|MEETING PLACE:||Red Lion Hotel, 621 21st Street, Lewiston, Idaho, 83501|
|MEETING TIME:||7:00 PM, the evening before your trip|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III (with 2-5 Class IV rapids, depending on water levels)|
|TRIP MILES:||31 to Pittsburg Landing, 79 to Heller Bar|
|PUT-IN:||Hells Canyon Dam|
|TAKE-OUT:||Pittsburg Landing (3-Day) or Heller Bar (5-Day)|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 4:00-6:00 PM to Lewiston|
|TRIP LENGTH:||3 Days / 2 Nights or 5 Days / 4 Nights|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 7 (12 at high water)|
|BOAT TYPE:||Oar raft, paddle raft, dory, inflatable kayak, stand up paddleboard|
Hells Canyon, home of the mighty Snake River, is the deepest gorge in North America. Marking the border between Idaho and Oregon, 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 warm, clear waters of the Snake River thunder through some of the most exciting, big-wave rapids in the Northwest; in calmer sections, the Snake serves up great fishing opportunities. Hells Canyon’s watery bliss is matched by its stunning rockscapes and the intriguing remnants of past inhabitants, both indigenous and transplanted, creating a rich river adventure that’s hard to beat.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
The Day before Your Trip
We’ll meet at 7:00 PM at the Red Lion Hotel for a pre-trip meeting. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions. Your trip leader will give you a thorough trip orientation, pass out your waterproof river bags so that you can pack your belongings that evening, and confirm the meeting time for the following morning.
We’ll meet early at the Red Lion Hotel for our departure from the Lewiston airport on a charter flight to Halfway, Oregon with Gem Air. 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 O.A.R.S. 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, we spend a few hours on the water in the morning, sometimes stopping for a short hike, a swim, or a visit to Native American pictographs or another historical site. Come lunchtime, 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. Be sure to try your hand at the paddleboat and inflatable kayak! Mid-to late-afternoon we stop and make camp; you grab your bags and set up your tent while we take care of the kitchen and “living room”—camp chairs and the site for tonight’s campfire (if permitted). 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.
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. Then our new day’s adventure begins.
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 of us brave enough to paddle the inflatable kayaks get some last-minute instruction before we challenge the big waves and drops, flying through the frothy rapids and 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 today, the anglers in the group will have some great opportunities to cast their line in deep pools.
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 Indian 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.
This is the ending point of the 3-day trip. After visiting Pittsburg Landing, we’ll say our goodbyes, then those of us leaving will take a three-hour ride back to Lewiston; those staying on for the 5-day trip will continue down the 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 deepest gorge in North America. We’ll also see evidence of development and multiple-use impacts as we continue our float.
Those looking for a challenging climb might have the chance to negotiate the steep but scenic trail to Suicide Point. Panels of Indian rock art are highlights of possible hikes to Temperance Creek and Deep Creek. The latter is also the site of a darker history; in 1887, 31 Chinese men were murdered here for their gold. Other interesting destinations for the avid to explore are Salt Creek and Coon Hollow.
