Hell’s Canyon! Wild ride and Wild Life!

Mileage today: 81 Total Mileage 3,204

We were up with the lark this morning, had a lovely breakfast provided by our inn and set off for our rafting launch place at about 8am. Although it was only about 40 miles to travel, we were advised to leave 90 minutes for the drive because it is a narrow and winding road nearly all the way. Paved but winding. In fact, it took us about an hour but it was good to be early.

The day was hot – 90s+ F but cloudy in the morning before the sun came out and the temps soared even higher. We had booked a trip with Hell’s Canyon Adventures https://www.hellscanyonadventures.com/ to raft down the Canyon and jet boat back. They were brilliant to deal with both before and during the day. The drive up to the visitor centre was already spectacular. Incredible soaring canyon walls, the Snake river wide and calmed by the two dams which contain it up as far as the Hell’s Canyon Dam. We saw deer and a big crowd of wild turkeys on the way to the meeting point.

After a briefing, we formed into two rafts and boarded. The current was fast and visible from the start. Almost immediately we pushed off, there was an excited shout from someone and there on the riverbank in front of us was a black bear (not always black, often golden, brown….) and two cubs. They were unphased by us and trotted along the river bank, jumping from rock to rock. That was an exciting start!!!!! I have seen bears before but never a mother with cubs and never as close as this.

The current moved us down the river. The river is the state line. The right hand bank was Idaho, the left, Oregon. We moved back and forth. During the day, we went through 2 class 4 rapids, 2 or 3 class 3 rapids and lots of class 2 rapids. We travelled around 13 miles, stopping in several places for swimming, to view an old log cabin,, and to view some petroglyphs. We also had a good lunch stop on the river bank.

this is the first class 4 rapid of the trip. A wave goes right over us. I get it right in the face!!!!

The scenery was fantastic and awesome all the way. Its an absolutely staggering place. Well worth travelling to this remote corner to see. My photos cannot do it justice.

The river water was quite warm which was a surprise. We swam from two beach stops and Bob and I also rolled in from the boat and floated a section of the river in our life jackets. It was super, super fun and we thoroughly enjoyed the 8 hours we were on the river. We saw 1 more bear on the way down, 2 eagles, another deer, lots of blue herons….. and a massive white sturgeon,

allie floating alongside the raft in a calm bit Bob filming

This was an interesting moment. We came upon a couple fishing from a raft and he had one one these huge sturgeons on his line. They are not allowed to be taken, it is catch and release and they cannot use a barb/hook. Consequently, there are massive fish in the river. I have never actually seen a sturgeon before. The fisherman’s rod was bent and taut, he was fighting to land this fish. We pulled over near him and watched as the fish neared the raft, jumping a little. In the end, the fisherman prevailed and reeled the sturgeon in, and cradled it near the surface so we could see that it was around 7.5 feet long!!!!!!! He was stroking its belly and telling us how soft it was. Would you like to touch it?? he asked. No one wanted to, so I volunteered and he asked me to help him support the fish. I had to put my hand in the fish’s mouth and firmly but gently grip, while the fisherman supported it along its body. It was huge and so heavy. Not struggling or in distress at all while we did indeed stroke its belly which was soft and silky. I daresay he was glad to swim off though. The fisherman told me he was probably about 70 years old judging by the size and there were bigger ones than that in there. It was quite thrilling and not something I ever expected to do ie put my whole hand inside a huge fish’s mouth!!!!!!!

The rapids were a lot of fun. We got soaked of course – they supplied us with drybags for our stuff – and there was a lot of squealing when we hit a wave. We had the best time. A lot of laughter. We were 5 plus the guide in our boat.

The jetboat came to pick us up at the end and the two boats were rolled up and put on board too. The journey back by jet boat took about 40 mins! They have 1200 hp engines on them and just power up the rapids and the river flow in no time. Excitement in quite a different way. I must say I do much prefer the peace of the rafting though. The river is peaceful because only a couple of outfitters are allowed to run trips through the canyon and apart from them only 3 other private craft per day are allowed in. So it feels as remote as it actually is.

A last surprise awaited us back at the launch point. An actual bear was just sitting there at the top of the boat ramp. He was munching on some bushes so we edged our way up and he took no notice of us at all. I got some pix and was about 20 yards from him. As near as I probably ever want to be to a bear. After we got up the steps from the slip to the visitor centre carpark, I looked back in time to see him jump into the river and allow the current to carry him downstream and eventually to the other bank!!!!! A star of a bear!!!!

We got back to our inn at about 7, and frankly we were too tired to go to the town rodeo. We got showers and something to eat from our coolbox and chillaxed. A most brilliant day and one we will never forget.