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The Best in Family Vacations &
Family Vacation Ideas
Snake River through Hells Canyon, Idaho

Family Vacations & Family Vacation Ideas - Snake River , ID

Three and Five Days, Class III:

Value Season Departure Dates
May 25; June 2, 10 (Hells Canyon Preservation Council Benefit Trip), 18; August 29; September 6

5 day: $1265 adult / $1174 youth
3 day: $998 adult / $919 youth


Five Days, Class III:

Peak Season Departure Dates
June 26 (Family Trip); July 4, 12, 20, 28; August 5, 13, 21 (Family Trip)

5 day: $1336 adult / $1215 youth
3 day: $1203 adult / $1123 youth

•  The Snake River is home to a variety of cold- and warm-water fish, including steelhead, salmon, rainbow trout, catfish, and bass. Hells Canyon is one of the final strongholds of the giant white sturgeon. The fishing here is superb, and our guides know all about the best places to dip a line – so don't forget your gear!

•  The short hikes available in Hells Canyon lead to historic sites, Indian rock art, and for the more daring, the spectacular vista from Suicide Point.

•  Hells Canyon is full of remnants from ancient civilizations as well more modern times, from archaic Native American ruins to 20 th century gold mining relics. This canyon was home to the Nez Perce Indians and their ancestors for 6,000-8,000 years. Aside from tangible artifacts from their life here, places like Nez Perce Crossing – where, in 1877, Chief Joseph and his band of Willowa Nez Perce were forced to leave their home, incredibly crossing the spring-flooded Snake River with all their belongings and not a single loss of life – tell the story of the original inhabitants of the Canyon. In 1806, members of the Lewis and Clark party moved through the lower reaches of the canyon in their return journey from the Pacific. The discovery of gold in nearby Pierce in 1860 and subsequent establishment of Idaho territory in 1863 opened the area up to miners, ranchers and early river runners in the canyon, and the Snake's Old Western history unfolded in their wake.

Family Trips
•  The Snake River through Hells Canyon is well suited for families looking for a moderate, yet exciting, river adventure. The dam-controlled water releases guarantee there'll be whitewater action throughout the summer months, no matter when your vacation is scheduled for. Warm weather, warm water, and moderate rapids make this a great trip for kids, parents, and grandparents of almost any age. As you float down the river, worries are swept away as families come together with each passing mile. TV, computers and telephones are forgotten about while campfires, tents and time in the rafts take their place. You'll have a blast inflatable kayaking, viewing wildlife, swimming, fishing– your teenagers won't even mind spending time like this with Mom and Dad! Because we take care of every detail of the trip, from meal planning to chores, your time is 100% free to enjoy yourself and one another. Ask about our Family Friendly departures: trips specifically designed with your children in mind.

Family Vacation IdeasSample Itinerary
O.A.R.S takes pride in running a very relaxed and flexible schedule. Each trip depends upon the group, other trips on the water as well as the weather. The following is a taste of what your trip may be like.

The Day Before Your Trip
•  We meet at 7:00 PM this morning in the lobby of the Red Lion Hotel for the pre-trip meeting. A great opportunity to meet with your fellow travelers and trip leaders, this is also when you can ask any last-minute questions. Your guides will give you a detailed trip orientation, and then pass out your waterproof bags so you can make your belongings watertight that evening. If you are not able to attend the meeting, please let us know in advance and check in with our warehouse (208-743-4201) upon your arrival in Lewiston.

Day 1
•  We depart from Lewiston at 7:30 AM for a charter flight to Halfway, OR. This flight offers a spectacular bird's-eye view of our pathway through Hells Canyon, and is often considered a favorite highlight of the trip. After landing, we'll shuttle to our put-in point just below Hells Canyon Dam where our boats and your O.A.R.S. crew are waiting. Following a brief paddle raft/inflatable kayak instruction and safety talk, we're off on our river adventure!

