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:
There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a whitewater rafting Idaho trip. Just like any vacation, or camping trip, but on a larger scale, because everything that the guides and guests need for the next three to six days has to be loaded up and meticulously planned for- there is no access or grocery stores once the boats leave the launch site. So, it takes us a couple days to prepare.
It takes a lot of preparation to get ready for a rafting trip– whether it’s a 1 day or a 6 day, we have to be prepared, equipped and ready for anything that may come our way. We want to be sure that if a need arises whether it’s something gone wrong with the gear, someone needs a shoelace replaced, or a full-out emergency. As outfitters, we are prepared for it all! So, in this post, I am going to go through a bit of the process for packing a river trip…
So, in anticipation of a trip here is the timeline for a Saturday launch date.
Thursday: buy all fresh fruits and vegetables, and meats. We have a well stocked river kitchen with most of the pantry staples, like cake mixes, crackers and canned goods, we’ll shop in the river kitchen as well as the local market. We try to source as many local and organic ingredients as possible.
Friday: pack day: prepare salads, bake cookies, load coolers, load truck, count life jackets, review first aid kits, fill-out paperwork, etc.
We also meet with our guests on the evening before to hand out dry bags for packing, sign waivers and answer any looming questions that may be causing the pre-trip jitters.
Saturday: leave the warehouse and head to the launch site. At the launch site we arrive 1 hour before the guests, so that our boats are rigged and ready, when guests arrive we load up their bags, the gear boat takes off and we go over safety and what’s on the agenda for the day.
Sunday: more of what happened on Saturday- floating, lounging, eating, blasting through HUGE rapids, hiking, basically the most fun you’ve ever had in your whole life!
Monday: all that fun continued, if it was a 3 day trip, this would be the take-out date. We’d reach the take-out, have a late lunch and hit the road back to civilization. You can read more about what is done at the take-out.
So, that’s the timeline of what it takes to pack a whitewater rafting Idaho trip. All that work in the beginning is so worth it. Being prepared for anything that can arise on the river is essential to the functioning of the trip and can make the difference between an OK trip and a stellar trip. So, join us on a whitewater rafting Idaho trip!
Now, now- get your mind out of the gutter, I am talking about boats here! River Rafting in Idaho is an unforgettable adventure, everyone should have on their bucket list and go sooner than later. But, all that fun can take a toll on the equipment, in particular the boats. Since the boat is quite possibly the most important piece of equipment, what with keeping you afloat for 3-6 days, we pay close attentions to the upkeep of our vessels.
This is one of our gear boats, “Babe” getting a good scrub down.
Often times, at the end of a trip, our shuttle driver (me) arrives at the take-out with fresh baked croissants, local apples, home-made chicken salad and fresh lemonade, so guests are able to relax, have lunch and relish in the memories of the last couple days spent river rafting in Idaho, before we make the trek out of the river canyon and back to civilization. During that time, the guides busy themselves tearing down boats and loading gear into the back of the truck. It’s quite a feat to watch- they are quick and precise. The de-rig the gear, tie up the oars and scrub down the boats. There’s a song that I sing, much to the annoyance of the guides, it goes like this: “A clean boat’s a happy boat and happy boats don’t flip!” I often embellish a bit and make up words to go along with it, but it’s a true little statement, whether it’s annoying or not! It’s vitally important to keep all of the boats clean from sand and debris, we splash it off with river water, scrub it down with our hands and let it sit to dry. But, often there’s not enough time for it to dry, hence, the title of this post- “rowed hard and put away wet”. The boats are rolled up into small little bundles and tossed into the back of the truck until the next trip.
Here is our boat “Babe” getting a scrub down, see all that faded blue and yellow?
Here’s Babe again, bright and shiny and waiting for gear at Hells Canyon Dam
All that river rafting in Idaho and rolling and unrolling can be hard on the boat, so at the end of the season we take the boat out, blow it up and go over it with a fine tooth comb, ensuring that there are no trouble spots, we replace D-rings and valves if needed, then give it a good bath. We use a product called “Inflatable Boat Cleaner” it removes all of the grime from the rubber- leaving it shiny new looking. Then we let the boat dry really well, roll it up for the last time and put it to bed for the winter. The boats get all the R & R they need and in the spring, we blow the dust off and anxiously wait for our first trip of the season!
