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Plate & Pitchfork in Hells Canyon

Trip Description


August 11th-13th 2024

2 Seats Available

Announcing the 12th annual Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip, a wonderful Ranch to River Bank adventure. We’re thrilled to have Chef/Owner Ben Bettinger from The Laurelhurst Market and Big’s Chicken in Portland, OR joining us again on the rafts this year. Ben’s delicious and hearty meals will feature products grown and raised in Northeastern Oregon.

Because no trip is complete without good beer, Terminal Gravity Brewery will fill our coolers with their delicious ales.  You’ll be well fueled for your adventures. And we are happy to accommodate most dietary needs upon request.

In addition to fabulous food, you’ll enjoy three days filled with thrilling Class III & IV whitewater, incredible scenery, wildlife viewing and fishing opportunities as we venture thirty-two river miles through the heart of the deepest river canyon in North America, the Snake River in Hells Canyon. After dinner, enjoy campfire camaraderie and falling asleep under magnificent starry skis listening to the sound of the river babbling by.

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.

Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip in Hells Canyon, 3 Days:


August 11, 2024


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. 

Day 0 – Arrival Day: Arrive in Joseph, OR in time for our 6:00PM Pre-Trip Orientation at our Boathouse. During this orientation, meet your travel companions for the next few days, as well as go over some trip logistics, check out your personal dry bags, and ask any last minute questions. Also visit our Boathouse Shop for any last minute river items, like river hats, river shirts, sunblock, and water bottles.

Day 1 – Launch/River Day: Depart our Boathouse for Hells Canyon by 7:30AM. Our 2.5 hour drive will take us along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway through the beautiful Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Meet the rest of the Winding Waters River Expeditions’ guide crew at the boat ramp. Receive a brief river introduction and awareness talk before we set sail. Just before lunch, say goodbye to civilization to begin our exploration of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. Lunch will be prepared by Benjamin and served riverside following our launch. During the day, we will run class III and IV rapids like Wild Sheep and Granite with time to also relax, fish, explore archeological sites and take in the breathtaking views. Plan to be in camp around 4:00PM. Expect an evening beginning with a delicious meal prepared by Benjamin. Feel free to bring a musical instrument if you are so inclined.

Day 2: The morning routine- hot drinks and fruit juice served by 7:00AM and breakfast by 8:00AM (prepared by the Winding Waters’ guides). Following a brief discussion of the day’s plan, begin the day’s float by 10:00AM. Today’s rapids include Bernard (class III), Water Spout (class IV), and Rush Creek (class III). Visit ancient pictograph sites, not so ancient homestead cabins, and jump from Sturgeon Rock. Lunch will be prepared by Benjamin and served riverside. Camp arrival around 4:00PM. Expect another wonderful evening beginning with a delicious meal created by Benjamin.

Day 3: The morning routine again. Today will be spent hiking to the overlook at Suicide Point, floating, scanning the slopes for wildlife, spotting the songbirds, exploring Kirkwood Ranch, laughing and playing in the river. Lunch will again be prepared by Benjamin and served riverside. After lunch, we will continue downriver to Pittsburgh Landing where your vehicle will be waiting for you, OR you can ride back to Joseph in one of our Winding Winding Waters shuttle vans. You are on your own for dinner this evening.

Included in your Trip Cost:

  • Round-trip transportation to and from Joseph, OR, or shuttling of your vehicle to takeout.
  • Outstanding, fully catered guide service, along with all necessary rafting equipment
  • Camping equipment, including spacious tents, comfy sleeping pads, & cots
  • 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: This trip is for adults ages 19 and up.

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 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 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.

“This was one of the best trips of my life. It was a great balance of adventure and relaxation.” ~Heather, Portland, OR (2014 Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip)

“I was very impressed with the professionalism, competence and confidence of all of the guides. Paul, it meant a great deal to me that you encouraged me every step of the way to try things on the trip, so that I would get the best experience. I saw every step planned, no stone unturned. Safety first. Knowledge of the business, river, surroundings, and nature all under your belts. Leaders who can carry on intelligent conversations. It seems like you are trying to harvest people who love what they do, and that shows.” ~Elizabeth, Portland, OR (2012 Plate & Pitchfork Raft Trip)

Need more convincing? Check our reviews on Trip Advisor.