th, I conducted a poll, it was quite scientific in nature. I asked a couple of fellow river guides (one may or may not have been my husband) what kind of superstitions, rituals or lucky charms they have when it comes to the river.
Their answers were unique: Parker has a Seminole Indian Doll that has lived in his personal box for many years now, she stays put and so far his rafts do too. He was given the doll during a whitewater rafting trips years ago by a Tribal Leader from the Seminole Indian Tribe. She’s been his good luck charm! Another friend of ours told me that he marks his personal box for all the whitewater rafting trips he’s done. On the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, he waits until after Velvet Falls to make the mark and on Hells Canyon, he’ll mark the box after running through Granite Creek Rapids. I’m not sure how many marks he has, but he’s been guiding for many years, so I’m sure it’s a lot! I personally don’t have any good luck charms, but when scouting a rapid, I always pop a peice of chewing gum into my mouth. I think it’s more of a nervous habit than anything else, but it’s still my thing. What say you, anyone else have any rituals, superstitions, lucky rabbit’s feet, when they go outside? Do tell!
This post is more than just a weekend review, it’s a 3 week vacation review.
It may be a challenge to get it all in one post, so here goes… Parker and I have gone on vacation together, but it’s always been pretty local- the Oregon Coast is our favorite spot, in fact the ocean in general is our favorite. Being born and raised inland, the ocean forever will be awe-inspiring to me and a little terrifying- it’s so darn big! Anyways, we had been talking about traveling for quite some time and were lucky enough to take a lot of people rafting last summer that had travelled the world so we always asked where their favorite place had been. After a lot of consideration, we knew a couple things: we wanted to go somewhere totally different from Idaho, we wanted somewhere warm (we would be traveling in Febrauary) we wanted good food and to go somewhere that our dollar was strong. That led us to Thailand! We would be able to dive, snorkel, swim, lounge, eat good food and do it on the cheap!
Parker got me plane tickets for my birthday last year, so it was just a matter of selecting the location and the dates and we did that early winter and started marking the days off on the calendars. Working for yourself has it’s ups and downs, we dodn’t have to ask for the time off, but worried about being gone for 3 weeks away from the office. We chose to go in the slowest month for America’s Rafting Company and the month that cabin fever seems to have it’s largest hold: February. We set off to Boise on February 10th, met Parker’s mom, aka, Scout’s guardian, in Boise for dinner and handed him off. He was headed to Nevada to run and play at his “grandparents” and we were headed off across the international date line to a land unknown. Our dear friends and fellow rafting guides dropped us off at the airport early on the 11th and we loaded up in the big plane. 2 hours later we were in San Francisco, 10 hours later we were in Tokyo and another 7 hours later we were in Bangkok. We were exhausted and ready for sleep and a shower when we arrived and after a tussle with a taxi driver and finding a room for the night we could barely contain our excitement. When morning came (not many hours later) we set off on foot outside our hotel, hoping for inspiration and some food. We found a coffee and a street vendor with some meat and rice, then decided it was time to pack our packs and head into the heart of Bangkok. We got another taxi to the nearest train station, crossed our fingers and hopped onto the sky train. Soon enough, we were at Hua Lampoong, the central Bangkok train station where we would board a train and head south to the islands. We elected to ride the night train, as it would take about 12 hours and we wouldn’t need a hotel for that night. We were able to reserve a sleeping car for about $8, we had bunk beds, a sink, table and electricity, what more could we need? That was one of my favorite modes of transportation, and believe me, by the end of the trip we had taken all of them. When we arrived at our destination- near the islands, but not quite, we boarded a bus which we suspected would take 2 hours to get to Krabi, it ended up taking 7 with a lot of stops and worried travelers in between, but we eventually made it safe and sound! We finally got to see the ocean we had travelled so far for. It was amazing turquoise blue water, warm and tropical. Nothing like our rivers we go rafting on at home- the water was incredibly calm and serene.
Our first couple nights in Southern Thailand, we spent in Ao Nang. We rented a little bungalow on the beach and figured out very quickly that we’d need to get a motor bike rented if we were going to see the island. Luckily the bungalows had one that we could rent, so the first morning we set off into town to find some food, we came upon the famous banana pancake, maybe more suited for desert, but amazingly tasty none the less. The Thai pancake is a very thin dough with some sort of filling that is fried to a crisp and wrapped up, we tried everything from bananas to mango to ham and cheese, they were quick convenient and portable: like much of the food in Thailand. From there we explored as much of Ao Nang as we could, we loved our motor bike and couldn’t have done as much as we did without it. After a couple of days in Ao Nang, we boarded the ferry and headed out for our next destination: Koh Lanta. When we arrived in Koh Lanta we fell in love with the laid back markets, people and restaurants. More on Koh Lanta to follow next week.
Sometimes I feel like the Salmon River experience is often forgotten about, or Hells Canyon shines a little brighter than the Salmon. Perhaps that’s because of the Hells Canyon’s fame or it’s depth, or it’s elusiveness, I’m not sure. But, that doesn’t mean that the Salmon River experience should be any less talked about or bragged on, but maybe that’s why I love it so much, it’s sort of the unsung hero of river trips. The Salmon River experience is quite different from Hells Canyon.
