Snake River Rafting through Hells Canyon

3, 4 or 5 Days See dates & prices 4.8 46 reviews
Location Idaho Adventure Level Moderate Minimum age 7 (12 during high water) River Rating Class III-IV From $1499 | Wine trips from $2099
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Nothing compares to rafting Hells Canyon in Idaho, home of the mighty Snake River and the deepest gorge in North America.

Marking the border between Idaho and Oregon, Idaho’s Hells Canyon plunges to depths of nearly 8,000 feet between the Seven Devils range to the east and Oregon’s rim country to the west. Through this tremendous gorge, the Snake River’s warm, clear waters yield some of the best big waves and whitewater rapids in the U.S. Northwest. In calmer sections, the Snake River serves up great Idaho fishing opportunities. Hells Canyon’s watery bliss is matched by its stunning rockscapes and the intriguing remnants of past inhabitants, creating a rich river adventure that’s hard to beat. Warm weather, warm water, and fun rapids make this a great trip for kids, parents, and grandparents of nearly any age.

Trip Highlights
  • Enjoy a scenic flight over the canyon
  • Raft Class III rapids through the deepest gorge in North America
  • Visit Kirkwood Historic Ranch & Museum
  • Hike to Native American pictographs
  • Dories, rafts, inflatable kayaks & SUPs
  • Search for eagles, falcons, and owls, as well as over 100 other species of birds that call Hells Canyon home

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Snake River rafting trip through Hells Canyon is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip orientation in Lewiston, ID. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

We’ll meet early for our departure from the Lewiston airport on a charter flight to Halfway, Oregon. An appropriate introduction to our journey ahead, this flight offers a spectacular bird’s-eye view of our pathway through Hells Canyon and is often considered a favorite highlight of the trip. From the landing strip, we’ll shuttle to our put-in point just below Hells Canyon Dam, where our colorful boats and your OARS crew await. After an informative safety talk and some brief paddle raft/inflatable kayak instruction, we’re off on our river adventure!

The first day generally sets the pace for our river trip. Typically, after some time on the water, we pull over and enjoy a delicious picnic on the shores of the river. After feasting and relaxing (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a nature walk), we get back in our boats for more exciting whitewater. 

Mid-to-late-afternoon, we stop and make camp. Before long, you’ll be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice—delicious as these refreshments are, they always taste better after a day on the river! Read, nap, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner. After a satisfying feast, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; perhaps the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Day 2

Your day begins with the morning light turning the canyon walls the colors of sunrise.  Once you’ve eaten your fill at breakfast, you’ll pack up your things as the guides break down camp. 

Today is an exciting whitewater day, culminating in two of Hells Canyon’s biggest rapids: Wild Sheep and Granite. Our anticipation builds as we stop at the top of each rapid, looking down at the thundering whitewater that awaits us. Those who are skilled enough to paddle inflatable kayaks get some last-minute instruction before challenging the big waves and drops.  We all fly through the frothy rapids, coming out slightly wet (maybe very wet!) but elated.

As the roiling rapids give way to more gentle stretches, we may stop and hike up Granite Creek for viewing Native American pictographs. Or perhaps we’ll float down to Bernard Creek for a hike to McGaffee Cabin—a homestead preserved from the early 1900s—and panels of pictographs.

This section of the Snake River offers excellent trout fishing. During periods of calmer water, or perhaps at lunch, the anglers in the group will have some great opportunities to cast their line in deep pools.

Day 3

Whitewater action continues with big hits like Waterspout, Rush Creek, Somers Creek, Tryon, Lookout Creek, Five Pine, Wild Goose, and Deer Head rapids—some of which are great for swimming!

A visit to Kirkwood Historic Ranch and Museum provides a taste of living history, exhibiting the lifestyle of Hells Canyon’s inhabitants in the 1930s. This is also the site of extensive historic and prehistoric Indigenous artifacts, which are displayed and interpreted in the Kirkwood Museum. This scenic ranch is a must-see on any Snake River rafting trip. Further downstream, Pittsburg Landing offers an even more fascinating look at the life of the early Native Americans in Hells Canyon. Lodge rings, petroglyphs, and other artifacts still remaining on the shore teach us more about the inhabitants who prospered for thousands of years along the Snake River.
At Pittsburg Landing, our take-out for this short and sweet Hells Canyon rafting adventure, we’ll say goodbye to our guides. From here, it’s a three-hour ride back to Lewiston.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Lewiston, ID

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 4 PM to Lewiston

Trip Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Snake River rafting trip through Hells Canyon is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Trip

The evening before your trip, we’ll meet for a pre-trip orientation in Lewiston, ID. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.

Day 1

We’ll meet early for our departure from the Lewiston airport on a charter flight to Halfway, Oregon. An appropriate introduction to our journey ahead, this flight offers a spectacular bird’s-eye view of our pathway through Hells Canyon and is often considered a favorite highlight of the trip. From the landing strip, we’ll shuttle to our put-in point just below Hells Canyon Dam, where our colorful boats and your OARS crew await. After an informative safety talk and some brief paddle raft/inflatable kayak instruction, we’re off on our river adventure!

The first day generally sets the pace for our river trip. Typically, after some time on the water, we pull over and enjoy a delicious picnic on the shores of the river. After feasting and relaxing (or perhaps swimming, a game of Frisbee, or a nature walk), we get back in our boats for more exciting whitewater. 

