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Hells Canyon / Snake River 5 Day Rafting Adventure

Trip Description


2024 Launch Dates: 

May 13-17 Photography & Wildflowers
May 20: Open
May 31: 2 seats left
June 8: Full
June 16: Seats Available
June 24: Full
July 2: 3 seats left
July 10: Full
July 18: Full
July 26: Full
August 3: Seats Available
August 11: Plate and Pitchfork trip
August 19: Open
August 27: Seats Available
September: 4 Fishtrap

Float the deepest river canyon in North America, the Snake River through Hells Canyon on our 5 day rafting adventure. This whitewater rafting trip runs 79 miles through the heart of Hells Canyon, from Hells Canyon Dam to Heller Bar in Idaho. Each trip begins and ends in Joseph, Oregon where round-trip transportation to and from the river is included in your trip cost. Run world-class, powerful class III and IV whitewater, the likes of Granite and Wild Sheep rapids. Visit historical sites, fish for Rainbow Trout and prehistoric White Sturgeon, and let our guides take care of your every last need. And we’d to like to mention that our gourmet menu is capstoned with locally raised and grown ingredients when available. We are happy to accommodate most dietary needs upon request. A perfect trip for adventure-seekers ages 7 and up.

Sunrise in the canyon
Sunset at Eureka Bar, confluence of the Snake and Imnaha Rivers.
Farm fresh eggs (we have our own chickens, so we know they're fresh!), fresh breads, and seasonal fruits are always on the menu.
Inflatable kayaks are on every trip
Nez Perce pictograph sites are abundant in the canyon. We stop to visit them throughout the trip.
Tomato and blue cheese bruschetta
World-class whitewater (Class III & IV). That's an 18 foot raft.
Hells Canyon, the deepest river canyon in North America
One of the many campsites in the canyon
Trails are abundant throughout the canyon and there are many hiking opportunities.
White Sturgeon, indigenous to the Snake River watershed, can grow up to 20 feet in length.
Black Bear are among the myriad of wildlife we see in the canyon.
Wild caught Salmon cooked on a cedar plank, one of our specialties.
View from Hells Canyon Dam, the launch site.

2024 Snake River in Hells Canyon Rates & Dates
*We are able to accommodate multiple trip lengths in 1 launch with multiple take-outs

3 Day 5 Day 6 Day
Adult $1175 $1865 $2085
Youth (18 & under) $940 $1492 $1668

2024: 3 & 5 day (or 6 day) launches:
May 20, 31
June 8, 16, 24
July 2, 10, 18, 26
August 3, 11, 19, 27
September 4, 16*
*(value season = 10% off adult rate)

Cancellation Policy: Your reservation will be confirmed after we receive a deposit of 50% of your total trip cost. Your trip balance will be due 30 days prior to your launch date. If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, you should notify Winding Waters River Expeditions in writing or by e-mail immediately.  If written cancellation is received (call to verify) before the final balance is due, you will be given a refund less the amount of the deposit.  Again, deposits are non-refundable.  If cancellations are made on or after the final due date, no money will be refunded.  If you are unable to go on the trip, you are welcome to find a replacement for yourself.  Please understand that once you’ve signed up, we lose the right to sell your reserved space to other individuals or groups.  Therefore, we regret that we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies.  

Travel Protection: In today’s changing travel environment, it’s important to protect your travel investment so you can relax and enjoy your trip. Unforeseen events such as flight delays, baggage loss or even a sudden sickness or injury could impact your travel plans. For your convenience, we offer a Travelex Insurance Services protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. For more information on the available plans www.travelexinsurance.com or contact Travelex Insurance 800-228-9792 and reference location number 37-0062.

Winding Waters River Expeditions reserves the right, either prior to or after departure, in its good-faith discretion and in circumstances that warrant it, to change any trip itinerary.  This includes the possibility of moving to a different river or river segment due to extreme water conditions, forest fires, road closures and/or acts of God. 

The following itinerary is a “typical” trip. Please know that natural occurrences happen on the river (large groups may move slower than smaller groups, etc.). We do our best to keep the trip moving along, but know we may not meet these times exactly. And the last day, we do not recommend large travel plans. We will do our best to take-out on time, but natural occurrences like wind can foil the best laid plans.

Day 0 – Arrival Day: Meet at 6pm at the Winding Waters’ Boathouse in Joseph, OR for our pre-trip orientation to have introductions, discuss trip logistics, receive personal dry-bags, and answer remaining questions. Visit our Boathouse Shop for any last minute items for your trip, including sunscreen, river shirts, river hats, fishing licenses and more.

