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:
Phew, summer is just around the corner, almost time for some river rafting Idaho! We are down the days until we are on the water again! We’ve kept busy at river camp (our warehouse) in order to pass the time. It seemed as if we were in the dead of winter and summer was so far away, we didn’t need to hurry to catch up on anything, we had plenty of time to work on gear, get new ordered and finish up a couple of home improvement projects. Then one morning we woke up and Spring had quickly faded to the end of May and here we are, it’s Memorial Day Weekend and we are headed out to see Hells Canyon in the morning! Woohoo!
So, in order to prepare for our 2014 river rafting Idaho season, we had to make some big purchases this year. First and probably most exciting, we purchased some new AIRE boats! Parker was able to stop by the factory in Meridian and watch part of the production. It was an exciting day for America’s Rafting Company, knowing that a whole bunch of rubber was on it’s way to becoming so pretty-darn-good-looking boats! We even had AIRE place our website on the boats, that way everyone on the river will be able to read our web address and they’ll surely want to do a trip with hellscanyon.com next year!
A second purchase we made was our BRAND NEW VAN (imagine that in a Bob Barker, Price is Right) voice. Ok, so it’s not brand new, it’s only new to us, which is basically the same thing, right? In the past, we have hired shuttle companies and/or shuttled guest’s vehicles around to the take out. Which is costly and inconvenient, so Parker spent the better part of the winter on Craigslist (that man can find some deals on Craigslist!) and finally landed on a Ford Van with a brand new motor, it’s in great shape and has very low miles, it was perfect! We headed down to Boise on a rainy afternoon and picked the beauty up. I have written about some of our adventures in the van, but not actually the purchase of the van. So, this season, we’ll be able to pick up our guests at the hotel the morning of the trip and head down the road, all excited and rearing to go river rafting Idaho! Woohoo! (this post is filled with a lot of woohoo’s)
We have gotten some more new gear, which I will share about next week, right now, I am off to finish up some last minute touches on the river kitchen in the guide house. Then pack for a quick Hells Canyon trip tomorrow. River Rafting Idaho is the best!
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
See you on the river…
Last week, I posted about our visit to the Clearwater, Lochsa and Selway, so in this week’s post, I just wanted to finish that up and talk about a couple more things. Whitewater rafting in Idaho is definitely a must for us (especially since we do it everyday) but, we truly love every aspect of it and especially love exploring new rivers. Seeing those three rivers and getting to know more about them, has definitely gotten our wheels spinning. We are so excited to get back up there and spend some time whitewater rafting in Idaho!
While we were on our road trip, visiting some great areas of whitewater rafting in Idaho, we stopped by the hatchery. It was a great time of year to be there, they had just released some chinook salmon into the creek near the hatchery and had some more fish in the tanks that they would release this fall. It was great to see where they came from, how many fish they were releasing and what a great quality facility they have! In the picture of the tank below, the little black spots are salmon, the tanks were huge and there were about 40 of them all filled up like that one with little salmon!
The other thing we learned, while we were checking out other areas for whitewater rafting in Idaho, was about the great trail system along the Selway! The Selway River is one of the most pristine in the country! In terms of rafting, the USFS only allows 1 permit to launch per day, compare that to the 4 permits per day on the Snake River and 7 permits per day on the Middle Fork! The chances of a river trip coming across another river trip are very slim! The chances of drawing a permit to float the Selway are even more slim. But, backpacking along the well developed trail doesn’t take a permit, so it’s a great way to see the river, although some may consider it a lot less exciting. Here’s a photo of the trail system along the Selway River:
Whitewater rafting in Idaho is never a bad choice, no matter which area you choose! Come see America’s Rafting Company to get into the back country and visit Idaho’s premier river canyons!