Depending on our individual trip’s schedule, we could have an early start and get under way after a cold breakfast, or we may enjoy a hearty breakfast and a more leisurely pace, but we are now much more accustomed to our life in the wilderness. The thought of returning to “civilization” brings mixed emotions—sadness at leaving Hells Canyon and our new friends, and perhaps excitement at the prospect of returning to creature comforts. Our final day’s float brings us past the Snake’s confluence with three major rivers: the Imnaha, Salmon, and Grande Ronde. After the latter, we reach our take-out point at Heller Bar. A 45-minute shuttle ride brings us back to Lewiston, where we bid farewell to our guides and fellow travelers. It doesn’t take us long to realize that although we have left the river, the river will never leave us.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled professional guide service
- All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on the last day with limited beer and wine with dinner
- 2 or 4 nights catered camping
- Two waterproof bags to hold your gear for the trip (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall, with a maximum capacity of 2 cubic feet). Your Sleep Kit will come already packed in one of the two waterproof bags. Your remaining gear, therefore, must fit in one
- One small waterproof bag for camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- Two-person tents on a shared basis (there is a $30 charge for a private tent)
- Sleep kit—consisting of a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow and pillowcase
- Personal flotation device (PFD) which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with safety regulations
- Camp chairs
- Eating utensils, cups and plates
- Highest quality inflatable rafts and related equipment
- Transfers from Lewiston to the river and back
- Scenic charter air flight to the put-in (weather permitting)
- Wetsuit–weather dependent (does not include footwear of any kind, including wetsuit booties). For clients with a high interest in using the inflatable kayaks, we will bring a limited supply of wetsuits. If you have your own, please feel free to bring it with you
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from Lewiston, Idaho
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Single supplement tent ($30 plus tax)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
- Items of a personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
Available For Rent
2-Person Tent: We provide 2 person tents. It is assumed you will share this tent with another person. You can (if you prefer) have a tent to yourself for an additional charge of $30 per tent.
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Help to protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation with the purchase of a short-term Travel Protection Plan. A Travel Protection Plan can help cover your non-refundable payments should you have to cancel your trip due to a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit, and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. The cost for the optional Travel Protection is listed on your trip invoice. All Plan Benefits are administered by Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431H or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan # F431H).
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail 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.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your adventure consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Check out the 5-minute animated CROA Safety Video on the same webpage. Watch at http://www.oars.com/videos/oars-whitewater-orientation or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
☐ Payments: Final payment is due in our office 60 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet at 7:00 PM at the Red Lion Hotel for a pre-trip meeting. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions. Your trip leader will give you a thorough trip orientation, pass out your waterproof river bags so that you can pack your belongings that evening, and confirm the meeting time for the following morning.
Getting to Lewiston
Mileage and Driving Times to Lewiston, ID
|Spokane, WA||106 miles (2 hours)|
|Couer d’Alene, ID||116 miles (2 ½ hours)|
|Missoula, MT||217 miles (4 ½ hourss)|
|Boise, ID||270 miles (5 hours)|
|Seattle, WA||310 miles (6 hours)|
|Portland, OR||341 miles (6½ hours)|
|Glacier National Park||388 miles (7-8 hours)|
Lewiston is served by Delta and Alaska Air with flights connecting through Boise, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland.
You can also fly into Spokane, Washington, then rent a car or take a bus to Lewiston. Spokane is served by Southwest, Alaska, United, Frontier, US Airways and Delta Airlines and is approximately a two-hour drive (100 miles) from Lewiston. See ‘By Bus’ for more information.
Limited bus service is available between Spokane and Lewiston on Northwestern Trailways bus lines: 800-366-3830, www.northwesterntrailways.com. The cost is $42 one-way or $80 round trip, between the Spokane airport and Lewiston.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your river adventure, you will be returned to the Red Lion Hotel. We highly recommend you overnight in Lewiston.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
We recommend that you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. (Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the trip cost).
- Red Lion Hotel (800) 232-6730 or (208) 799-1000
The Red Lion is located within walking distance a grocery stores as well as several restaurants. Please mention you are with O.A.R.S while making reservations. The special rate for O.A.R.S. guests, for a double room, starts at $95, depending upon availability. The Red Lion has a lounge, restaurant, and access to an athletic club. It also provides a free airport shuttle. You can store extra luggage while on the river for no additional charge.
- Inn America (800) 469-4667 or (208) 746-4600
A more economical choice, the Inn America is within walking distance of the Red Lion and offers family suites. Please call them for rates.
On our trip we may be able to bring the full gamut of O.A.R.S.’ river vessels, depending on the water level. We bring oar rafts, a dory, inflatable kayaks, a stand up paddleboard, and with sufficient interest, a paddle raft. Oar rafts and dories carry our camp gear along with 2-4 passengers and are rowed by our guides using a long pair of oars. Inflatable kayaks are 1- and 2-person boats that get you up close and personal with the rapids of the Salmon. Paddle rafts carry 4-6 passengers, each of whom wield a single-bladed paddle and work together to propel the raft downstream under the direction of the guide, who steers the boat with oars from the stern. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you are interested in paddling.