Day 1 – Launch Day: Breakfast served at our boathouse at 7AM and depart by 7:30am. Travel in the Winding Waters’ van to Hells Canyon Dam through the beautiful Wallowa-Whitman National Forest along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway. Meet your guide crew at the Dam. Launch by 11am following a brief risk management discussion. Lunch will be served riverside. Encounter rapids such as Wild Sheep and Granite on this first day with time to relax, fish, explore archaeological sites and take in the breathtaking views. Plan to be in camp by 4:00pm today. Expect an evening beginning with a delicious meal, followed by good conversation, games and merriment. Feel free to bring a musical instrument.

Day 2 – River Day: The morning routine: hot drinks and fruit juice served by about 6am and breakfast by 8am. The guide crew will break camp and after a brief discussion of the day’s plan, begin the day’’s float by 10am. Today’s rapids include Bernard, Water Spout, and Rush Creek. Visit ancient pictograph sites, not so ancient homestead cabins, and jump from Sturgeon Rock. Lunch will again be served riverside today with camp arrival around 4pm. Expect another wonderful evening beginning with a delicious meal followed up with good conversation, games and merriment.

Day 3 – River Day: Morning routine. Today will be spent hiking to the overlook at Suicide Point, floating, scanning the slopes for wildlife, spotting the birds responsible for those beautiful songs, exploring historic Kirkwood Ranch, laughing and playing in the river. Lunch will again be served riverside with camp arrival being around 4pm. There is always time in camp to take a swim, go on a short hike, read a book, catch a fish, play Bocce Ball, or simply lay in a hammock. Expect another wonderful evening beginning with a delicious meal followed up with good conversation, campfire, games and music.

Day 4 – River Day: Morning routine. Today pass Pittsburg Landing, the take out for our 3 day trips. Enter the lower canyon, where the canyon walls appear to crowd in, rising as far as the eye can see. The landscape changes every minute as our perspective changes. Big Horn Sheep, Bald and Golden Eagles are often spotted in these tight canyons. Lunch will be served riverside with camp arrival by 4pm. You can expect an evening beginning with a delicious meal followed up with good conversation, games, and merriment.

Day 5 – River/Take Out Day: Morning routine. Today we will pass the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers. This spectacular location marks the end of the Salmon, the longest free flowing river in the lower 48. A short hike at this confluence affords a magnificent 360 degree view of both rivers. Down-river, explore Cherry Creek Falls and Cache Creek Visitor Center and Museum, a former homestead site. Lunch will be served riverside. The shuttle van will transport you back to Joseph and our Boathouse typically between 5pm and 7pm. Late arrivals can happen due to unforeseen circumstances. We do not recommend making large travel plans this evening.

Included in your Trip Cost:

  • Round-trip transportation to and from the river
  • Outstanding, fully catered guide service, along with all necessary equipment
  • All camping equipment, including spacious tents, thick sleeping pads, & cots
  • All meals from departure to lunch on the last day

Put-In/Launch (Hells Canyon Creek, aka Hells Canyon Dam):

Take-Out (Heller Bar, WA):

Q: Do you need experience to go on this whitewater rafting trip, or can you take beginners?
A: The wonderful thing about rafting with an outfitter is that you do not need any experience. When joining a whitewater rafting trip with Winding Waters, guests are at ease knowing we have trained, professional guides who know the river. The level of difficulty of a river is based on the character of its whitewater rapids. The Snake River in Hells Canyon has class III-IV whitewater and is a pool and drop, stair-step river. Stair-stepping means there will be a pool, then a drop where we find our rapids. We have taken many novices down this river and they have felt very safe in our hands.

Q: What’s the youngest age you can take on this trip?
A: We can take children ages 7 and up. We have child-sized US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFD’s). We’re happy to consult with parents about any specific questions.

Q: Can we charter a private trip? How many people do we need?
A: We are glad to offer private charter trips to groups of 15 or more. A charter trip means that your group makes up all of the trip’s participants. We do not sell that trip departure to any outside guests. Call us today to reserve a date for your trip: 877.426.7238.

Q: What time and where do I meet for my trip? Where is the nearest airport?
A. Pre-Trip Meeting Place and Time: Winding Waters Boathouse in Joseph, OR @ 6PM the night before your launch.
* Nearest Airports: Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport, Lewiston, ID, Boise Airport, ID, and Walla Walla Regional Airport, WA
* Shuttle Service: Rent a car from one of these airports or contact us for potential pick-up. We provide round-trip transportation to and from the river for most of our trips once you arrive in Joseph.

Q: Can you advise us on tipping/gratuities?
A: We treat our tipping discussion with great care. Our guide crew will work very hard to make your vacation the best it can be. If you wish to tip, we recommend treating it like a restaurant (anywhere from 15% to 20% of your trip cost for the crew). You can either give your lead guide cash at the end of the trip or put it on your credit card. The gratuities will then be distributed among the guide crew. Give us a call if you wish to discuss further. And please know tips are not expected.

