Snake, Idaho, US/Oregon, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||12 fpm|
|SNAKE RIVER AT HELLS CANYON DAM ID-OR STATE LINE|
|usgs-13290450||7000 - 80000 cfs||III-IV||01h10m||9190 cfs (running)|
Hells Canyon is a jewel of the Snake River protected in 1975 when the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was established to stop the construction of new, destructive dams that would have flooded the canyon. At the same time, the river was designated as a Wild and Scenic River, with 32.3 miles from the dam, downstream, classified as a wild river. Another 34 miles below that is classified as scenic. This historic conservation victory was realized shortly after construction of the Hells Canyon Dam complex upstream of the put-in that was completed between 1959 and 1967 and blocks upstream migration for salmon and steelhead and other species. In addition to burying great whitewater beneath the stagnant waters of the reservoirs, these dams eliminated great fall chinnook runs upstream to Shoshone Falls, and into tributary streams like the Boise, Payette, Malheur and Owyhee. The impacts of the upstream dams on the river are evident by the lack of beaches and heavily armored banks characteristic of a sediment-starved river.
Hells Canyon is the nation's deepest river canyon averaging 5,500 feet below the rim for some 75 miles, and reaching depths of more than 8,000 feet below the Seven Devils Mountains on the Idaho side of the river. The result is a very scenic 3-4 day trip with a number of class II-III rapids and two class IVs. The Wild and Scenic Snake River Boater's Guide is available from the US Forest Service, giving detailed information on campsites, rapids, and regulations. A lottery permit season runs from late May to early-mid September. Before and after the lottery season, only a self issue permit is required and can be obtained for free at the launch site.
In addition to the whitewater and scenery the river has a rich human history. The Canyon is ancestral home of the Nez Perce people, and other tribes of the region were in and out of the canyon as well. White settlement occurred in the late 1800’s and early 1900s--sheep and cattle ranchers and prospectors tried to scrape out a living.
Three private permit launches each day from Friday preceding Memorial Day weekend through September 10th issued through 4 Rivers Lottery. Outside of this season, self issue permits are available. Application due January 31.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-246.7||Cliff Mountain Rapids||II|
|-243.7||Rocky Point Rapids||II|
|-241.2||Wild Sheep Rapids||IV|
|-238.2||Three Creek Rapids||II+|
|-235.2||Upper Bernard Creek Rapids||II+|
|-235.0||Lower Bernard Creek Rapids||III+|
|-233.2||Bills Creek Rapids||II+|
|-231.7||Sluice Creek Rapids||II|
|-231.4||Rush Creek Rapids||III+|
|-229.6||Sheep Creek Rapids||II+|
|-218.9||Middle Kirby Rapids||II+|
Look out for the big hole.
Future of Hells Canyon Up For Debate
September 14, 2006
Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep Need a Hand
January 6, 2009
New Online Reservations Coming for Four Idaho Rivers
October 1, 2009