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.
- Wine on the River: Our wine trips offer an elegant alternative to our regular departures, and combine mouthwatering menus and award-winning wines with the appeal of the wilds. After each day of river rafting, enjoy gourmet meals and premium wines introduced by regional experts. The wines are carefully chosen to complement the bill of fare each night, and each winery brings its own personality to the river, where tastings can turn into blending seminars or informative discussions of Old World versus New World wine making. Rest assured that these trips inevitably result in an outrageously good time.
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Upon arrival, our first task is to unload the boats using a bag line of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. 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 dinner is being prepared by the guides, hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have 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 will let you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready on the hors d’oeuvres table. 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 is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packing will be completed. The gear will then be loaded onto the boats and we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning on a multi-day trip might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and coffee or tea. Lunch might be a delicious spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread, or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious pasta dishes are all part of their repertoire. Dinner generally includes hors d’oeuvres, a salad, and desserts are frequent.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have additional food allergies or necessary restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be an additional supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-20 per person per day to cover our increased costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu.
Due to the constraints of cooking for a large group, availability of ingredients in remote locations and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide two sodas per person per day, water, lemonade and a limited supply of beer and wine with dinner. You are welcome to bring your own favorite beverages, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring additional drinks or alcoholic beverages, please let us know in advance. For those planning to buy hard liquor in Idaho, State Liquor Store hours vary. For information on where you can buy liquor in Idaho, please visit: www.mixblendenjoy.com. Selection is likely to be limited. For your safety and the safety of others, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is limited to camp.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your O.A.R.S. trip.
Our drinking water comes from the river and is filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.) We store the purified water in large containers that are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes for filling personal water bottles.
Boat Options (see photos at http://www.oars.com/experience/boats/)
One highlight of the Snake River through Hells Canyon is that the river’s currents and water levels allow us to bring a wide variety of boats. That means that you may experience every vessel we have to offer, conditions permitting! Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you are interested in paddling.
We do our best to accommodate the requests of all of our guests. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers should they have the same interests. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly what we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. The following boats may be a part of your Snake River experience:
- Oar Raft—The O.A.R.S. flagship, oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, sturdy weight and width give your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Three to five passengers)
- Dory—Dories are the kings of big volume rivers like the Colorado and the Salmon. These rigid boats were first used commercially in the Grand Canyon by writer/conservationist/river guide Martin Litton. Hard-hulled and ultra-buoyant, dories shoot through rapids and make wave trains feel like roller coasters. Your guide navigates from the center with two long oars. (Four passengers)
- Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! A trip may require a minimum of 13 total participants for a paddle raft to be made available. Helmets required. (Four to eight paddlers)
- Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—The most agile of any boat in the O.A.R.S. fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields single blade paddles up front for added horse-power. Helmets required. (Four to eight paddlers)
- Inflatable Kayak—Also known as Duckies, inflatable kayaks float low to the water, putting you in touch with the pull of the current and splash of every wave. On most trips, double and single inflatable kayaks are available, depending on group size. 12 years is the minimum age in Class III rapids, 7 years for Class II rapids. Helmets required. Ask an Adventure Consultant about this option, as it is not available on every trip. (One or two paddlers)
- Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)—Rigid like a surfboard, but inflatable like a raft, stand up paddleboards are 10-feet long and surprisingly stable at close to three-feet wide. Hop on a SUP to turn stretches of calm, flat water into an active adventure! Helmets required. (Fun for one paddler at a time)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
While we generally plan at least two guided hikes on each trip, there is ample opportunity for the curious to explore the area at length. Please let your trip leader know if you are an avid hiker and remember to bring extra water bottles and good shoes. Remember however, that all hikes are optional and you can choose to lie on the beach and take in a few tanning rays or read a book instead.
