A rafting vacation in Idaho on the Snake River often entails many questions. What type of boats are used? How does camping on the river work? What is the food like? What do I need to bring and what is supplied by the outfitter? You'll find answers to all these questions and many more in the categories below.
Please consider carefully any medical or health condition that would endanger yourself, or others on the trip, or diminish the enjoyment of an adventure vacation such as this. Factors of age, weight, lack of conditioning, heart or other disease can become exacerbated by the environment, remote distances from a hospital, and physical challenges of a rafting adventure. It is critical that you are in reasonable health and physical fitness at the time of departure so that our staff can focus their attention equally on all trip participants. If you are taking any medications, we should be made aware of these and what these medications are treating. If you have any questions or concerns please talk with us and we can help you consider your options.
We encourage you to carefully evaluate your overall physical, mental, and emotional condition in relation to these environmental challenges. If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
Physical fitness on a rafting trip is probably the very best way to get the most out of your adventure. Hiking to hidden attractions away from the river's edge, shooting rapids with anticipation rather than anxiety, and possibly even swimming in the river are among the more active things where being more fit will enhance your whitewater rafting vacation. Feeling confident with your abilities is always a great feeling, but the rewards you'll get from physically preparing your body for a rafting trip will pay off in numerous ways, possibly adding years to your life. Now THAT'S living! So, how does one best prepare physically for a rafting adventure? Great question. We've made a list of simple exercises that can be combined together and are specifically applicable to a rafting adventure:
Strength: Gripping ropes (or paddles) is one universal constant for any rafting trip. Start squeezing stress balls or spring-loaded grip strengtheners. Keep these small items handy (pun-intended) while stopped at a red light, working at the desk, or while walking and talking. Legs are another key area to focus on - especially if you want to explore the side trips away from the river's edge. Start with walks around your neighborhood while gripping hand weights to strengthen grip simultaneously. You might as well do some curls with those hands weights while you're at it! Some hikes require some (or a lot of) stair-stepping activity. To really get your legs ready, consider squats, burpees, jump-rope or jumping jacks. All the little muscles in your feet that give you balance will come in very handy while walking on uneven terrain.
Lungs & Heart: Breathing heavy is a sure sign your heart rate is up. You probably know lots of ways to get your heart rate up, but one of the best ways to work your entire body (muscles AND heart and lungs) is an exercise with a stupid name, called "Burpees." (No, that's not what you get from consuming a 7-11 Slurpee too fast). You can do burpees at any pace you are ready for, but do it long enough to get breathing hard, then catch your breath and repeat for, say 5 minutes a day. Add in walking your dog, using hand-grip weights or anything else that also strengthens your grip to be more time efficient as you prepare.
Flexibility: Sitting in a raft is different from how we normally sit in a chair. Walking on uneven terrain is different than on a paved path. Flexibility may be more important than strength in helping prevent injuries. Consider that when you absolutely don't want to exercise, but you do have a minute to stretch. Always be stretching.
Balance & Mental Awareness: Of course knowing your own limits is vital for keeping yourself safer - and that responsibility can't be placed on anyone but you! While exercising and preparing for your rafting trip, pay attention to two things: (1) Your own sense of physical balance, and (2) how much harder you can push yourself that you initially may have thought. These two things will keep you safer, while also moving beyond self-imposed limitations and comfort zones. That's the definition of a great adventure!
Drink lots of water: Get used to drinking a lot of water as you exercise more. In the hot sun, even simply sitting on a raft, you will sweat and burn more calories than you may have thought. Hydration is not an area to "push through" and "be tough" about! Drink water! Reward that hard working body!
Swimming skills are a plus! Swimming is a great way to prepare for a rafting trip too. You may (voluntarily or involuntarily) be doing some swimming on your rafting trip. Don't let that scare you. You've got a Personal Flotation Device (PFD, aka life jacket) on at all times and may only need to do some strokes and kicks to get yourself back to the boat, or to shore.
Myth #9 on our 11 Myths of Whitewater Rafting page dispels the notion that you must be athletic to enjoy a rafting trip. Take a look there if you want to learn more about what to expect on rafting vacations.If you have concerns or questions about your physical condition, we recommend you also consult your physician. If you have questions about the specific parameters of a rafting trip with Western River Expeditions, please contact our office at 1-800-453-7450 or 801-942-6669. We would be happy to provide any other information you need to make this decision, or to discuss any of this information in detail.
If you are pregnant, you will not be permitted to go rafting. Our trips take place in remote wilderness settings where access to advanced medical care can be hours away (possibly overnight), and conditions such as extreme heat and vigorous activity can exacerbate discomfort and any known or unknown conditions.
