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The Boathouse Blog

All About Rafting the Snake River

At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we love all the rivers we raft here in the land of the winding waters. However, the Snake River holds an extra special place in our hearts. 

The primary tributary of the vital and powerful Columbia River, the “Snake” holds a wealth of recreational opportunity, particularly through Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest gorge.

Read on to learn about rafting and recreating on this majestic river.


Where is the Snake River?

The Snake River runs through the states of Wyoming, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, and is the largest tributary to the mighty Columbia River. The river meanders along the border of Idaho and Eastern Oregon for much of its track.

The first big population center downriver from the headwaters is the scenic Wyoming city of Jackson. Other cities along the path of the river include Idaho Falls, ID; Twin Falls, ID; Lewiston, ID; and the city of the mouth, Pasco, WA.


What is the course of the river?

The Snake River is one of the most scenic and wild places that exists in the United States. 

The headwaters of the river are in Yellowstone National Park, and the first 50 miles of the river flows through Jackson Hole, a valley between the Teton Range and Gros Ventre Range in Wyoming. From here, the river passes through the Snake River Canyon and the Snake Range. There are some major waterfalls in this area, including Shoshone Falls, the historical limit of migrating Salmon on the Snake River. This waterfall is higher than Niagara Falls and truly a sight to see! 

After this, the Snake gains steam as it collects water from several major tributaries and begins to form the border of Idaho and Oregon. North of Boise, ID, the Snake enters Hells Canyon, which is formed between the peaks on both sides (more on the incredible canyon below). Halfway through the canyon, the river reaches an incredibly remote stretch of river that’s inaccessible by vehicle.

A little after halfway through Hells Canyon, the river begins to form the Washington and Idaho border. After leaving the canyon, the river flows through the Palouse Hills of Eastern Washington, before losing much of its liveliness in a series of dams in the lower river. It then enters the Columbia River, from there flowing together 325 miles to Astoria, OR and the Pacific Ocean. 


Hells Canyon

As mentioned above, one of the most remote and impressive parts of the Snake River is Hells Canyon, a 10-mile wide river canyon that is the deepest river gorge in North America. The gorge runs for 125 miles. For 40 miles, the gorge sits at more than a mile deep! 

The gorge itself is located along the Idaho and Oregon border for most of its journey and sits along Idaho and Washington for the remainder. Most of the canyon is completely inaccessible with your vehicle, and can only be accessed through rafting, horseback riding, and backpacking.

At Winding Waters Rivers Expeditions, this remote section is the part of the gorge we raft. Depending on your trip, your float will travel 79 miles through class III-IV rapids through the heart of the canyon.

Throughout your trip, you’ll find:

  • • Abundant wildlife , wildflowers, and other flora & fauna 
  • • Artifacts from prehistoric tribes 
  • • Relics of early miners and settlers


Rafting the Snake River

White water rafting on the Snake River is a truly epic experience. For those who have not experienced the high desert landscape, there is nothing quite like it. Whether it’s the dry, pristine desert air, bright stars, or rushing cold water underneath you as you bask in the sun, it’s unlike anything else in the world. 

While there are desirable floats upriver, the best rafting (we wholeheartedly believe, especially for whitewater) on the Snake is through Hells Canyon.

Part of the wonder of rafting is getting away from it all and experiencing the awe of nature. Hells Canyon provides just this opportunity. Unlike many other popular rafting trips that take you through remote wilderness areas, this trip can be completed in under a week. Compare that to the Grand Canyon, which lasts up to 3 weeks!


Other activities on the Snake River

In addition to the stunning white water rafting, the Snake River is known as a world-class Rainbow Trout and Smallmouth Bass fishery. While wild Steelhead still stalk these waters and offer productive fishing in many tributaries, dams have depleted numbers and made the Snake more of a Rainbow Trout and Smallmouth Bass fishery through Hells Canyon. 

With Winding Waters River Expeditions, we bring fishing tackle so you can experience this fishery while rafting the beautiful water.

Additionally, there is bountiful hiking and swimming throughout the course of the river, and you’ll have opportunities to enjoy both when rafting with us. 


What gear do you need for a Snake River white water rafting trip?

Rafting this powerful river is not something that should be taken lightly and should only be undertaken by VERY experienced private rafters or under the guidance of an experienced outfitter and guide. 

At Winding Waters River Expeditions, we provide everything you need for a fun, safe, and fulfilling experience out on the water. This includes:

  • • Transportation to and from the river (on most of our launches except our 3 day trip)
  • • All the rafting and camping gear you need for a safe and comfortable experience
  • • campsites set up for you every night 
  • • All-inclusive gourmet meals for the entirety of your trip
  • • Professional white water rafting guides with decades of white water rafting experience
  • • All necessary permits and legal requirements to float the river


Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime?

We’re currently accepting reservations for all of our white water rafting trips. Spots are limited and sell out fast every year. 

To reserve your spot, contact us online or learn more about our Snake River trips.