Hells Canyon is known to be North America’s deepest river gorge. It encompasses a huge, remote area that is characterized by dramatic changes in terrain, elevation, vegetation and climate. Hells Canyon goes a mile below Oregon’s west rim and is shaped by the great Snake River. In addition, the Canyon is 8,000 feet below the snow-capped Devil Peak of the well-known Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains.
The Snake River is deemed to be a Wild and Scenic physical feature. The 31.5 mile section that is between Hells Canyon Dam and Upper Pittsburg landing has been designated as Wild. The 36 mile section of the river that heads downstream from the Upper Pittsburg Landing all the way to Mile 180.2 was designated as Scenic.
The Wild River reservations located from Hells Canyon Dam to Upper Pittsburg must be issued with a trip permit for 7 days during the primary season. This is actually the Friday before Memorial Day all the way to September 10th. There are 3 private permit launches every day. These reservations are usually obtained through the Four Rivers Lottery or by choosing a cancellation after the reservations have been allocated.
People can apply for the Four Rivers Lottery from the 1st of December to the 31st of January. All successful applications should confirm their reservation details no later than March 15th. You should keep in mind that there is no wait list for any unconfirmed reservations. Once the application period is over, all the remaining spots released at random starting from March 16th. This is one of the main reasons why should sort out the details early on.
Even though self-issue permits are needed for the whole river corridor outside of the primary season, it’s not a must that you make any advance reservation. This is because they can be self-issued at any river portal.
Power boating and rafting on the rapid waters of Hells Canyon is recommended for people with some experience and well equipped. If you are new to the sport, its best that you take things slow. For floaters, lining or portaging though or around the rapids can be quite difficult.
Other things you should know before you go:
When reserving or applying for a launch date on the river, you should certify that;
-You are not currently being penalized for a late cancellation or no-show on the river.
-That you will only submit one application for the rivers lottery.
-You are fully aware that during the primary season for the rivers, you can only hold one launch reservation at a time.
-The reservation or application is only for a private float, unless you are authorized as a commercial operator on the river.
-That you are 18 years of age or you would have reached it by the launch date.
-That you will sign a permit affirming you have read and understood the definition of a private float trip.
-Your party size cannot exceed 8 crafts or 24 people
-That all boats assigned to you must carry at least one personal flotation device that is U.S. Guard approved.
For more information, you can refer to the Rules and Regulations of Snake River.