Mid-to-late-afternoon, we stop and make camp. Before long, you’ll be savoring pleasing hors d’oeuvres and the beverage of your choice—delicious as these refreshments are, they always taste better after a day on the river! Read, nap, or just sit back and laugh with friends and family as we prepare dinner. After a satisfying feast, the evening is yours to spend however you wish. Maybe music, stories, or jokes will bring us together tonight; perhaps the popping of the fire, the whisper of the river, and the clarity of the big, star-filled sky will encourage silent reflection on the amazing wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Days 2 – 3 or 4 (Depending on trip length)

Whitewater action continues with big hits like Waterspout, Rush Creek, Somers Creek, Tryon, Lookout Creek, Five Pine, Wild Goose, and Deer Head rapids—some of which are great for swimming!

A visit to Kirkwood Historic Ranch and Museum provides a taste of living history, exhibiting the lifestyle of Hells Canyon’s inhabitants in the 1930s. This is also the site of extensive historic and prehistoric Indigenous artifacts, which are displayed and interpreted in the Kirkwood Museum. This scenic ranch is a must-see on any Snake River trip. Further downstream, Pittsburg Landing offers an even more fascinating look at the life of the early Native Americans in Hells Canyon. Lodge rings, petroglyphs, and other artifacts still remaining on the shore teach us more about the inhabitants who prospered for thousands of years along the Snake River.

As the water becomes calmer, we’ll refocus our attention on the rocky canyon walls, looking for resident wildlife—including bear, deer, elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep—and marveling at the majestic beauty of the gorge.

Those looking for a challenging climb might have the chance to negotiate the steep but scenic trail to Suicide Point. Panels of Native American rock art are highlights of possible hikes to Temperance Creek and Deep Creek. Other interesting destinations for the avid to explore are Salt Creek and Coon Hollow.

Day 4 or 5 (Depending on trip length)

Depending on our individual trip’s schedule on the final day, we could have an early start and get underway after a cold breakfast, or we may enjoy a hearty breakfast and a more leisurely pace.  

Our final day’s float brings us past the Snake’s confluence with three major rivers: the Imnaha, Salmon, and Grande Ronde.  The river volume more than doubles, and we’ll see evidence of development as we continue our float.  A motor may be used on the last portion of flat water to the take-out point at Heller Bar, where we bid farewell to our guides for a 45-minute shuttle ride to Lewiston.

Meeting Time & Place

Location

Lewiston, ID

Meeting time

7 PM, the evening before your trip

Return

Approximately 4 PM to Lewiston

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

Save $100 on 2024 departures when you’re one of the first to book by March 31 and request “Premier Pricing” over the phone.

2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
June 26$1,599$1,499
August 21, 29$1,599$1,499
September 6$1,599$1,499
2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
May 25$1,799$1,699
June 2$1,799$1,699
2024 DeparturesAdult PriceYouth Price
June 10, 18$1,899$1,799
June 26$1,999$1,899
July 4, 12, 20$1,999$1,999*
July 28 All Adult$1,999
August 5$1,999$1,899
August 13, 21, 29$1,899$1,799
September 6$1,899$1,799
September 14 Wine on the River$2,099

*Youth pricing not available for trips departing in July

Book Now

DEPOSIT:

$400

Additional Costs:

• $10 per person federal, state, and local access fees
• Sleep Kit & Tent included

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

Premier Pricing

Save up to 10% (or more) on most domestic trips when you’re one of the first 4 people to book by March 31st!

Specialty Trips

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled, professional guide service
  • All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the final day with limited beer & wine at dinner
  • Expedition equipment, including highest-quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, sleep kit, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof bags, camp chair, as well as eating utensils and plates
  • Transfers from Lewiston to the river and back, which includes a scenic charter air flight to the put-in (weather permitting)

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from Lewiston, Idaho
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Gratuities

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Oar raft, dory, inflatable kayak, stand-up paddleboard, and paddle raft (requires 11 or more trip guests).

After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Our first task is to unload the boats using a fire-line of crew and guests to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. 

While you put up your tent, the guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.

As guides prepare dinner, hors d’oeuvres are served. This is an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.

In the morning, the first wake-up call lets you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit, and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast.

After breakfast, the entire camp is broken down and packed up. Once the guides have all of the gear loaded back onto the boats, we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.

More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F
May50-7040-6050-55
June55-9040-6050-60
July60-10055-7060-70
August70-100+55-7065-70
September65-9545-7065-70

Whitewater

The dam-controlled Snake River flows steadily all season long, creating powerful Class III rapids and, in certain water levels, a few adrenaline-pumping Class IVs. Exuberant drops and roller-coaster wave trains provide an exciting ride, whether you’re challenging the whitewater hands-on in a paddle raft or inflatable kayak, bucking through the rapids in a hard-hulled dory, or just holding on as you plow right through in a stable oar boat. Periodic stretches of calm water offer plenty of chances to swim in the cooling river.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Deposits

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person, balance available as a limited-time trip credit valid through the end of the following season
59 days or less before your tripFull fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

Transfers

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above..

O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. is a licensed & bonded outfitter on the Snake River through Hells Canyon

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Snake River between Hells Canyon Dam and Heller Bar, we acknowledge the territories of the Nimiipuu, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla.

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