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Hells Canyon / Snake River 8 Day Paddles to Saddles

Trip Description

August 11 – 18, 2021 

(Full for 2021, Contact Us to discuss other possible dates) Looking for a spectacular way to explore the exquisite scenery of northeast Oregon? Join Winding Waters and Del Sol Wilderness Adventures on this 8 day Paddles to Saddles adventure into 2 of North America’s most beautiful and remote regions. Raft for 4 days through Hells Canyon, the deepest river canyon in North America, then horseback ride and hike through the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area, home to some of the highest peaks in Oregon. A true adventurer’s vacation, suitable for all ability-levels ages 12 and up.

During the 4 day rafting trip, float the deepest river canyon in North America, the Snake River through Hells Canyon, which runs 51 miles through the heart of Hells Canyon, from Hells Canyon Dam to historic Dug Bar. Each trip begins and ends in Joseph, Oregon where round-trip transportation to and from the river is included in your trip cost. Run powerful class III and IV whitewater, the likes of Granite and Wild Sheep rapids. Visit historical sites, fish for prehistoric White Sturgeon, and let our guides take care of your every last need. And we’d like to mention that our gourmet menu is capstoned with locally raised and grown ingredients when available.

2021 Hells Canyon Paddles to Saddles, 8 Days:
August 11-18 (more dates available upon request)

Adult $2595
Youth (18 & under) $2225

2021 & 2022 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 $1065 $1595 $1795
Youth (18 & under) $852 $1276 $1436

3 and 5 day (or 6 day) launches:
June 8*, 16, 24
July 2, 10, 18, 26
August 3, 11, 19, 27
September 4*, 15*

*Value Season Dates = 10% off adult rates on these trips. Use “spring” promo code for spring dates & “fall” for fall dates.

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.  For this reason, we highly recommend buying Travelex Travel Insurance to protect your investment.

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. 

Day 0 – Arrival Day: Arrive in Joseph, Oregon and meet at 6pm (PST) at the Winding Waters’ Boathouse for our pre-trip orientation to the river portion of your trip. We’ll discuss trip logistics, receive personal dry-bags, and answer any remaining questions. Visit our Boathouse Shop for any last minute items for your trip, including sunscreen, river shirts, river hats, fishing licenses and more. Plan to depart for the next day’s whitewater rafting adventure. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Day 1 – Launch Day: Breakfast served at the WWRE Boathouse at 7:00am with departure scheduled after breakfast. Travel in the Winding Waters’ van to Hells Canyon Dam through the beautiful Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. 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, campfire, games and music. Feel free to bring a musical instrument.

Day 2 – River Day: The morning routine: hot drinks and fruit juice served by about 7am 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, campfire, games and music.

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/Take Out 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 at historic Dug Bar, our take-out point for the trip. Learn why the Nez Perce chose this location to cross the Snake River when fleeing the Wallowa Mountain region while soaking up the last bit of river tranquility before your departure. Scenic flights to the Joseph area with the region’s best bush pilot depart between 1 and 2pm if conditions are favorable. Otherwise, enjoy a scenic jet boat ride to Asotin, ID where the Winding Waters van will meet and deliver you back to Joseph generally by 5pm.

Day 5 – Horseback Riding: At 7:30AM (PST), enjoy breakfast at our Boathouse. Depart around 8AM (PST) to the beautiful Two-Pan Trailhead up the Lostine canyon to begin your 7-mile horseback ride to the breathtaking Lakes Basin. Lunch will be served upon arrival in the deluxe wilderness horse camp.

Day 6/7 – Horseback Riding/Hiking: Morning Routine. Today affords some flexibility. Choose to ride the horses up to Mirror Lake and begin a hike up to the summit of Eagle Cap Mountain, go fishing, relax by the calm waters of one of the many beautiful glacially-carved lakes of the Lakes Basin or some combination of all of these things.

Day 8 – Horseback Riding/Return to Joseph: Morning Routine. Take time for a morning ride or hike before departing camp by 11am. Ride to trailhead. Arrival at our Boathouse generally by 4pm. If possible, we recommend spending at least one extra day in Joseph as there are many beautiful sites to see and adventures you can enjoy from town.

Included with your Trip Cost:

  • Round-trip transportation to and from the river & mountains
  • Outstanding, fully catered guide service, along with all necessary equipment
  • All meals from departure to return (on your own for dinner in town on middle night)


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 floatation 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 12 or more. A charter trip means that your group consists of all of the trip’s participants. We do not sell that trip departure to any outside guests.

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.
? Pre-trip orientation talk will take place at our Boathouse in Joseph at 6PM the night before your launch date.
? 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: What kind of boats do you use on this trip?
A: We can 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 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. Sleeping bags can be provided at request.
3. Tents: We provide roomy 3 person tents (for 2 people) and have tents sizes for up to 5 people. We set up all tents, unless you request otherwise. 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 women, we recommend wearing your bathing suit under your clothes if you wish. 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. You can purchase a fishing license 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 about showers?
A: You’ll be thrilled to learn that we can provide you with a type of hot shower, Mother Nature style, on our river trips! We use Sun Showers, large black plastic water bags that heat up water while out in the sun, making for warm and sometimes hot water to bathe with. Hang the sun shower from a tree branch and enjoy a quick, refreshing shower. Only biodegradable shampoos and soaps are permitted in these pristine wilderness environments. We can help you with our personal favorites if you need brand suggestions. Please call or email us.

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: Jenna- Caleb: Can you copy chart on our weather page for the air temp information? 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

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