See you on the river…
In the summer, we launch a white water rafting trip in Hells Canyon about every 8 days. Our average length trip is 4-5 days. So, that gives us a bit of down time in between. During that down time, we unpack, wash coolers, life jackets, sleeping bags, tents- pretty much every single piece of equipment that goes down the river gets a thorough scrub-down once it’s back at the warehouse. Having those few days off the river allows plenty of time to wash, repair and repack for the next go around. We even have a bit of time to relax, catch up on office work and write a blog post or two! It gives a little order to the chaos that is summer. However, our fall trips this year ended up being a totally different scenario.
It just happened to work out this year that the guests we booked for our white water rafting trips had very specific dates they could get away from work, and with a short season, we didn’t have a ton of time to work with. In fact, we ended up having 3 back to back trips! We began on October 4th, launched that morning and ended on October 17th. Each and every day in between we were out on the river. And by we, I mean Parker and the guides. I, on the other hand kept the home fires burning, packing and unpacking gear, getting groceries and supplies prepped for the next go-round. It was a wild ride here at America’s Rafting Company. Most days, we didn’t know if we were coming or going! I would pick the guys and the gear up from Pittsburgh Landing, we’d stop in Riggins; refuel with diesel and propane, and get the local river gossip. Riggins is the white water capital so there are always good stories amongst river guides and sometimes- they almost sound true! Once we were back to the warehouse, we’d work for a couple more hours. The food and drinks were ready, so we would wash coolers, swap life jackets, tents, sleeping bag and gear and then throw it all back in the truck to take off a 5 am the next morning! It was crazy to say the least. Here are some photos from the launch:
So, we took a less than ideal (booking trips back to back) and made it work great! The trips went off without a hitch! We have since washed all of the boats and gear and stored everything away for the winter. More on that next week. In the meantime, click this link to get an idea of what to expect on a white water rafting trip with America’s Rafting Company…
See you on the river…
Phew- it has been a wild ride here at America’s Rafting Company lately. You may have thought that we disappeared off the face of the earth- but, really we just disappeared to the deepest gorge in North America- Hells Canyon. Sidenote: Hells Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon- that is a little known fact. Whitewater rafting Idaho is not only a great summer trip, but is very enjoyable in Spring and Fall! We just got back to the office and settled after three back to back rafting trips- we were in Hells Canyon rafting for 10 days straight and are looking forward to another 4 more before we retire the boats for the season. When talking about our recent news, I get a lot of the same questions.
I have had many people ask me what the heck we are doing on the river when it’s this cold? Well, my friends- there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear! So, my answer to their question is: heck yes! We are still enjoying Hells Canyon rafting in October and on into November. In fact, Parker and I have visited the deepest canyon in North America in January! Yes, that’s right folks- I have been whitewater rafting in January and I lived to tell about- in fact, I would take that trip again in a heartbeat! The canyon is so deep, that the air temperature stay quite warm, and as long as you’re geared up appropriately, you’ll have the time of your life!
So, when booking trips for Spring and Fall, we have a different packing list prepared, because it’s important to be prepared for any kind of weather- rain, sun, snow, hail, etc. The elements are unpredictable in the canyon- so we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Layering your clothes is key! Having a moisture-wicking bottom layer, a fleece mid layer and a water proof outer layer is what we recommend, that way, you’re ready by a huge wave of Snake River water to hit you and when you land, you’re ready to shed a layer or two and do some exploring. There is of course the element of safety- the life jacket, which in the cool weather doubles as an insulator. The thick padding on our Type V pfd’s (personal flotation device) will not only keep you above water should you fall in, they’ll keep you warm while sitting atop the boat.
