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Music for Wild Places / Hells Canyon

Trip Description

2020 Dates TBA: (2019 Trip Description) Announcing Laura Gibson on our 6th Annual Music for Wild Places Hells Canyon Raft Adventure. Float through the heart of beautiful Hells Canyon on the Snake River for 4 days with this amazing singer-songwriter. Raft class III-IV whitewater during the day and soak up private concerts each evening. All the while enjoy the fun-loving attentiveness of our Winding Waters Guide Crew. Only 15 seats available.

Laura Gibson is an internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, raised in the small Oregon logging town of Coquille. Her most recent release, Empire Builder, was praised by Pitchfork as “A cathartic tale of loss and redemption”. She has toured on four continents, is the recipient of a RACC Professional Development Grant, and had the distinct honor of performing the very first NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Her songs are both literary and raw, with a love of traditional folk music and a bent toward experimentation. She recently completed an MFA in Fiction writing from Hunter College in New York, released her fifth record in 2018 and is currently working on a novel.

This trip is part of our Wilderness Concert Series called Music for Wild Places, dreamed up by musician and fellow river guide Kai Welch. Kai’s vision is to collaborate with us in providing this concert series, with a mission of raising awareness to conserve wild sections of rivers like the Snake River through Hells Canyon for future generations. We support the work of the Western Rivers Conservancy in their efforts to conserve public access to these wild places. Learn more about Music for Wild Places and Kai’s vision.

More information about the Snake River in Hells Canyon

Laura Gibson - 2019 Music for Wild Places
Ahhhh, Hells Canyon
Laura Gibson - 2019 Music for Wild Places
HoneyHoney - 2018 Music for Wild Places
Elephant Revival - 2017 Music for Wild Places
Kai Welch, Phoebe Hunt, Nat Smith, & Dominic Leslie: 2015 & 16 Music for Wild Places
Elephant Revival - 2017 Music for Wild Places
Ashley Campbell, Nat Smith, & Kai Welch: 2013 Music for Wild Places
Della Mae- 2016 Music for Wild Places
Sunset in Hells Canyon
Kai Welch, Phoebe Hunt, Nat Smith, & Dominic Leslie: 2015 & 16 Music for Wild Places

Music for Wild Places in Hells Canyon, 4 Days, 2020 Dates TBA

Adult $1495
Youth (18 & under) $1495

2020 Snake River in Hells Canyon Rates & Dates
*We are able to accommodate multiple trip lengths in 1 launch with multiple take-outs

3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day
Adult $1065 $1395 $1595 $1795
Youth (18 & under) $852 $1116 $1276 $1436

3, 4, and 5 day (or 6 day) launches:

May 16, 31
June 8, 16, 24, 28
July 2, 10, 18, 26, 30
August 3, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27
September 4, 12*

*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 not 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 or re-price any trip.  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. If we are not able to provide a substitute trip, river, or altered itinerary and have to cancel the departure completely, you will be refunded in full. Refunds are limited to the amount actually paid to Winding Waters River Expeditions.

Day 0 – Arrival Day: Arrive in Joseph, OR and meet at 6pm at the Winding Waters’ Boathouse in Joseph for our pre-trip orientation to have introductions, meet the band, 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: Departure from our Boathouse at 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 a private concert. 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. Rapids today 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 with camp arrival around 4pm. Expect another wonderful evening beginning with a delicious meal followed up with more great live 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. Following lunch, enjoy a jet boat ride up river to the launch point, Hells Canyon Dam where the Winding Waters Van will transport the group back to Joseph. Plan to be back in Joseph generally by 5pm.

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 and thick sleeping pads
  • All meals from departure to return


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 youth ages 12 and up. We provide whitewater certified personal flotation devices for youth and adults. And parents should know that the music will go on late into the night typically after the kids are asleep. We will do our best to have tents positioned for kids where they can sleep soundly away from the music…or with music softly playing them to sleep.

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 14 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.
▪ 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 10-15% 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 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. 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: Visit our Weather & Water Page for general air and water temps, as well as flows during the summer season.

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.

In 2013, Kai Welch and fellow musicians Nat Smith and Ashley Campbell joined us on our Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip. Here they are performing “Sweet Abandon”, one of Kai’s original songs. Kai is the center musician.


“I have now been on a trip with winding waters three times. Twice on a white water kayak trip they supported through the lower Salmon river and last summer down the Snake River through Hells Canyon. They are simply the best. Fabulous food, great guides with numerous stories, lots of laughter, and tons of experience. They have years of experience in this part of the country and it shows in the love they have for the rivers and canyons in the area. I have spent many a mile on many a river throughout the west and these guys are the best. You will not be dissappointed in any way choosing a trip with them.” ~Patti, Bellevue, WA

“My five day trip down the Snake River would have still been spectacular if the Winding Waters guides and crew had only put in half the effort they did. Like most people booking a rafting trip, I looked at some photos of the river, how far we’d travel, and what rapids we’d encounter. But I didn’t pay much attention to anything else. And both me and my fellow trip-mates were astounded by how well looked after we were. Not just with campsite catering which we’d struggle to match in our own kitchens, but how considerate and thoughtful our guides were. They expertly judged the pace, making sure everyone in the group (aged 18 to 75) got the most out of each day. Oh, and the river, rapids, wildlife, and canyon were more beautiful and exciting than the photos would ever do justice.” ~Ian Jolly, Shropshire, UK

Need more convincing? Check our reviews on Trip Advisor. And check out more Winding Waters Testimonial Videos like the one below on our Youtube page.