The Snake River-White Water from Hell

When  the  kids  have  to  deliver  the  standard  what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation school  report  in  September,  there’s  an enormous  coolness  factor  in  saying,  “I white-water rafted on the Snake River.” It works even if all your family did was take a  mild  float  trip  along  the  Snake  up  in Grand  Teton  National  Park.  But  now  add this  phrase:  “I  white-water  rafted  on  the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon.” Now they own that homeroom.

Hell’s  Canyon  is  the  deepest  gorge  in North America, a full mile and a half deep, and  it’s  gorgeous  to  boot.  It  curls  along the border between Idaho and Oregon, as the river builds up a head of steam to pour into  the  Columbia  River  in  Washington State. (One look at a map and the kids will agree  they  couldn’t  call  this  loopy  river anything  but  the  Snake.)  The  standard 3-day rafting trip through this steep-walled forested  canyon  covers  about  36  miles, but it’s not rapids all the way, not by any means—there  are  plenty  of  placid  sections  where  rafters  can  relax  and  enjoy stunning views of the Seven Devils Mountains  (another  dynamite  name)  and  the Summit  Ridge.  Technically,  in  fact,  it  can
be  classified  as  an  easy  run.  What  makes this  white  water  so  awesome  is  not  the wildness  of  the  waters,  but  how  long  the rapids  go  on,  shooting  through  this  relatively  straight  stretch  of  the  river.  And while  they  might  be  scary  to  those  paddling a kayak (which may be an option for the  daredevils  in  your  party),  if  you’re seated  in  a  large  inflatable  raft  it’ll  be  a manageable  thrill.  Of  course  you’ll  get splashed and soaked, but that’s part of the whole whitewater experience.

When you’re not rafting, there’s plenty more to do along this stretch of the Snake River. Short hikes lead you away from the river to view Native American pictographs on canyon walls, or to find the abandoned cabins  of  early-1900s  settlers.  There  are chances  to  try  trout  fishing,  and  also  to swim  in  the  surprisingly  warm  waters. Wildlife   viewings   may   include   bighorn sheep, elk, and eagles.

Outfitters (see below) will handle all the details—supplying   equipment,   guiding the  rafts,  directing  activities,  setting  up  a very  comfortable  camp  each  night,  and shuttling  you  to  the  starting  point  and from the ending point.