May 29, 2012

Heavenly Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America and had always been a “must see” stop on our trip.  Today we took a six-hour jet boat tour through the deepest, most rugged section of Hells Canyon.  What an exciting adventure!  We had a blast!

We started the tour in White Bird, Idaho, one of the few access points into Hells Canyon.  Killgore Adventures, the company that we selected for the tour, has a convenient campground where we stayed.  It was so handy to just walk from our RV to the shuttle that would take us to Pittsburg Landing on the Snake River.  Several couples who had been in White Bird for a weekend ATV Ride joined us on the shuttle, and we heard all about the exciting trail rides they had taken into the backcountry. 

The drive to Pittsburg Landing was on a steep, one lane gravel road through mountainous terrain.  It was a beautiful scenic drive with spectacular views into the center of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.  I was happy that we had opted for the shuttle and had left the RV back at the campground.

Looking Down into Hells Canyon
As I prepared to photograph the view, I realized with horror that I had forgotten to reload the SD card into my camera last night.  I had two fresh batteries but no SD card.  I was so angry at myself and could not believe that I would not have a camera on one of the most scenic rides of the trip.  In desperation I asked everyone I ran into if they had an extra SD card I could purchase, but had no luck.

We stepped aboard the jet boat and started our ride through some of the most amazing scenery in the world.  Steep cliffs rose from the edge of the river, and we started to experience some of the whitewater that the Snake River is known for.  We made a stop at the historic Kirkwood Ranch and toured the museum.  I continued my quest for an SD card, and a very nice gentleman and his wife offered me the use of his camera since he preferred to use his IPhone.  I could not believe it.  How incredibly generous!  My mood immediately brightened.

Historic Kirkwood Ranch
The skies were overcast as we made our way toward Hells Canyon Dam.  We passed through several smaller rapids, and then we were ready for the big ones.  We donned life jackets for the two biggest rapids, Wild Sheep and Granite.  Powering through these Class IV rapids was thrilling, and I was happy we were in a jet boat, not a raft.

Ready for the Rapids
Here We Go
Class IV Rapids
We stopped at the dam for a delicious picnic lunch, and while we were eating a mountain goat ran right past us.  Where was my camera when I needed it?  The ride back down the river was much wilder, and it seemed as though we were on a wet bucking bronco.  Water poured into the front of the boat as we went through the two big rapids, and it was hard to stay dry, but we didn’t care.  The ride was exhilarating and so much fun.

That Mountain Goat Is Hiding Behind the Trees
Waiting for the Return Trip
Calm Before the Rapids
Here We Go Again
Time to Admire the Spectacular Scenery
A Wild and Scenic River
And the Water Came Pouring In
The mountain goat was not our only wildlife sighting on the river.  We saw more bald eagles today than I’ve seen in one day since I was in Alaska, and we witnessed several Rocky Mountain big horn sheep grazing beside the river.

Big Horn Sheep
People often ask us to name our favorite places.  I think the jet boat ride through Hells Canyon will make the “top ten.”


  1. Replies
    1. LV, Agreed! It was one of the more amazing days of the trip. Sarah

  2. Love it! Definitely the jet boat ride!! But I must say that the view into Hell's Canyon is amazing....AG

    1. AG, The views in the canyon were spectacular. The jet boat ride was simply icing on the cake. Sarah