•  Our first day will set the pace for our river trip. Usually, we aim to spend several hours on the water before lunch, typically breaking for a short hike, a swim, or a visit to Nez Perce pictographs or another historical site. When lunch time calls we break at a beach to enjoy a tasty picnic on the river shore. After a relaxing meal (or perhaps a swim, a walk or game of Frisbee), we climb back into our boats for even more exhilarating whitewater. Why not try your hand at our paddleboats or inflatable kayaks! Mid- to late-afternoon, we stop for the final time that day to make camp; you grab your gear and take care of your tent while we worry about the kitchen and “living room” – camp chairs and the site for tonight's campfire (if allowed). It won't be long before you're enjoying delicious hors d'oeuvres and beverages – as tasty as these refreshments are, they're always better following a day on the river! Nap, read, or just sit back and enjoy time with friends and family as we prepare your dinner. After another feast, the rest of the evening is yours to spend as you wish. Music, stories or jokes may entertain us tonight; or perhaps the popping fire, the sounds of the river and the clarity of the huge wild sky will keep you company in the wilderness that is, for now, our home.

Day 2
•  Your day begins with the morning light shining off the canyon walls. Fresh coffee and tea are ready for you when you get up; grab a cup, sit back and take in the glory of the stirring river. Breakfast is soon served – omelets made to order, blueberry pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit, toast, and juice are among the treats we have to offer. Once you've had your fill, you'll pack up your things as the guides break down camp, then our new day's adventure begins.

•  Today is an exciting whitewater day, finishing with two of Hells Canyon's most impressive rapids: Wild Sheep and Granite Creek. Our excitement builds as we pause at the top of each rapid, looking down at the thundering whitewater below. Those of us brave enough to paddle the inflatable kayaks get some last-minute instruction before we challenge the big waves and drops, flying through the frothy rapids and coming out slightly wet (maybe very wet!) but elated.

•  As the roiling rapids give way to more gentle stretches, we might take a break from the river to hike up Granite Creek for our first view of Native American pictographs. Or, perhaps we'll float down to Bernard Creek for a hike to the McGaffee Cabin – a preserved homestead dating back to the early 1900's – and panels of Indian pictographs.

•  This section of the Snake River offers exceptional trout fishing. During periods of calmer water, or perhaps during lunch, the anglers in the group will have some great opportunities to cast their line in deep, trout-packed pools.

Days 3-4
•  Whitewater action continues with big hits like Waterspout, Somers, Rush Creek, Lookout, Tryon, Haystack, Wild Goose and Deer head rapids – some of which are great for swimming!

•  A visit to Kirkwood Historic Ranch and Museum offers a taste of living history, exhibiting the lifestyle of Hells Canyon's inhabitants in the 1930's. This is also the site of historic and prehistoric Indian artifacts, which are displayed in the Kirkwood Museum. The ranch is a must-see on any Snake River trip. Further downstream, Pittsburgh Landing will provide an even deeper look at the life of early Native Americans in Hells Canyon. Lodge rings, petroglyphs, and other artifacts that still remain on the shore teach us more about the inhabitants who prospered for thousands of years along the Snake River.

•  This is the ending point of the 3-day trip. After visiting Pittsburgh Landing, we'll say our goodbyes, then those of us leaving will take a three-hour ride back to Lewiston; those staying on for the 5-day trip will move on down the river. As the water becomes calmer, we'll move our attention to the rocky canyon walls, searching for resident wildlife on the shores – including bear, deer, elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep – and marveling at the regal beauty on such a grand scale as only Hells Canyon can capture.

•  Hiking opportunities are abound as we float further down the river. Those of you looking for a challenging climb may have the opportunity to negotiate the steep but scenic trail to Suicide Point. Panels of Indian rock art are highlights of several different hikes to Temperance Creek and Deep Creek. The latter is also the site of a darker history; in 1887, 31 Chinese men were murdered here for their gold. Other destinations for the avid to explore include Salt Creek and Coon Hollow.