Along with layering, you’ll want to think about your feet. The boat is a self-bailing boat, meaning that the water is draining on it’s own, but there is a certain amount of river water that stays in the boat, which makes it hard to avoid wet feet all day long. It’s wildly important to have a warm waterproof shoe on. I typically wear my BOGS, they are tight fitting and keep me warm. Other types of acceptable shoes include river booties, rain boots with wool socks or something lined in gore-tex. Just like any other outdoor activity, as long as you’re packed and dressed appropriately, you’ll enjoy yourself that much more, the same goes for whitewater rafting. Having the right gear can make all the difference!
This is part 2 of a 2 part post- say that 5 times fast! So, in our last post, we left off just as the boats pushed off the ramp. The sun had just come out to shine, the rest of the skies were blue and the day was quickly shaping up, offering the prospect of a great Hells Canyon Rafting trip!
Our fleet was a bit different on this trip- we had a demo boat from AIRE. Recently, Parker and I went to the AIRE factory in Meridian, ID. We got a tour of the facility, met the sales rep and they loaded up one of their boats for us to try out on the water- so this was our maiden voyage with the AIRE boat- more of that later, back to the Hells Canyon Rafting trip.
The weather was nice, the guests were given the tour of Barton’s Cabin, a stop on the Oregon side. While the guests were exploring, the guides got lunch ready. The group enjoyed a homemade sandwich spread, riverside. Back in the boats and down the river, the boats approached Wild Sheep Rapid and later Granite Creek Rapid. The guides skillfully maneuvered through the wild and roarin’ Class IV rapids. The air temperature was perfect for an occasional splash of Snake River Water. Shortly after Granite, the boats pulled up to the river bank, ready to make camp.
Off in the distance, a huge black cloud loomed high above the canyon and the guides knew that the race against the storm was on. They hurriedly grabbed tents and dry bags, huffed it up the hill and just as they pulled the tents out of their bags- the clouds let loose and rain began to pour! They got the tents up in the nick of time and went back to the boats to grab kitchen gear- midway they decided that the storm wasn’t letting up and in order to stay dry they would need the parachute. For this camp, the guides faced a huge challenge, mid way through dinner, they decided that the rain wasn’t backing down so they decided that was a job that only a parachute could handle! No, I don’t mean that they parachuted away from camp, or had anything parachuted in. In place of a rain fly, we use a parachute, it covers more ground than any rain fly could and it’s very diverse. However, setting up a a parachute on a clear, dry day is no easy feat, it was already raining and windy on this particular night. But, they got the job done and were able to enjoy the peace and quiet of cooking a gourmet dinner, out of the rain. Kudos to our guides for getting camp ready in record time, having dinner ready and a dry place to eat it!
The rest of the trip went off without a hitch, the next morning was clear and warm, the rapids were big, and the river was refreshing! Another Hells Canyon Rafting trip is in the books and despite a stormy camp for the first night, our guests still had a great time, but don’t let me try to convince you, check out this review from one of our past guests:
“We found the advertisement from America’s Rafting Company on the internet. We hadn’t been thinking of doing anything like that but once we saw it, we signed up. Our experience from beginning to end was excellent. We were treated royally. The cuisine was excellent, our guides were very personable and knowledgeable. The company was great. We really appreciated all of Becky’s extra touches. The trip exceeded our expectations.” -Chris (September, 2013)
See you on the river…
Our last Hells Canyon Rafting trip for the Summer 2013 was a success! Fall is fast approaching and summer is winding down, but that doesn’t mean we are done visiting Idaho’s river canyons. In fact, fall is just about as active for us on the river as summer time is! But, there will be plenty of talk about fall in the weeks to come, today I am sharing our latest and greatest river trip! We launched on Thursday the 5th, floated for 3 days and I met the crew at the landing- it was a great trip!!
The begining of the week had called for thunderstorms and rain showers, they were predicted to pack up and leave West Central Idaho by Thursday morning, but as we buzzed down the road, getting closer to Hells Canyon Dam we could tell that those storms weren’t ready to leave yet. Wouldn’t you know it, by the time that we were parked on the ramp and unloading gear, the rain started to pour! Luckily, all of our gear is water proof. We, however are not so waterproof. I wasn’t going on the trip, I was shuttling the vehicles, so I didn’t pack a rain jacket, but we always have spare rain jackets and ponchos in case someone forgets their’s. So, I grabbed a poncho and hefted more gear out of the truck. The guides had the boats rigged in no time and we went to the Visitor’s Center to chat and escape the rain. Shortly after, the guests arrived and they were ready to launch, we fitted life jackets, talked about safety, loaded the rafts and pushed off the dam for another epic Hells Canyon Rafting trip.
