Hell's Canyon, OR/ID

I used to live in the vicinity of Hell’s Canyon (forms a long stretch of Idaho/Oregon border; also deepest canyon in N. America, if unfamiliar) and shamefully have never floated it. While it is a popular commercial trip that doesn’t require a packraft’s light weight or portability, I’m fixed on running it this year. The scenery is awesome and there are a grip of good rapids, with the majors easily portageable. A friend and I nearly went for it last year, but by the time we were in the water we realized that our overloaded boats and combined inexperience could have made the trip more stressful than enjoyable, and we opted out (luckily setting up the shuttle was quite an adventure in itself, so it wasn’t all a waste). There are several ways you could do this trip to include some sweet backpacking as well. No permits required after September. Just curious if anyone might be so inclined–drop a PM.

Just thought I’d give this a bump as the time in nearing, just wanted to throw it out there if anyone is interested. So far it’s me and a buddy for sure, maybe one other guy.

This is quite a run!

I got back a few days ago, ran from HC dam to Dug Bar, 50 miles or so in a bit over 2 days. My crew flaked at last minute but I ran it anyway. I paddled everything except Granite and Wild Sheep, the two big-name rapids. Wild Sheep looked doable, just rocky and kind of nasty at the bottom. I would have done it if I wasn’t alone. Granite I don’t know! It’s got a real mean look to it :astonished: and a swallow-you-hole or two. I stole the below pic of Granite from another site…the flows were much higher in their picture (it was between 10-15k when I was down there)…I’d be amazed to see someone get through there unflipped in a packraft. It certainly wouldn’t be boring.

Other than that, it ain’t bad. I scouted a lot and eventually could suss out if I needed to or not from the boat. I only swam once, in some big thrashing waves. It didn’t faze me much though, usually there’s long pools after the rapids and I knew I’d be fine. At higher flows the eddies and whirls would be freaky and the overall intensity would increase substantially, but that almost goes without saying. Below Pittsburgh Landing the river mellows out quite a bit, but it’s still exciting in the big waves. Since the river is slack water from three upstream dams it’s really warm. Lots of cool campsites and usually trails on both sides of the river. There’s heaps of wildlife out there too: I saw bears, wild sheep, elk, rattlesnakes, deer, otters, etc.

Taking out at Dug bar is undertaking…it’s like a Class III+ drive out there, but you pass through some rad country, and the Imnaha river you follow out will tempt you to come back when there’s more water in it. You could get to Pittsburgh Landing in a (long) day with an early start. The other vehicle take-out is another 30 miles with a heap of flatwater. Ideally, hiking in from Seven Devils and then floating out would be the Way, plus the shuttle would be much easier.

The one gripe I had was jet boats; they’re a bit obnoxious and misplaced on a so-called “Wild and Scenic River” imo. But, despite my concern, none of them run me over so I can’t complain too much I guess…

Some of my pics (reverse chronology):