The Snake River supports a variety of cold- and warm-water fish including steelhead, salmon, rainbow trout, catfish, and bass. Hells Canyon is also one of the last strongholds of the giant white sturgeon. The fishing here is great, and our guides are happy to point out the best places to wet a line—so don’t forget your gear! We recommend collapsible poles for ease in packing, light spinning tackle with 4- to 6-pound test, and an assortment of spinning lures such as Mepps, Rooster tails, and Super-dupers. Fly anglers do quite well.
Since the Snake River marks the border between Idaho and Oregon, we suggest you talk to your trip leader about buying one or both licenses and wait to purchase your fishing license until after the trip meeting. Non-residents of Idaho can buy a short-term fishing license by calling 1-800-554-8685 or you can purchase one online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov or https://id.outdoorcentral.us and Oregon licenses can be purchased in Oregon on the way to the river.
Anyone 14 years and over needs to have a fishing license. Children under 14 years do not need to buy a license, but they must be accompanied by an adult from their party with a valid license. For more information, ask us to send you our flyer on fishing in Idaho.
The Portable Toilet
While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty. To minimize our impacts, we carry out all solid human waste and use a portable toilet system that is set up each day at camp in a secluded location a discrete distance from tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing and is available from the time you pull into camp each afternoon until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
We also carry a small container called the “day tripper” that can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and oversized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, the common refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during the day. For use in camp at night we provide pee buckets so that urination can occur in a secluded location and then be dumped into the current where it will be carried downstream.
Bathing is not allowed in the river or in any of the side streams that feed into the rivers. You may want to bring a solar shower or you can borrow a bailing bucket from one of the rafts to rinse off after soaping up. Both are to be used at least 200 feet away from the water source in an area that will absorb the runoff. We recommend using a liquid biodegradable soap such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s www.drbronner.com which can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section and can also be used to wash clothes. You may also find a good selection at your local health food store. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) can also be purchased and are especially convenient for spring and fall trips.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies during the day to store feminine products while you are on the river or hiking, and you can then discretely dispose of the baggies when you reach camp. When possible, we recommend o.b.® tampons, which are 1/3 the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping. If you use pads, be sure to bring extras. Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
We provide a small waterproof bag (17” tall x 9” diameter—approximate sealed size) to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you will need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you please be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
We are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel.
Once you are on the river there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry satellite phones which are strictly used to call out in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, however, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
Weather & Water Conditions
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend the following website: www.wunderground.com for weather in Lewiston, Idaho.
Average Air & Water Temperatures
|MONTH||DAY (°F)||NIGHT (°F)||WATER|
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning can endanger themselves, other guests and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times each day
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain in camp and on hikes
- Carry your own dry bags (20 – 30 lbs) from the boats to your camping location and back
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30–40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body work-out and is training that may come in handy in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Additional layers, like long underwear, fleece and rain gear, can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids.
In camp—When the weather is warm, lightweight cotton pants/skirt or shorts and shirt make great campwear. Those inclined may enjoy wearing a cotton skirt or sarong on summer evenings. In the spring and fall, or on trips at the higher elevations, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day—The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco® at www.chacos.com, the official footwear sponsor of O.A.R.S. guides.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand, or stepping on a sharp stick. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or “Crocs” are OK for wearing in camp only.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a non-cotton beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
Hot Weather Trips
A good way to keep cool is with long-sleeved cotton shirts. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner. During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants. Lightweight, nylon ‘safari’ shirts are readily available and often come with a UPF rating for reflecting harmful ultraviolet rays. These pack small, light, are quick drying and often offer ventilation to help keep cool.
Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather a rain jacket and pants work better than a wetsuit, because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold, or when you’re going through whitewater, then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. Some folks find that wetsuits don’t work as well as they are tedious to put on and take off. During early season or high-water trips we do provide wetsuits for paddlers. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your synthetic layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.