Please remember that you will not always be pregnant, but the river will always be here. We do not believe it is worth the risk, no matter how early you are in your pregnancy. We think moms are special and hope you understand.
If you use a CPAP machine, please ensure that you can complete the trip if your CPAP machine fails or your batteries don’t last. Medical evacuation is only available for severe injury or an imminently life threatening condition. You must be able to safely complete the trip without a working device! Please contact our office to advise us if you will be bringing a cpap machine on your trip. 1-801-942-6669
Thank you for carefully considering additional challenges that traveling with a CPAP requires on a multi-day backcountry camping and rafting expedition. It is important to us that you choose wisely, and come well prepared to self-sufficiently manage this need while camping in the backcountry.
An initial non-refundable deposit of $500 per person is required to secure your space. Deposits may be made by check or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express).
We are happy to put a courtesy hold on seats for a 48-hour period of time, we do not require a deposit at this time. Based on the timing of the courtesy hold prior to the trip departure, we may be able to extend the hold time.
Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable. Payment may be paid by check or credit card.
For your convenience, you can make secure payments online at anytime into your reservation by using the provided "Manage Payments" link provided in your order email. Final payments are due 90 days prior to trip departure and can be made through this link or by calling 800-453-7450 to speak with our office staff.
We reserve the right to cancel your reservation if full payment is not collected by the due date.
An initial deposit of $500 per person is required to secure your space. This deposit is non-refundable. Payment in full is due 90 days prior to trip departure and is non-refundable.
Our cancellation policy applies in every instance and there will be no exceptions for any reason. Western River Expeditions will not issue any refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early whether voluntary or caused by other circumstances. Western River Expeditions is not responsible for any expenses incurred due to travel delays, flight cancellations, non-refundable airline tickets, or illness. Western River Expeditions assumes no financial responsibility for personal injury, emergency evacuation, or personal equipment lost or damaged in any way.
Your trip operator, ROW Adventures, reserves the right, either prior to or after departure, in its good-faith discretion and in circumstances that warrant it, to change or re-price any tour, trip, or expedition. This includes the possibility of moving to different river or river segment due to extreme water conditions, forest fires, road closures and/or acts of God. If we are not able to provide a substitute trip, river, or altered itinerary and have to cancel the departure completely, you will be allowed you to use the full value of your non-refundable payments as a credit for a future trip. ROW Adventures reserves the right to cancel trips that are below the trip minimum (usually 6 persons). All trip members will be notified a minimum of 30 days before the trip departs and will receive a full refund.
If you are concerned about the possibility of having to cancel, you will find information about cancellation coverage at https://www.westernriver.com/cancellation
Some of the most difficult situations occur when a guest needs to cancel a few days before a trip because of an injury, a family illness, or some other catastrophic event. In these situations, we generally do not have time to refill the space. Yet, we have already spent considerable time, money, and energy preparing for your trip: scheduling vehicles, flights, drivers, guides and equipment, purchasing food, etc. Because of our short season and very limited number of available seats, we cannot afford the financial loss that cancellations cause. Therefore, consider the investment you are making in your vacation and whether or not you could afford the loss if you did have to cancel.
Your guides will make every effort to see that your trip is enjoyable and successful. Gratuities for guides are appropriate, greatly appreciated and at your discretion, as a gesture of thanks for their professionalism and service. A suggested guideline is 10 percent of the trip cost. The common practice is to give the gratuity to the trip leader on the last night. It will later be divided equally with the rest of the crew. Paying in cash is the most common form of payment though you can always bring along a check and make it out to the trip leader.
There is a minimum requirement of 6 passengers to confirm any launch. Not all travel dates are guaranteed.
If the particular date and trip are not available, we are happy to put your name on our waitlist in the event we should have a cancellation for that trip and date. Western River offers many other rafting destinations and we are happy to discuss other trips that would work as an option.
We will be able to take reservations a year in advance of a trip departure (the season prior). You can check availability and make your reservation online or call anyone in our office for availability and reservations.
The maximum permitted capacity for a Snake River trip is 18 passengers.
On a Snake River trip, you will have your choice of rafting in an oar boat, paddle raft and inflatable kayaks. An oar boat can take 4 guests with a guide comfortably and the guide is the only one with oars to paddle. A paddle raft has a maximum capacity of 6 passengers and 1 guide, with a paddle raft, all guests and guide will paddle. There are inflatable kayaks available part-time on appropriate sections of the river for those who want to take on the challenge of the rapids (no guide on an inflatable kayak).