See you on the river…
Idaho has more whitewater river miles than anywhere in the lower 48. Perhaps that’s why white water rafting in Idaho is an item on many people’s bucket list. Here at America’s Rafting Company, we are fortunate enough to run a couple of the major rivers in Idaho: the Snake River through Hells Canyon and the Salmon River. We, of course also run the Owyhee River and backpack in the Seven Devils, but most of our river miles are on the Snake and the Salmon. Just like many of you, we have a bucket list too! On our bucket list is comprised of traveling abroad, acquiring other river permits, visiting Alaska as often as possible and most recently: whitewater rafting the upper Selway River. We had never visited the Bitterroot Mountains, but have been dying to make a trip up there. It’s only about 2 1/2 hours away from base camp, so I’m not sure why we’ve put it off for so long (well, in our defense, we have been staying pretty busy white water rafting in Idaho) I can now say that seeing the Bitteroots and all that they hold, was well worth the wait. So, we hopped in the new van with our pooch and some sleeping bags and hit the open road. The weather was supposed to be great, a little rain here and there, but sunny otherwise and we had a couple days to spare. Maybe it was the final stretch of cabin fever that made us look for a getaway. Whatever the reason, I am thrilled we went! We had so much fun and can’t wait to go back! We headed north on 95, through Riggins, Whitebird and eventually turned in Grangeville and traveled towards the Clearwater River.
Without any true plan or itinerary, we were free to do what we wanted at our own pace. We spent some time exploring the Clearwater and watching people fish, it was a little rainy that afternoon, so we decided to keep on trekking in the van, out of the rain. After following the Clearwater for quite some time, we came to the confluence of all three rivers: the South Fork of the Clearwater, the Lochsa and the Selway, the rivers are merged into a migty force and become the Clearwater River. The confluence was quite amazing! After spending some time exploring there a bit, we decided to head up the Selway River to Selway Falls…. I will finish this post next week and talk about the trails, the Falls, the Steelhead and the magic of it all!
Idaho has some amazing fishing opportunities, from our world record tiger musky, to one of the best sturgeon fisheries in North America, we have a little bit of everything.
As much as I would love to list and talk about all the species in our creeks, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, streams, and ponds; I better stick to just one for the time being. The fish of much mystery and discussion that I refer to is the illusive Idaho Steelhead – thought to be one of the most challenging of sporting fish.
The Idaho Steelhead
These beautiful creatures that have navigated from the ocean, through 8 man made dams, and miles of river are not for the faint of heart. Catching one takes time patience, . . . more patience, . . . and did I mention patience? 🙂 Skill is also required but some days I think it could be chalked up to just pure luck – the right time, place, and lure all have to align. Not to mention the tides, horoscope, full moon and and some days even the color of your shoe laces.
But landing one of these beauties after makes all of it worth while – a challenging catch is a well deserved catch.
This Spring’s Steelhead Fishing season has been a bit of a challenge for us, our runs weren’t as high as we would typically like to see. The early high and murky water has made the water less than desirable for Steelhead Fishing.
Idaho Steelhead Fishing with America’s Rafting Company
Where to start? Well I guess with the boat. The boat that we use for Steelhead Fishing in fall and winter is typically a 17’ aluminum drift boat. Drift boats are preferred for many reasons but the main reason is the create less drag on the water making back stroking while side drifting a bit easier for the man on the sticks. Rafts can be used, buy they tend to stick to the top of the water which moves faster than the water below the surface, making for more of a backstroking challenge.
Our boat of choice is Hyde they are an Idaho Based company and provide excellent service.
For rods we have teamed up with TFO (Temple Fork Outfitters) in my opinion, these are the best rods for the money and are backed with a no fault warranty. As an outfitter their warranty is a saving grace, I just wish they would cover the rods that mange to slip right out of a clients hand into the bottom of the river! 🙂 Their casting and spinning rods have been designed by Gary Loomis – enough said! For fly fishing TFO offers darn near anything under the sun. As for reels, its hard to go wrong with a Shimonno. And as for what to put on the end of that line . . . well you’ll just have to book a Steelhead Fishing trip to see.
But, if you’re lucky enough to read this post, I will even give you a little insight on different steelhead fishing setups. Showing you my secret holes on a map, well, that is where I draw the line…
One of my favorite setups is drifting row and shrimp – this consists of 15lb high visual main line attached to a clip swivel. The clip will hold your weight. My preference in recent years has been the slinky (lead shot stuffed into parachute cord at various lengths), the weight will depend on river current. Slinky’s seem to not get hung up nearly as often as the traditional pencil lead. On the other side of the swivel barrel we attach 12lb flurocarbon leader of 18’’ to 36’’ inch length depending on water clarity, the clearer it is the longer you will want your leader. The hook is attached with an egg loop knot which will help secure your bait.
