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Spotlight: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Powerboat Permits

Spotlight: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Powerboat Permits

Reserve a powerboat recreation permit for an experience on the Snake River in Hells Canyon!

Hells Canyon Power or paddle, there is no bad way to see Hells Canyon! (Susan Gale/Share the Experience)

What You’ll Find

Hells Canyon is a formidable section of the mighty Snake River, stretching from remote Hells Canyon Dam northward for 75 miles along the border between northeastern Oregon and western Idaho. Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America, and largely inaccessible except by river craft.

Early travelers found Hells Canyon all but inaccessible, but today, the canyon draws white-water rafters, powerboaters, hikers, campers and outdoor adventurers from around the world. 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.

Getting There

Powerboats usually enter the canyon by traveling up the Snake River from Lewiston, Idaho. No roads cross the Snake River in Hells Canyon, but other remote put-ins are also accessible via roads that follow the Snake River between Hells Canyon Dam and the Oregon–Washington state boundary further downstream. Hells Canyon Road follows the Idaho side of the river for 22 miles (35 km) from Oxbow Bridge near Copperfield, Oregon, downstream to the Hells Canyon Dam, crosses the dam and continues another mile to the Hells Canyon Visitor Center on the Oregon side. Further north on the Idaho side, Deer Creek Road connects White Bird, Idaho, to the river at Pittsburg Landing. Near the northern end of the canyon, Forest Road 4260 (Lower Imnaha Road), the last part of which is too rough for most cars, reaches the river at Dug Bar, 21 miles (34 km) from Imnaha, Oregon. These roads also offer scenic viewpoints at places like Hat Point and Buckhorn in Oregon, or Heavens Gate in Idaho. If you are looking for a scenic drive, consider a trip on the Hells Canyon All-American Road Scenic Byway.

Make Sure You

Check out the incredible history of Hells Canyon. The Nez Perce 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 boaters can view along the river.

The earliest boats to travel into the canyon were sternwheelers from 1860 to 1910. Today, the wild and rugged canyon is primarily accessible by powerboats and inflatable rafts.

Read more Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Fast Facts.

Try This

As the weather heats up so does the entertainment. Rockin’ on the River is a music event held on the banks of the Snake River each summer in Clarkston, Washington, and near Lewiston, Idaho, just north of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

Don’t Forget

With a few exceptions, most visitors entering Hells Canyon by river craft must obtain a permit. Whether you have a motorized powerboat or a non-motorized river raft, make sure to check the Wild and Scenic Snake River - 2014 Non-motorized Calendar for the seasons and dates open to your style of river craft.

Get Started!

Learn more about the Wild and Scenic Snake River. Powerboaters—check Wild and Scenic Snake River - Powerboating Information.

Float boaters can apply for permits on the Hells Canyon – Snake River Float Permit page or learn more about Snake River float permits.

Did You Know?

With passage of the Wild and Scenic River Act in 1975, Congress designated the 31.5 miles (50.7 km) of the river from Hells Canyon Dam to Upper Pittsburgh Landing as “wild,” and the 36 miles (57.9 km) below Pittsburgh Landing, “scenic.”