You can charter your own private rafting trip on the Snake River through Hells Canyon by confirming all 19 seats. Get your group together to celebrate a special occasion, family reunion, all women or men group, etc.
Arranging a group trip with Western is an easy task! Begin by calling our office 866-904-1160 and making your own reservation. Members of your group may then call in and mention that they are traveling with you. If group members are paying separately each can have their own reservation while still being tied together as a group.
Depending on availability, it may be possible to place a courtesy hold for a few days on your specific trip date to enable your friends to call in with their own deposit. Seats would then be released from that hold as they place their individual reservations within your group.
Any river trip is a great experience for solo travelers. Meet like-minded, adventurous, new friends!
The minimum age on a Snake River trip is 10 years old in the early season (May and June). July, August and September launches have a minimum age of 7 years old.
You are welcome to bring along whatever food items that your child prefers. Hand selected fruits and vegetables are carefully packed for each trip along with meats and fresh dairy. Breakfast food offerings are eggs, pancakes, French Toast and cereals. Fruit juice is available at breakfast. Lunches generally include deli meats and peanut butter and jelly with cookies afterwards. Dinners will include appetizers, main dish and desserts, all cooked fresh. There is a conscious effort to serve local foods on Idaho rafting trips.
The Snake River in Hells Canyon is a great trip for kids in July and August when the water is warmer. With the big sandy beaches, kids enjoy the camptime playing games and swimming close to shore. The Snake River is also a good location for fishing in camp.
All guests should come dressed and ready to raft on the first day. Also, be prepared with river clothes and personal hygiene items in a soft sided duffel bag approximately 12” x 13” x 24” in size on the day of your river departure. Any extra luggage can be shuttled to the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel while you are on the river. When you get off of the river in Lewiston, your extra bags will be waiting for you at the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel. All guests are given a large gear bag for their duffel bags and a day bag to use for smaller items like camera, sunscreen, necessary medications at the pre-trip orientation. You will want to pack your dry bag the night prior to trip departure so that you will be ready for the trip first thing in the morning.
In the early season, May and June, you will be provided a wetsuit and wetsuit booties. A splash jacket and rain gear are important clothing items for the early season on a Snake River trip. These will protect you from the cold water rapids.
Guests are not allowed to bring their own lifejacket or PFD. Western River Expeditions is subject to regulations promulgated by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and State Parks. All three of these agencies require that guests of commercial outfitters wear Type V Whitewater lifejackets. Personal life jackets are usually meant for lake sports and even Type III jackets, meant for kayaking or canoeing, are not acceptable for use by our guests.
Fortunately, the newer generations of Type V life jackets are very comfortable. They also have a lot more floatation than the typical personal jacket.
Fishing for trout, bass and sturgeon on the Snake River is good. An Idaho and Oregon fishing license is required. Fishing is catch and release only. Please bring your own collapsible rod and gear.
If you are on an oar boat and in between rapids, your guide may let you fish from the raft or you can always fish while in camp.
Come dressed ready for the river rafting. Wear what can get wet and dry quickly. During early season, make sure to have your rain gear handy, and be sure your personal day bag is packed.
Bring along plenty of sunscreen for any rafting trip. The air will be dryer in the West than you will find in many other climate zones. You will want to keep your skin hydrated and protected from the sun. Hats and sunglasses are very important items. A sarong or head buff can also protect you while in direct sun.
We are not able to supply battery backup or charging devices, you will want to bring along extra batteries or your own charging device.
Personal belongings for your multi-day rafting trip should be placed in a soft-sided duffle bag that will be stored away each day in a large, water tight, gear bag. This large gear bag is put on a cargo raft that will go ahead of your trip each day and be waiting for you at camp. You will also have a smaller, day use dry bag to put items like sunscreen, camera, medications, lip balm, etc into. This bag will be with you each day on the raft.
All of the camping equipment is provided for a comfortable camping experience. You will be given a 2 man tent, ground cover, sleeping bags, flannel liner, pillow, Paco pads to sleep on, camp chairs and 2 dry bags.
Any extra luggage that does not need to go with you on the river will be transported to the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel and waiting for you when you get off of the river.
All guests are given a day bag to use for smaller items like camera, sunscreen, necessary medications at the pre-trip orientation. Put all medications needed during the day into your day bag. If medication requires refrigeration, give it to your guides to store in the coolers. You will want to pack your day bag the night prior to trip departure so that you will be ready for the trip first thing in the morning.