For bait, bay shrimp are always a decent bet. Whether they are dyed or not is up to you, but this is an especially productive choice in the fall. I have a lot of people ask me if there are shrimp in the river? The answer is NO, but they have fed off them in the ocean for so long that they have a hard time turning them down in the river – the Steelhead probably know better, but what a tasty treat!
As the winter progresses and the fish start to lay, eggs become the better choice – the fresher they are the better. Remember that Steelhead can travel thousands of miles on their sense of smell alone and old eggs or eggs that were not properly cured will send them running!
In high water it is nice to run some plugs out on braided line, 15lb braided is preferred as it is considerably smaller than mono filament, leaving the lure with less drag for better action. When steelhead fishing, hot shots are a must in these conditions, but kwik fish and wiggle warts can work as well. As for color I truly believe that the huge variety of colors is for the viewing pleasure of the fisherman, the Steelhead don’t care. Make sure your plugs are tuned and put some scent on them. At the end of the day be sure to clean them in some hot soapy water, as scents exposed to the elements have a tendency to break down and turn sour.
The most important thing when Steelhead Fishing is to have patience and spend plenty of time on the water. It helps to have your priorities a little screwed up as well, can you say Sick Day?
Here at America’s Rafting Company, we take people rafting for a living, but also love to go on our own rafting trips.
Usually we are able to take Spring and Fall rafting trips and squeeze in one or two Summer trips. In the Spring time, we especially love to take Owyhee River Rafting trips.
Parker and I grew up in Northern Nevada, so rafting the Owyhee is right in our backyard, relatively speaking. Ok, ok the Owyhee River is a whole lot closer to Winnemucca than the Snake or the Salmon River. So, taking a long weekend to enjoy an Owyhee River Rafting trip was a lot more feasible for us. Now that we live in Idaho, we are much closer to the Snake and the Salmon River, we don’t get to go Owyhee River Rafting nearly as much as we used to. This year, the guys were able to squeeze in an Owyhee River Rafting trip, this past weekend, and they has a great time!
The water on an Owyhee River Rafting trip can be a bit of a challenge, it is an early Spring run-off river, meaning that as soon as the snow melts, the rafting is on and you’d better hurry, or you’ll miss it. At least, that’s been the case in recent years with lower than normal snow fall. So, this trip was planned to be a lower water trip, the guys were prepared for lining boats and at worst, maybe having to portage some rapids. They ended up portaging more than anticipated, meaning they un-packed everything on the boats by hand, walked it down river below the rapid, then either had to disassemble the boat itself, or push, pull and pack it over the rocks, trails and whatever else may be in the way.
Typically, an Owyhee River Rafting trip does not turn out that way. In fact, when the guys headed out on the trip the river was flowing at well over 1500 cfs, the morning they launched it dropped down to 1300 cfs and by the time they got off the water, the river was flowing at 700 cfs. That’s a serious loss of water, it happened much more quickly than the guys thought it would. Looking back, I think they may have held off on their Owyhee River Rafting trip. But, of course anytime spent on the river is not wasted time. The guys were very likely the first humans to be in the river canyon this year and they caught sight of some amazing artifacts.
In Oregon, it is illegal to take or unearth any sort of Indian artifact. With the rain and snow over the winter and no one walking around the camps, the guys were able to spy some arrowheads sitting right on the surface of the sand, a pretty cool sight that not many get to see. They also found some sheds along the river bank. It is legal to take them, or at least rearrange for a great photo, like they did here:
All in all, it was a great Owyhee River Rafting trip- one for the record books!
We are checking in now that 2014 is 1/4 of the way through! It amazes me how fast time flies! We’ve had a whirlwind of a winter at the warehouse and are looking forward to Spring. Lately we’ve had a TON of rain here in Meadows Valley. That rain has led to some local flooding and rising rivers. The Salmon River is running at an un-seasonably high level right now! But, in between that rain, we’ve had little snippets of warm weather, which has got us itching to drag the boats out of storage and put some river miles between us and the warehouse. In fact, we’ve got an Owyhee River trip in the making right now- we may be seeing that river canyon by week’s end.
