The Lewis-Clark Valley is the gateway to Hells Canyon, world famous as North America’s deepest river gorge. Hells Canyon is a remnant of the last ice age, and was formed by the flowing waters of the 1,000-mile long Snake River. The canyon measures a mile and a half from the river bottom at Granite Creek Rapids to the tallest mountaintop. The headwaters of the Snake River start in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and traverses six states. It crosses southern Idaho, then turns north to form the boundary between the state of Oregon, finally entering Washington and turning southwest to end its travels in the wide embrace of the Columbia River.
Hells Canyon is a name given to the section of the mighty Snake River which stretches from Hells Canyon Dam northward for 75 miles to the Washington-Oregon border. It is largely inaccessible except by river craft. When Congress passed the Wild and Scenic River Act in 1975, 31.5 miles of the river from Hells Canyon Dam to Upper Pittsburgh Landing were designated “wild.” It is designated “scenic” for 36 miles below Pittsburgh Landing.
The earliest boats to travel into the canyon were sternwheelers from 1860 to 1910. Wild and rugged with many rapids, the canyon is primarily accessible today by jetboat and inflatable raft. Outfitters and tour guides will point out the canyon’s Indian petroglyphs, a myriad of wildlife, abandoned mines, shipwreck sites and homesteads. The region was once home to the Nez Perce who occupied Hells Canyon for thousands of years, 150 archaeological sites have been identified. The most vivid evidence of the early inhabitants lies at Buffalo Eddy; a scattered group of petroglyphs bearing 240 different designs. The canyon also has several other rock art sites that have been identified and can be viewed along the way.
History buffs, hikers, anglers and lovers of the rugged outdoors have several ways to visit Hells Canyon. Day trips or overnight stays in rustic lodges complement the ever-popular float trips via inflatable raft or kayak. Guided trips are highly recommended because of the rapids that range up to Class IV and V.
Hells Canyon attracts white-water rafters, jetboaters, hikers, campers and outdoor adventurers worldwide. You can enjoy a lazy afternoon on a white sand beach, fish for steelhead or sturgeon or help deliver the mail to remote ranches. You won’t want to miss this breathtaking trip.
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest
2535 Riverside Drive; Clarkston, WA 99403
General Information 509-758-0616
Required Permits & Reservations
Float Permits 509-758-1957
Powerboat Permits 509-758-0270
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