Wake up around 7:00am to the smell of freshly brewed coffee with breakfast to follow around 7:30. After breakfast, you will help to take down the campsite and pack your dry bags to load on the cargo raft. Once all packed for the river, around 9:30, the group gets on their way for another new adventure. You will experience plenty of rapids and dramatic scenery, take side hikes to see Native American rock art left by original settlers of the area. After a morning of river rafting, you will stop for lunch. Your guides will fix lunch while you rest or take a hike. The first few days of rafting the Snake River, you will find some of the biggest whitewater in the Northwest. Keep an eye out for wildlife like Bald Eagles, River Otter, Big Horn Sheep and Deer. You will arrive at your campsite where your tents and kitchen have already been set up. You will find your guides preparing the appetizers for the evening. After you clean up from your day of rafting, everyone gathers for a relaxing dinner and time around the campfire. Get a good night’s sleep because another day is just hours away!
Because you will want to experience all that the canyon has to offer, there will be time spent on side hikes as well as on the river, rafting. You can plan on an average of 1 - 2 hours at a time on the rafts.
Hells Canyon Dam controls the water flow in the Snake River and you will find a stronger release in June and September. The classification of the rapids is subject to the size of the water and the technicality of the rapid. For general purposes, you will find class II - IV rapids on the Snake River in Hells Canyon.
Rafting on the Snake River allows you a variety of raft choices to experience. You can choose to raft in an oar boat (guide only rows), paddle raft (all guests have a paddle and share in the paddling experience with the guide) or part-time in an inflatable kayak on appropriate sections of the river.
The water that flows in the Snake River through Hells Canyon runs over the Hells Canyon dam and is heated by the sun. Temperatures will range in the 60’s in June and September and 70’s in July and August.
While not rafting the whitewater rapids, swimming in the Snake River will add to your rafting adventure. There are all sorts of opportunities to float along with the rafts, cliff jump and play from the sandy beaches in camp.
Because our trips operate in remote, backcountry settings, there are no permanent bathroom facilities. We use portable toilets that we haul with us. We’ve prepared a video describing toilet facilities on the river. Click on the link, watch the video and then call us if you have more questions.
The portable toilets described in the video are available shortly after we set up camp each afternoon until we leave camp the next morning. The Snake River rafting trip is operated in a remote, backcountry setting where there are no permanent bathroom facilities along the river. During the day while on the rafts, the guides will make frequent stops at which you can go to the bathroom. Liquid waste goes in the water by wading into the river or going for a swim.
If you expect to be menstruating during your trip, we recommend the use of tampons rather than pads. During the day, you will constantly be getting wet, so pads are not ideal. If you choose to use pads, we recommend wearing a good pair of waterproof rain pants.
A good strategy is to bring several sandwich-sized zip-lock bags pre-packed with individual tampons. The same bag can then be used for disposal after use. Toilet facilities will always be available while in camp and the guides will stop as often as is necessary during the day to accommodate your needs. We will always provide a means for discreet disposal of feminine hygiene items. It is best that you bring your own supplies, but we also carry a supply of feminine hygiene products.
Additional tips that have come from previous guests:
It is not possible to be reached while on the river. You can leave the Western River office phone number (800-453-7450) or ROW Adventures office phone number (800-451-6034) with your family. A message can be waiting for you as soon as you are off of the river.
There is no cell service while on the Snake River. This is also your opportunity to unplug, leave the rest of the world behind and enjoy your surroundings.
Should there be a medical situation on the river, the guides will have access to Satellite phones to call for help. All guides are certified in first aid and river rescue. Many guides are certified a Wilderness First Responders or Emergency Medical Technicians. All guides carry a satellite phone along with a GPS on trips lasting three or more days. Satellite phones are used to contact emergency transport, including helicopters. Depending on the situation, weather and location evacuation can take from as little a couple of hours to 24 hours in extreme cases.
We do have several guidelines and suggestions for camera use while on your trip. You are free to film and shoot photos during our trips, however, we ask that you consult with your guide before doing so. We have some guidelines you will be asked to follow. These include:
If you’re wondering what type of camera is most suitable for the river, here are a few thoughts.
Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Cameras - These cameras are perfect for everyday use and have become very affordable with most at $100 to $300. They’re rugged and waterproof, but also elegant and trim like any other digital camera.
GoPro and Similar Cameras - Together with their durable waterproof cases, these cameras can take some nice shots while on and off the water. Generally, the wide angle zoom cannot be adjusted so this should be taken into consideration. We ask that you plan to mount these cameras only with the head strap or helmet mount options (bring your own helmet). You will not be allowed to mount the cameras anywhere on the rafts during travel on the river.
