Hells Canyon - Snake River (4 Rivers)

Wallowa Whitman National Forest

The mighty Snake River winds its way through Hells Canyon, the deepest river-carved gorge in North America. The river flows north through the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA) and forms the boundary between Idaho and Oregon. Although the Recreation Area includes portions of the Nez Perce, Payette, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, it is managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Within the HCNRA, the Hells Canyon Wilderness comprises nearly 215,000 acres. The Snake River flows through and is adjacent to this Wilderness. Wildlife thrives here, so bring your binoculars as common sights range from big horn sheep to the great blue heron. The Snake River is also home to the sturgeon, Chinook salmon, trophy steelhead trout and more. 

The 31.5-mile section of the river between Hells Canyon Dam and Upper Pittsburg Landing is designated as the Wild river section. Rapids vary from Class II to Class V. At the mouth of Granite Creek rapids, approximately seven miles downstream from Hells Canyon Dam, the river elevation is 1,480 feet. The canyon depth here is 7,913 feet when measured from He Devil Mountain, towering over Idaho’s Seven Devils range at 9,393 feet. 

The 36-mile section of the river downstream from Upper Pittsburg Landing to River Mile 180.2 is designated Scenic, however, shorelines are largely undeveloped. This river section ends at the HCNRA boundary at the Oregon- Washington state line. Heller Bar is river mile 168.5 and is the last public boat launch and landing area. The closest town that includes public amenities from Heller Bar is Asotin, Washington. 

Hells Canyon Creek Recreation Site is the launching point for float trips. This site, 23 miles north of Oxbow, OR, is accessible year round via a paved Idaho Power Company road and is located 3/4-mile downstream from Hells Canyon Dam. During the summer, a staffed visitor information station with interpretive exhibits and a small theater provides river users and other visitors with information about the river and Hells Canyon.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

This permit allows you to launch a float boat trip on the Snake River in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA).

The HCNRA requires reservations during the Primary season which is from the Friday preceding Memorial Day through September 10th each year. In 2021 those dates are May 28th through September 10th.

HCNRA reservations are only available through Recreation.gov. 

Self-issue river permits are required for the entire river corridor outside of the primary season, but do not require an advanced reservation. These river permits are available at all HCNRA river portals.

This year the HCNRA will be honoring permit holders that chose to roll-over their 2020 reservations into 2021 due to Covid-19 contraints.

Need to Know

Refer to the Snake River Rules and Regulations for more information about permits, floatcraft, non-motorized periods, camping and general rules.

Fee Policy

The Reservation/Application fee ($6.00) is non-refundable. This fee must be paid on Recreation.gov using a credit card.

Recreation Fees

There are no per person recreation fees for a Snake River permit.

Cancellation Policy

Change Policy 

The permit is non-transferable. Call the Snake River office at (509) 758-0616 if you have questions about your situation. 

Cancellation Policy 

If you cannot make a trip, you must always submit a cancellation on the reservation system. To submit your cancellation, please go to your existing reservation with Recreation.gov and follow the instructions. 

You should send the cancellation no later than 15 days prior to your launch date to avoid any issues or being flagged as a “no show.” 

The 15-day advance notice requirement may be waived in cases due to extreme water conditions. Regardless, a cancellation must be submitted. Failure to provide timely cancellation will trigger a “no-show penalty.” This “no-show” penalty will impact your eligibility to get a permit for one year. 

The $6.00 application/reservation fee is non-refundable.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

2535 Riverside Dr. PO Box 699 Clarkston WA 99403

Phone Number

Hells Canyon Launch : 541-785-3395 ~ Snake River Administrative Office 509-758-0616

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