In other news, we are looking forward to our 2014 season! We are booking up quickly. We have some pretty cool trips on the books so far. Namely, a wine tasting trip with Idaho’s own I. If you are interested in a Hells Canyon Snake River trip and love wine, than this may be the trip for you!
Another exciting trip we are working on is a fishing clinic, set to launch late September. We are honored to have made the acquaintance of Dr. Rick Williams, Owner and Master Caster at Idaho Angler. We’ll cover all kinds of fishing tips and tricks and work on Spey Casting. Hells Canyon is the perfect river for that, as it is so wide and features some great beaches for a make-shift classroom. More details on that to come.
This winter we spent some time improving our guide’s quarters- we completed an additional 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a fishing room complete and might just have enough DIY spirit to complete a couple other projects before Summer hits. Our winter also brought some exciting winter adventures: skiing, snow-shoeing, ice fishing and even a little Steelhead fishing. We are in the middle of the Steelhead Season now, but with the water levels so high, things have been a little dicey. We’re hoping that with the warmer dryer forecast predicted, the river will go back down and we’ll be able to nail some Steelhead!
As always, we are constantly looking to grow our client list, so please forward this on to your contacts and if you know of a group that may benefit from a Rafting Idaho Trip, let us know! In the past we have worked with organizations such as the Boys Scouts of America, troubled youth groups, among others. We have a great passion for being outside and splashing in the cool river water- and we want to share that with you! Mention that you received this newsletter and get 15% off your trip !!!
See you on the river…
When meeting someone new, there is the inevitable question: What do you do?
Parker and I are very fortunate in that we get to tell people that we own an Idaho Rafting Company, America’s Rafting Company. After relaying that to a new acquaintance, there is often much discussion about what that entails, along with the inevitable question, “Well, what do you do in the winter?”. We have an ever-evolving answer to that question.
I imagine that people can picture us taking exotic vacations, lounging around the house, skiing all day, everyday, etc. The picture that they paint is a very exciting one that I wish was the truth. But, the truth is far from that. We really are very busy in the off-season.
On a typical year, we will start our season in late March with Steelhead Fishing, which then leads into rafting the Owyhee River (it’s an early season, spring run-off river). Then in April/May we will usually visit the Snake River in Hells Canyon for some Idaho Rafting. The canyon is so deep (the deepest in North America) that spring time, warm weather and wildflower blooms come much earlier than they do in other parts of the state.
Once June arrives, we begin our main season, floating through Hells Canyon with the kiddos out of school, things start to pick up quick. In late June, once the spring run-off has slowed a bit on the Salmon River, we can start frequenting it’s white sandy beaches. Throughout June, July, August and early September we run around like crazy from one river canyon to the other. It’s really quite exciting. When October hits we are back at it, with Chukar Hunting and Steelhead fishing through mid-November. At that point, the snow starts to fly and we pack up camp and put all the gear to bed for the winter.
Phew, that’s a long list of activity! It’s definitely enough to keep us busy. We use the winter months: December-March for a little R&R, but it’s mostly filled up with re-organizing for the upcoming season, marketing, updating the price list and the website, lots of blogging, lots of emails and lots of office work in general.
I’m not complaining though, our office is quite cozy, the woodstove is crackling near by and just outside the window, I can see Brundage Mountain Ski Resort and watch the snow fall. Life’s pretty good around here, but with all that snow falling, someone has to keep up on it, that leads me to these photos:
So, our answer to the question about what it is we do in the winter is work, just not the fun kind of work we do in the summer: no rafting, no dutch oven riverside cooking, no huge grocery shopping trips, no sandals, no swimming, no river time… gosh, when you put it that way, winter sounds pretty depressing! I’m glad for the snow and old man winter, but I’m starting to eye the calendar in a different light- I’m counting down until our first Idaho Rafting trip!
See you on the river…
As I sit at my PC, I marvel at the ways that the computer has enabled us to connect to others far away, to keep up on the lives of loved ones, and to share photos of captured memories with friends in another time zones.
The computer has brought so many advantages, but along with those come disadvantages. Parents have to monitor screen time, as a society we sit too much and don’t use our bodies enough, information is instant at the touch of a button, in order to have a social interaction, you no longer have to leave your house, and the list goes on. With the Facebook, twitter, pinterest, our world has changed and our children are changing – how do we curb that?