Stay tuned, I will finish the rest of the story in next week’s post. In the meantime- here is a couple of shots and videos from the trip:
We had a Hells Canyon Whitewater Rafting Trip out last week, it was a small trip- but sometimes just a couple of people make for a great, memorable trip! I will write a post next week about this trip, but in the meantime I wanted to talk about ME!
When a trip goes out, I often stay in the office, to keep up on books, upcoming trips and I’m the point of contact in case anything goes awry. So, I am often thinking of projects to stay busy while the crew and guests are out enjoying a Hells Canyon Whitewater Rafting trip. Last week, I spent the time sanding and refinishing our river tables. We are always inspecting, repairing and updating our equipment to keep it up to our high standards. And our tables were in pretty rough shape, needing a whole new waterproof coating and I decided that while I was at it, I would add a little flair, so that the tables would be something pretty to look at as well.
The first step was to sand off the old finish, which after a couple of summers out in the Idaho Sun, was looking pretty rough! Once I got the old finish sanded off, I snapped a photo- I never think of the “before” photo until it’s almost too late.
I debated about what to use on the table, if I should just finish them with no logo, or if I should paint the logo by hand, etc. I ended up settling with a logo in the corner and hellscanyon.com in black lettering.
Once the stickers were in place, it was time to start applying the protective finish. I used a product called Helmsman by Minwax. It is designed for wood and other surfaces that see a lot of water and weather- which is exactly what I needed. We use the tables to set up kitchen along the river banks, but on the boats, they are used as seats for either guides or guests. The tables get a lot of abuse, so the finish used is very important to keep them around for years to come- which is what I am hoping for! So, there you have, my recent project to pass the moments while the boats are on a Hells Canyon Whitewater Rafting trip.
See you on the river…
Earlier this summer, we had family in town visiting. We had planned all sorts of activities for the weekend, but had a day that we were still undecided about what to to do. So, as Sunday rolled around, we all talked about a couple of ideas for the day, but ended up settling on- you’ll never guess it- a Salmon River Whitewater Rafting trip! Who’da thought right? Since we only had one day to spend, and it was a small family trip, it didn’t take long to get ready . We grabbed sandwiches, a cooler and tossed a boat on the trailer. It wasn’t long before we were standing alongside the Salmon River launching a 14′ paddle boat.
The souls on board included my Sister and Brother-In-Law and their two boys. I was the shuttle driver and was lucky enough to have a co-pilot: my 7 month old nephew! As the boat left the water, baby and I headed down the road for our first stop to have some sweet potatoes riverside (not me of course, I had a sandwich) and wave as the raft went by. Only, we must have gotten busy eating sweet potatoes and giggling, because we didn’t see the raft pass by. The Salmon River was flowing at a pretty good speed, it was late June and probably hitting the 13,000 cfs mark. I misjudged how quickly they were traveling. I loaded baby up and headed down the road to wait at the bridge to get some photos of the whitewater there. But, I never saw them. I was puzzled. Were they really going that fast, or was I just really slow?
Soon enough it was apparent that I was just really slow! I had missed the upper section of their rafting trip by a long shot, so I headed into Riggins and met the raft at the city park. We laughed for awhile and then made a plan for me to get at least a couple photos. I headed down to time zone bridge, hopped out of the car, had baby in a carrier, Canon Rebel TDI in hand and found a great view of timezone rapid. There, I was finally able to get some great photos and boy was I glad I did. Here are some of my favorites from the day:
We had a great day, in fact, I can’t think of a better way to pass the time with friends and family then a Salmon River Whitewater Rafting trip!