Probably the number one reason the Salmon River experience is so different is the sand! White, hot sandy beaches. It’s a love hate kind of relationship. There is something magical about a beach, then mix that with being in the back country and the fact that you had to take a raft to get there and that beach becomes even more magical! It’s a great feeling when you park the boat on the beach, kick off your shoes and don’t need them again until the next morning. But, the sand can be rather invasive, it will stick to anything and you’ll find sand in at the bottom of your bag long after the trip is over. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I pulled a pair of shoes out that I haven’t worn since fall and had to dump out the sand in them from the Salmon River. I got a kick out of it and I longed for the sandy beaches again- soon enough the Salmon River experience will come flooding back.
Another thing that stands out when I think about the Salmon River experience is the rapids- there are so many class II and III rapids that make the river a great candidate for kayaking! They’re just big enough to get your adrenaline rushing, but not too big that you can’t conquer them and feel like a world class kayaker! There are those class IV rapids that you have to watch out for, but the guides will let you know when they’re coming up and if you’re feeling up to the challenge, you can definitely run them in a kayak!
As the longest running un-dammed river in North America, the Salmon River experience is enhanced even more. Our country was dam happy for many years and built many dams throughout our entire river system. In fact, we (as a country) are now going through some initiatives to break dams down and restore our rivers to what they were. The dams were installed for various reasons, most of which was hydro-power, some were installed for flood control and others installed for aesthetic or recreational reasons. The Salmon River has none. Not one single dam, so when enjoying the Salmon River experience, you can rest easy knowing that the river has flown unencumbered in a natural state. The Salmon River flows into the Snake River and there are dams on the lower Snake that prevent many of the salmon and steelhead from making their runs back to spawning grounds. Some fish do still make it back up, so when you’re lucky enough to go Salmon or Steelhead fishing and catch one, you know that the fish had a very long and exhausting journey. It’s an awesome feat to catch a huge native Steelhead, which further enhances the Salmon River Experience!
Recently I got a new pack. I am adamant about the old mantra “You get what you pay for” and I know that holds true for outdoor gear. In beginning my search to find the perfect pack, I had a couple features in mind that I wouldn’t go without, things that make backpacking more efficient for me. I began my search on Amazon- I love to read the customer reviews! I have always been one do my research on a new purchase, especially one that’s going to cost me a bit of money. I am sure that someone searching for the best white water rafting has a similar outlook in mind. They want to read the reviews of past guests, to see what they said, whether it was good or bad, what the company excelled at and of course, was the trip really the best white water rafting?
Well, I am here to tell you that reviews are a big part of our summer, we love to hear from our guests when things went well on their trip and even if things didn’t go so well. We need to be sure that we’re providing the best possible trip for our guests. So, we take our reviews seriously and put into practice any suggestions that we get. So, without further adieu, here are some of the reviews that our guests emailed to us this year:
From Annie- Seven Devils & Hells Canyon
SERIOUS thank you’s to all of you guys. Your warm and spirited zest for life and the river made our trip outstanding!
From Amanda- Salmon River
I cannot stop talking about it and I am so bummed to be home. I loved how organized and well planned the whole trip was. You and Parker have a wonderful company. I can only hope your guides enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them. We are already planning for next year and have a few others that want to join! I will keep in touch for plans! Thank you again and I hope you guys have a wonderful summer.
From Joe- Hells Canyon
Thank you for a great trip, the food and service was beyond compare. You have an awesome crew.
From Marty- Hells Canyon
I wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the trip and especially getting to know you and Parker. Maybe you shouldn’t tell Parker that second part, you know how he can get! 🙂 It was so great how you all made the trip fun and kept it all safe.
The reviews go on, but those were a few that we got this year.
So, you can see that the best white water rafting has to be in Idaho (we do have more white water miles than any other state in the lower 48) and we are lucky enough to get so share the best white water rafting with our guests!
Take me to the river…
Happy Valentine’s Day, ya’ll! Did you know that a Salmon River rafting trip can be just as romantic as a fancy dinner in an expensive restaurant? I would argue that any date spent outside is sure to be more memorable than one spent in a tired movie theater or same old restaurant. But, maybe that’s just me, good thing I’m shacked up with an outdoorsy dude. One of my favorite Salmon River rafting trips that we’ve done happened a couple years ago and it had some very special circumstances surrounding it, which made for an amazing trip!
I was contacted by a relative wanting to buy a gift certificate for a newlywed couple. They were to spend their honeymoon in McCall and the gift certificate was a gift for them. We talked the relatives into buying them a candlelight cruise, rather than just a typical 1-day rafting trip. It was so fun! The newly weds had been spending their honeymoon week mountain biking, hiking and dining in the great town of McCall, their Salmon River rafting trips was one of the last things that they were going to do before heading back home and starting their life together as a married couple. We met them at Hammer Creek Recreation area late in the afternoon, rather than our normal 9 am departure. The couple floated and fished, hiked and swam- they even jumped off the log! It was a great afternoon, then when the sun was thinking about setting, we found a great spot for dinner, set up a table on the river’s edge and served a four course meal- it was fabulous!
So, whatever you do on this Valentine’s Day- be sure to spend some time outside with your Valentine. A little fresh air and sunshine is sure to set anyone in a good valentine-y mood! I don’t have plans today be Salmon River rafting today, but if it were a little warmer, I probably would!