I don’t think we do. Just like anything in life, balance and moderation are key. It’s important to know when to unplug, where to unplug and how to unplug.
In addition, it’s becoming even more important to make memories outside of the screen – go outside, play in the dirt, breathe fresh air, feel the earth under your feet. Take in this beautiful planet in any way you can. Looking for answers?
Take your family on a white water rafting trip for goodness sake!
On every family white water rafting trip I have ever been on, there’s come an inevitable point in the trip, the last day, you make a turn around the last bend in the river and the take-out appears in the distance.
Whether it’s Pittsburgh Landing on the Snake River, Heller Bar from the Salmon or Birch Creek on the Owyhee River, I know that the take-out is coming, but as it appears on the horizon a fleeting thought goes through my mind, “go back, row up river, I’m not ready to go home!” However, I know it’s not possible and maybe that’s why I love family white water rafting trips so much, because I never want them to end! Lucky for me, I own a river company and can go rafting for a living, pretty fortunate soul, I am!
What I love the most about family white water rafting trips, is the uninterrupted interaction. There are no watches, no ringing cell phones, no unanswered emails, really there are no demands at all! You’re on river time. There is nothing like it in the world, it’s the most exhilarating, yet relaxing trip all in one. If you’re planning a summer getaway this year, and you’d really like to get your children or your spouse unplugged and connect, a family white water rafting trip is the way to go!
Book your Family Adventure now!
Living in Idaho is a dream come true for many. Especially when involvement in the Idaho Rafting is your livelihood. There is no other state in the lower 48 that competes with Idaho in river miles, wilderness, or pristine back country. So, in this post today, I’m going to talk about the many rivers of Idaho.
Here is a list of some of the other rivers in Idaho listed from North to South:
St. Joe River: (Northern Idaho) difficulty III-IV, season is May through June. The St. Joe river begins in the Bitterroot Mts. on the border between Montana and Idaho. It’s a major tributary to Lake Couer D’elane.
Lochsa River: (Northwestern Idaho) difficulty class IV-V, season is April to July. Lochsa is a Nez Pearce word for rough water. The Lochsa is considered one of the best Idaho Rafting rivers because of it’s continuous whitewater in Idaho, as it has 30+ miles of class IV rapids. The Lochsa also starts in the Bitterroots, it flows down to join the Selway River to form the middle fork of the Clearwater River.
Selway River: (Northwest Idaho) difficulty class IV-V, season is May to September. The Selway River drains from a Southern end of the Bitterroot mountains and ties into the Lochsa River. The Selway is a very sought after Idaho rafting trip and is considered one of the big four in Idaho. In order to see the Selway, like many rivers in Idaho, you have to join a licensed outfitter or draw a private permit, which could take many years.
Clearwater River: (North Central Idaho) difficulty class II-III, season is January to December (if you’re crazy). The Clearwater is often visited by Steelhead Fishermen, it has many tributatires coming out of the Bitterroot Mountains, it eventually meets up with the Snake River near Lewiston.
Salmon River “The River of No Return”: (Central Idaho) difficulty class III-IV, season is May to October. The Salmon River is one of Idaho’s most famed water ways. It begins in the Sawtooth Mountains and flows dam-free, unchanged by man until it meets up at the confluence with the Snake River. The Salmon River is the river that puts Idaho rafting on the map as the world’s whitewater capital! If you’re ready to take an exhilarating trip down the Salmon River- you know who to call!
Snake River: (South Central Idaho) difficulty class III-IV, season is March-October. The Snake River is one of the major rivers for the Pacific Northwest. It is the largest tributary to the Columbia River. It is the largest North American River that empties into the Pacific Ocean. it begins in the western mountains of Wyoming, flowing across the entire state of Idaho, in what’s considered the Snake River Plain. From there it enters world renowned Hells Canyon on the border between Oregon and Idaho. Hells Canyon is known not only for it’s Idaho rafting and whitewater, but it’s white sturgeon. The fish can range anywhere from 3-11 feet in length and way upwards of 600 pounds! There are many reasons that America’s Rafting Company for it’s featured river, to find out all that the Canyon holds, you have to join us for an Idaho Rafting trip!
Payette River: (South Idaho) difficulty class III-IV season is April-August. The Payette River starts on the other side of the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains. It is one of the major tributaries to the Snake River.