See you on the river…
So, you’ve booked a multi-day trip. What in the world have you gotten yourself into? Here is a quick guide about what you can expect on a multi-day whitewater rafting trip with America’s Rafting Company:
First, you’ll have to decide what kind of boat you want to ride in, we have a variety of rafts/Kayaks to take on the river, you can get detailed information here. They include an oar boat, a paddle boat, or inflatable kayaks. The availability of each boat depends on your trip size, but typically we take oar boats and inflatable kayaks for the adventurous souls. We send out a questionnaire to get a feel for the groups size and boats desired once a trip is booked.
Also, on this questionnaire is information about any allergies, so that we can plan our menu- which typically includes a full hot breakfast complete with fresh ground coffee and orange juice, a riverside style sandwich bar for lunch and a gourmet dinner, topped off with dutch over dessert! We really go all out when it comes to cooking on the river, in fact that’s one of my favorite parts!
As for camp, once most whitewater rafting trips, camp is set up when you get there. Tents are pitched, beds are made and appetizers are waiting! When you get to camp, you can grab a glass of wine, throw a line out in the water, reel in a 10 ft sturgeon, or just put your feet up and relax. It’s really up to you. The guides will busy themselves cooking dinner and in no time, you’ll have a full belly and a smile on your face!
We really have thought about all the details- in fact, we have specially designed river toilets that are set up in a a private location. We will set a paddle out on the route to the toilet, and you’ll know that if the paddle is up- pants are up. If the paddle is down- pants are down. A little humor involved in an avoided subject can go a long ways!
Whether it’s a quick 3-day whitewater rafting trip or an extended 6-day trip- we will work everything out for you and make sure that you have everything needed to feel safe and comfortable out on the river.
Until next time…
…once in awhile you have to sit down and eat some wild blackberries
Summer is here and in full swing, for us, that means we are busy packing and unpacking dry bags, tents and coolers. There has been plenty of Idaho Whitewater Rafting for us this summer, with some more trips on the books. For others, it may mean that they’re planning last minute adventures before the kids go back to school. In the last couple weeks, we’ve not only been loving on summer time, but we’ve been enjoying the fruits of summer’s long hot days.
This past Saturday, we went to McCall’s Farmer’s Market and what did our wondering eyes behold? So many people, vendors and goods. We were drawn to the local wild foods that many of the vendors brought. In particular, the wild blackberries, huckleberries, plums, apricots and mushrooms. At the market we purchased some wild plums and a King Bolete mushroom- touted to be one of the best edible wild mushrooms, we didn’t realize that they were already out and growing in the forests near our house. We had some rain recently, followed by hot weather which is the perfect growing condition for the King Bolete. We took our wild plums home and snacked on them all weekend and used our giant mushroom in a tri-tip and veggie shish-ka-bob. And boy oh boy, was it delicious! I would have to agree with the mushroom judges- the King Bolete had such great texture and flavor, that it sent us into the woods on our own hunt for more mushrooms. We weren’t as successful as we would have liked to of been in finding any but we did find many other varieties and had a wonderful afternoon.
So, what does all of this talk about wild foods have to do with the Idaho Whitewater Rafting? Well, it just so happens that the river canyons (the Snake and the Salmon Rivers) are loaded with wild fruits and berries. There are many orchards left over from days past, when Hells Canyon was a mining and ranching area. Many of the orchards still exist today, on our Idaho Whitewater Rafting trips, we often stop to see if the fruits are ripe and if we’re lucky, we’ll be able to gather some sun kissed apricots that bake perfectly into a riverside dessert- dutch over cobbler.
Blackberries flourish alongside the river banks, there are a many camping spots along the river that are lined with blackberry bushes. But don’t forget about the apples, cherries, and peaches that hide away in maintained and over grown orchards lift by early settlers you never know what you may come up with on a hike along the river bank, the possibilities for a wild culinary adventure are endless. We have been known to mix up some blackberry mojitos, blackberry pancakes, blackberry chutney, a blackberry glaze for grilled chicken, and the list goes on. So, in order to experience some of these wild food adventures, you’ll have to visit Idaho for some whitewater rafting. We spend so much time in the river canyons, that we know when the fruits are ripe, so it’s not all about whitewater. Once in awhile you have to sit down along the river and eat some wild blackberries.
Here is a group from last summer in front of an apricot tree.
Until next time….