Late May, June, and September Trips: These are surely some of the most beautiful months to be on the river, but they can also produce some surprisingly chilly times. During the fall, the sun is not far enough north in the sky for its warming rays to reach down into the river canyon for as many hours a day as it does in the summer. This means more shady areas, fewer sunny ones. Therefore, when you are splashed (drenched) going through the rapids and you’re in a shady area, you will get very cold unless you are prepared.
Rain gear protects you from rain, wind and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well as good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. Be sure to bring a good hat that offers full coverage, such as a wide-brimmed hat.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitos vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times. Occasionally on a very hot, dry year there are yellow jackets present. If you are allergic, please bring an epi pen.
We supply a professionally laundered sleeping bag with liner, a pillow with a freshly laundered pillowcase, a sleeping pad, a ground tarp as well as a shared tent. The complete customized sleep kit that we provide is designed for your comfort and maximizes available luggage space. Our sleeping bags are degree rated depending on the season and are 33” x 84,” which is longer than the normal (80”).
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles: durable and reusable
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel (a sarong makes a great alternative and
can also be worn around camp)
☐ Toiletries, including biodegradable soap (such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco® www.chacos.com)
“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Athletic shoes or light hikers
☐ Hiking socks
☐ Long-sleeved shirt: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap– flexible enough to fit under your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant). A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended
☐ Swimsuit / trunks: 2-piece suits recommended for women. Tankinis are a great option
☐ Shorts: 1 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic long underwear top & bottom: 1 set light to mid-weight
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for season. Cotton recommended for hot weather trips
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Fishing gear
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection/changing clothes
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Feminine Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
At the pre-trip meeting each person will be given two large waterproof bags (approximate sealed size: 13″ diameter x 25″ tall). One bag will be for your clothing and personal items; the other bag will be for your sleeping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet and pillow). These two bags will be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately. Please note: your sleep kit will come already packed in one of the two waterproof bags. We also provide a small waterproof bag for day use where you can keep items such as raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter). The bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light, and keep in mind that river attire is casual: comfort, convenience and boat space take precedence over style. At the end of the trip, you will return to Lewiston with your waterproof bags, where you will be able to unpack your gear before your trip home.
Please note: You are limited by Gem Air to 35 pounds of baggage per person on the flight to Halfway, Oregon before our put-in. Baggage handling on the small aircraft is made much easier if your luggage is soft-sided.
If you have extra luggage it should be locked in your car or stored at your hotel.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. For personal items like wallets, purses and cell phones, we recommend putting them in a zip-lock bag at the bottom of your waterproof bag with your clothing.
If you feel your guides have provided a very special trip for you, you may leave a gratuity with the trip leader to be shared among the crew. This tip is entirely at your discretion, though we recommend a general tipping guideline of anything between 8% and 12% of trip cost. If you plan to tip, remember to bring a personal check or cash—ATMs are hard to find in the backcountry!
In reviewing your statement, you’ll note a $1/person/day donation to Hells Canyon Preservation Council, a non-profit defending the Snake River through Hells Canyon and the Lower Salmon River. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to the river protection work of Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and your contribution is tax-deductible. Please notify our office if you would prefer to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the O.A.R.S. Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit www.oarsfoundation.org to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Shop for the latest in top-quality gear for your trip www.oars.com/OARStore
Recommended reading list reading.longitudebooks.com/O31693
O.A.R.S. practices a Leave No Trace conservation ethic www.lnt.org
Watch our “How To Pack For A River Trip” video www.oars.com/videos/how-to-pack
Additional information about the area www.visitidaho.org
Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
Cancellations 60 days or more prior to your trip earn a full refund less a $100/person fee. Cancellations 59 days or less prior to your trip are not refundable.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $50/person charge up until 60 days before the trip. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
For those unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we offer an optional Travel Protection Plan from Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency) that can help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings. Should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury—your own or that of an immediate family member—non-refundable payments may be covered by a travel protection plan (see Cancellations and Refunds). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431H or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431H). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release (or Acknowledgement of Risk) form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. Dories, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.