Boise River: (South Idaho) difficulty class I-II, season is April- September. This meandering river is a tributary to the Snake and flow’s through Idaho’s capital, Boise. It is mainly used for leisure tubing days and fishing.
Owyhee River: (South Idaho, North Oregon) difficulty class IV-V season is April to May. The Owyhee River starts it venture on the North Eastern Edge of Nevada. It is a major tributary to the Snake River and boasts an amazing desert spectacle of chalk columns, seen nowhere else in North America. The Owyhee River is not for the weak of heart, this river is full of intense whitewater and can only be seen 2 months out of the year, as it’s fed by snow run off in the Spring. The river offers outstanding rhyolite canyons, great fishing and even some hot springs along the way! America’s Rafting Company offers this unique Idaho rafting trip each year.
Bruneau/Jarbidge River: (Southwest Idaho) difficulty class IV-V season is April to May. The Bruneau starts it’s life in the Jarbidge mountains of Northern Nevada, part of the Humboldt Toyaibe forest. It is a major tributary to the Owyhee River, the Bruneau is only accessible in the Spring, as it is fed by snow melt off. In order to see this river, you must wear a wet suit and be prepared for long stretches of gut wrenching whitewater!
Any river you may choose to visit in Idaho, is time well spent. If you choose to take a guided trip on one of our featured rivers, or if you’re interested in another river, let us know. We’ve got many friends in the Idaho Rafting world and would be happy to give you a referral!
“I wasn’t born in Idaho, but I got here as fast as I could”, that’s a saying that we have painted on a sign in our home. It has been sort of a mantra for Parker and I these last couple of years. We were drawn to Idaho for a number of reasons, probably the most relevant was Idaho White Water. We’d known for quite some time that we wanted to start a whitewater rafting company. So, here we are living in Idaho, owning and operating an Idaho whitewater company and loving it.
The Idaho white water community is unlike any other. We’re composed of outfitters, guides, boat makers, professionals, the list goes on. This past spring we participated in an outstanding convention called “Idaho River Rendezvous”, I’ll talk more about that next week. But, it was a great coming together of people. It made me realize what an outstanding whitewater community we have here in Idaho- unlike any other state. Which makes sense, our whitewater is unlike any other place in the world, so why wouldn’t we have this stellar community with a common goal- promoting and preserving Idaho White Water. I digress, I really came here to write this post about our boatmakers. When I say boatmakers, I’m referring to rubber rafts, like these:
There are more boat companies per capita in Idaho than there are anywhere else in the world! Don’t quote me on that- I made it up, but it is true. Check it out:
NRS- Northwest River Supply, probably the biggest of the companies, they have everything you could ever need to outfit a trip, whether it’s a small day trip down the Boise River, or an epic 4 day trip down the Snake River in Hells Canyon with America’s Rafting Company- they’ve got it. They’re located in Moscow, ID and employ a lot of college students from U of I. Parker and I toured their warehouse recently and were amazed at the size! It covers 2 football fields! We are registered as outfitters with them and can get things in a hurry, usually next day. They’ve been great to work with and we look forward to a long working relationship with them.
Cascade Outfitters– a company in Boise, ID. They supply river gear, dutch ovens, life jackets, etc. and have a great show room/store front. They are also the home of Maravia boats. When you go visit their store, you look in at the boatmakers in action, it’s pretty impresive. Maravia are a quality boat made from a PVC material.
Aire– they are a boat making company in Meridian, ID. There is a store front that features life jackets, gear, paddles, etc. but they’re big claim to fame is the warehouse where Aire boats are manufactured. We are pretty new to the Aire scene and had to go check it out. Parker and I took a tour of their warehouse as well, learning as much as we could about their boats. They have some really great features that you don’t see in other boats, such as their floor- it has holes in it, which fill up a chamber with water. It allows for better tracking and gives you some more weight in the bottom. The Aire boats are pretty advanced and very clever in design, this fall they gave us a couple boats to demo and I think we’re hooked! We are already dreaming of colors for our new boats to be built this Spring.
They are many other Idaho White Water retail stores all over the state, but those three are really they main suppliers of all things white water. Here in New Meadows, we are centrally located and lucky enough to be a short drive away from all of them!
See you on the river…