Day 5
•  Our breakfast today is as delicious and hearty as the first morning, but we are now much more accustomed to life on the river. The thought of returning to “civilization” brings mixed emotions – sadness at leaving Hells Canyon and our new friends, and perhaps excitement at the prospect of returning to creature comforts. Our last day's float brings us past the Snake's convergence with three major rivers: the Salmon, Imnaha, and Grande Ronde. Following the latter, we reach our take-out point at Heller Bar. A 45-minute shuttle ride brings us back to Lewiston, where we bid farewell to our guides and fellow travelers. It doesn't take us long to realize that although we have left the river, the river never leaves us.

What's Included?
•  5 (3) days rafting with 4 (2) nights camping
•  Scenic charter air flight to the put-in
•  Meals from lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 5 (3), with limited beer & wine at dinner
•  Expedition equipment, including 2 person shared tent, sleeping bag and pad, life jacket, wetsuits for paddlers when required and waterproof bags to hold your gear
•  Skilled professional guide services

What's Not Included?
•  Transportation to Lewiston and back
•  Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
•  Items of personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)

Why Visit Idaho?
When William Clark Meriwether Lewis arrived in Idaho first in 1805, they were greeted with an almost impenetrable wilderness of forests, mountains, and water, a beautiful but quite inhospitable land. With the assistance of the regions Native Americans, the two found navigable waters that would lead them through the region as they learned of the buffalo hunting trails that would sustain them. The maps and journals that they developed along their journey to the Pacific enlightened the country, which was at that time bordered to the west by the Mississippi River, to the endless beauty and possibilities of the Wild West.

Today's visitors to the state of Idaho are greeted with a much more welcome and negotiable land; however, some things haven't changed much at all in the past 200 years. Idaho's wild areas still remain among our nation's most remote and rugged lands. Its peaceful, pristine wilderness regions offer a breath of fresh air to the tired city dweller.

These are just a few more reasons why we thing you should visit Idaho:

  • Mountains are the jewels of the state, and ranges such as the Saw tooth and Seven Devils offer vistas unmatched anywhere else in the entire world. They home to great skiing, hiking climbing, mountain biking, and more.
  • National Forests, such as the Saw tooth, Clearwater, and Payette, and protected wilderness areas, including the Frank Church River of No Return and the Selway-Bitterroot, offer further outdoor activities.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument exhibit a captivating natural exhibit of basaltic volcanic formations. The lava fields found here are layered with cinder cones and mimic the craters of the moon so closely that astronaut Alan Shephard and his crew trained here for their lunar experience.
  • Coeur d'Alene is a mountain resort town, the recreational center of which , Lake Coeur d'Alene, was named one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world by National Geographic magazine . The lake offers plenty of fishing and boating opportunities and the region that surround the town are the only place outside of India where the star garnet can be found.
  • Idaho's capital of Boise, is the perfect home base for excursions into the state's more rural areas. Besides offering an impressive selection of restaurants and accommodations, Boise is home to botanical gardens, museums and a noteworthy orchestra and opera. One of the city's more interesting museums is the World Center for Birds of Prey , where one can view live eagles and falcons, as well as other exhibits on ecology, biology, and conservation.
  • Lava Hot Springs, a health resort and spa, boasts mineral springs that have most likely been the same temperature – 110 degrees Fahrenheit – for 50 million years. An ideal way to invigorate yourself after a day of outdoor adventures is to soak in these pools.
  • Idaho's rivers, streams, and lakes are renowned for their excellent trout, salmon and steelhead fishing.
  • The deepest gorge in North America is called Hells Canyon, and is found straddling the border of Oregon and Idaho. Here you'll find an abundance of wildlife – mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep,bears, cougars, and numerous birds, to name a few. The incredible Hells Canyon National Recreation Area protects more than 650,000 acres of this region, from the Snake River through Hells Canyon to the alpine lakes of the Seven Devils. Outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, and boating on the waters of the Snake, are frequent and welcomed in this federally protected area.

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