Q: What kind of boats do you use on this trip?
A: We typically use 4 different types of boats on this trip: oar boat, paddle raft, inflatable kayak, and stand-up paddle boards. On an oar boat, a guide rows the boat while you enjoy the scenery. In a paddle raft you are an active participant in paddling with others and a guide. An inflatable kayak is a single boat where you guide yourself with instruction if needed. A stand-up paddle board is basically a large surf board with a paddle.

Q: What equipment and services do you provide?
A: We provide the following equipment and services beyond guiding boats on every trip:
1. Paddle (if you’re on a paddle boat), PFD (life jacket), and helmet (for those riding in inflatable kayaks or stand-up paddle boards).
2. Camping Equipment: tents and sleeping pads.
3. Tents: We provide roomy 3 person tents (for 2 people) and have tents sizes for up to 5 people. But the real joy is sleeping under the stars…
4. Meals are prepared in our complete camp kitchen and you will dine at tables with tablecloths, chairs, plates, silverware, and napkins. We take care of all aspects of food prep, from cooking to dish clean-up.

Q: What kind of clothing should I wear/bring?
A: During the day, quick drying shorts and tops work best. For your feet, synthetic sandals like Chacos work great that have straps to hold them to your feet. We do not recommend flip-flops. In the evenings and mornings, we recommend warmer layers, including a fleece jacket, pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes (like tennis shoes). Additionally, shoes for hikes are recommended.
You can purchase river shirts, river hats, sunblock, sunglasses, and other items in our Boathouse Shop prior to your trip.

Q: Can we fish on this trip?
A: Yes, the Snake River in Hells Canyon is an excellent fishery for Rainbow Trout and White Sturgeon. We can throw in fishing gear for while we’re floating, as long as it does not interfere with the group traveling in a timely manner down the river. We recommend an Oregon fishing license and you can purchase one either online (https://or.outdoorcentral.us/or/license) or from our Boathouse Store the night before your launch.

Q: What about bathrooms while we’re on the river?
A: We have you covered. We follow “Leave No Trace” minimum impact camping and traveling etiquette on all river trips. The bathroom facility we use is called the River Bank Toilet System. When in camp, we set up the toilet in a separate, private area, complete with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The guides will explain all of the details of how to use it.

Q: What advice do you have regarding batteries for camera equipment and keeping camera equipment dry?
A: A: If you want to bring your portable video camera and/or digital camera, but are concerned about batteries running out, you have 2 options. One, bring extra batteries (at least 2 more than you think you’ll need). Two, bring a portable solar-powered battery recharger. They do exist and we’re pleased to report- they do work! As for keeping your electronic equipment dry, we provide small dry bags that stay with you on the boat during the day. We also sell small hard-shell, water-tight, and padded Pelican cases in our Boathouse Shop.

Q: What kind of weather and water temperatures are typical on this trip?
A: Visit our Weather & Water Page for information on air temperature and water flows for different times in the year. Water temps generally range from mid 60’s to mid 70’s.

Q: Do I need to be a strong swimmer to come on your trips? What if one or more in my group doesn’t know how to swim?
A: You do not need to be a strong swimmer, or even know how to swim to enjoy a river trip with Winding Waters River Expeditions. All participants are required to wear a US Coast Guard-approved PFD, or personal floatation device (back in the old days, we called ’em Life Jackets). These high buoyancy jackets are designed to keep your head above water should you find yourself having an out of boat experience. Now, that said, if you do not know how to swim and you are afraid of water – river rafting is probably not going to be your cup of tea. Small children (ages 5-10) typically aren’t good developed swimmers, yet they love our trips. We have child-sized PFD’s and look after our smallest guests with great zest and joy.

“Just spent 5 nights, 6 days with WWRE on the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon (+ a day of guided fishing on the Wallowa). These guys are great! Friendly & professional staff, great food, good gear, etc. By whatever metric you want to measure these guys, they nailed it. I’m looking forward to going on a trip with them again in the future.” ~ Brian, Austin, TX

“Thirteen other women and I took a trip with Winding Waters on the Snake River. It was the first time we used this outfitter. Our experience could not have been better. Most importantly, Paul and Morgan and the rafters were extremely safety conscious. The guides were loads of fun, but when there was a difficult rapid, they gave very clear instructions and in the rapid, they were “all business”–then laughed again right after. We very much appreciated that. All 3 guides, and the young men they hired as assistants were very knowledgable, polite and a whole lot of fun. The food was fabulous! The guides were knowledgeable about the geology and Native American history of the river and could answer virtually all of our questions. They all seemed to love their jobs. It was very clear they were in service to us–our safety and our fun. We would not have changed a thing, and that is saying a lot for 14 women!! We were able to relax, knowing they had everything under control. We were so happy that the week after we got off the river, we booked again for this summer. I cannot say enough good things about this group.” ~Lisa, New Orleans, LA

Need more convincing? Check our reviews on Trip Advisor.