Getting there: The Hells Canyon launch is about a half-mile below Hells Canyon Dam, about 2 1/2 hours east of Baker City, Ore., on Oregon 86 to Oxbow, Ore. From Boise, take Interstate 84 50 miles to Exit 3 at Cambridge, Idaho. Then take Highway 71 to Oxbow. Allow about 2 1/2 hours from Cambridge to the launch. From Oxbow, follow signs to Hells Canyon Dam, cross the dam and follow signs to the Hells Canyon launch.
Booking a trip: Hells Canyon Adventures offers a one-day whitewater rafting trip, and jet boat tours of two, three and six hours, as well as an overnight trip. During the summer months, jet boat tours don't run every day because of certain restrictions. So be sure to contact them at 1-800-HCA-FLOT. About 15 other small companies run whitewater rafts through Hells Canyon. They can be reached through the Hells Canyon Visitor Information Center at 541-742-4222.
Cost: Jet boat tours range from about $30 to $95 per day trip. Overnight trips are $250. Whitewater rafting trips are $140 per person. Hells Canyon Adventures offers off-season rates and lower rates for children.
Lodging: There are a number of places to stay, ranging from campsites to bargain motels and a couple of quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in nearby Oxbow and Halfway. The Armacosts, who operate Hells Canyon Adventures, also operate a small bed-and-breakfast. A good resource is the www.half.com site, which has more than 60 links to motels, restaurants and businesses in the area. For help finding lodging, call the Hells Canyon Visitor Information Center.
Dining: Lunch — and sometimes dinner — are offered on some of the longer trips. There are a number of small restaurants and eateries along Highway 86, in Oxbow, Halfway and Richland.
What to wear: During the summer, the water is warm enough to swim in, so bring swimwear, a hat, sunscreen and shoes that you don't mind getting wet. The canyon can get cold during chilly spring months, though, so bring a hooded jacket to protect your ears and keep water from running down your back. Gloves will help keep your hands from going numb, and secured sunglasses can help keep water out of your eyes.
What to bring: A waterproof camera with a string to wear around your neck, dry fleece, a towel and shower supplies for after the trip.
About the river: The Snake River begins in Yellowstone National Park and meanders for 1,035 miles through Wyoming and southern Idaho — then north to form the boundary between Idaho and Oregon. Finally, it enters Washington and turns southwest to join the Columbia River. Hells Canyon — known as the deepest river gorge in North America — is a section of the Snake stretching from the Hells Canyon Dam northward for 74 miles to Cache Creek on the Oregon-Washington border. It is largely inaccessible except by river raft.
Web site: www.hellscanyonadventures.com