Larger SLR Cameras - It is possible to bring a larger SLR camera, but be sure to have something sturdy to protect it. We recommend a hard-shell Pelican Case if you’re planning to bring a more expensive camera. Space is limited on the boats, so we try to keep additional camera equipment minimal.
Aquapac - This is a good solution if you aren’t in the market for a brand new camera, but just want to protect the one you have. It is a flexible waterproof housing to fit a number of camera types -- including video cameras. You do need to make sure the plastic housing stays clean as you’re shooting through it, but a lot of our guests find this to be a nice solution.
Batteries and Cards - While your are in remote areas during your trip, there will not be any location to charge your batteries or devices. Consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards and don't forget to charge your extra batteries before you get to the river.
Small Float - You might consider attaching your camera to a small float that may save your camera if you happen to drop it in the river. GoPro sells a small, attachable float that fits on the back of the camera housing that many of our guests find useful.
A typical day on the river will get you into camp around 4:00 pm. On the Snake River trips with 13 or more passengers, there will be a cargo raft that takes all tents, dry bags and kitchen gear ahead on the river each day. An extra guide will set up camp each day before guests arrive after a day of rafting. (Note: In rare circumstances there may be a trip with less than 13 guests. In this case, a cargo raft may not be run. On these smaller trips, guests and gear travel together down the river. Guides are still happy to set up your tent if you like, or you may enjoy doing it yourself.) Upon arrival into camp, you will find your dry bag on shore and you can pick a tent location and freshen up from your day on the river. This is the time when you can play games, hike, fish or just relax. After dinner a campfire is lit, stories are told and star gazing will amaze you. The following morning, you will awaken to the smell of coffee and the sounds of your hard working guides preparing breakfast around 7:00 am. Once you have eaten and are ready for the day, everyone takes down their own tents and helps to pack up the rafts for another day of rafting. Departure on the water is around 9:30 am.
Camping equipment on the Snake River includes tents, self-inflating foam pads, sleeping bags, flannel liner, pillows and ground cover. Tents are roomy and will fit 2 guests with their dry bags. If you are a solo traveler, you will have your own tent. For most travelers, the option to sleep under the stars is the most desirable.
On many Idaho summer rafting trips, frequent swimming in the clear water leaves you feeling clean. For those guests who want to clean up, it is always done well above the river’s high water line. Bio-degradable soap does not go in the river. Solar showers will be available on most trips, the hot water is great for bathing.
It is best to leave your jewelry behind. Rafting is an active vacation and jewelry often gets in the way. Earrings and necklaces can get caught on lifejackets. Rings can also cause injuries when you are holding on tightly to ropes.
The night prior to the trip departure will be dinner on your own. On the way to the river on Day 1, you will stop at the Gateway Store for a breakfast that has been prepared special for the guests on your trip. Lunch and dinner on Day 1 will be provided on the river. On river days, you will have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the river. Day 5 will have breakfast and lunch served on the river.
The quality of the food on an Idaho rafting trip reflects the quality of the wilderness environment of the river. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh dairy products and meats. From these ingredients, bountiful, healthy meals are prepared. Breakfasts will be balanced with fresh fruit juices, omelets, fruits and cereals. Lunches are a variety of sandwich Deli meats or chicken salad. Dinners include meals from fresh Alaskan Salmon to Prime Rib, side dishes, salads and delicious desserts cooked in Dutch ovens. During fire restrictions, dessert options may vary.
There will be juice, coffee, tea and cocoa each morning. During the day, there will be 2 complimentary sodas and beers per person, per day available and a limited supply of wine with dinner. You are welcome to bring along any additional drinks. No glass beer bottles please. Bottled wine is fine.
On multi-day river trips, our food service is limited by several factors:
Within these limitations, we’ve crafted a menu that is designed to be prepared quickly and efficiently and to appeal to a large variety of tastes. All of our meals are served “buffet or family style” with any custom, per person preparation being limited to things like “how would you like your steak cooked” or “do you prefer your eggs scrambled or over-easy?”
While we try to accommodate some special dietary needs, we are not always able. If you have a specific food allergy or sensitivity, please let us know. If you have dietary restrictions based on a lifestyle choice or religious practice, please let us know. If your food allergy is severe, we need to have a more in-depth conversation about what can and cannot be done.
Please understand that we may not be able to completely meet your needs. However, we have found that most people find what they need from within our established menu.
The policy we have developed to maximize the common welfare of all guests on a river trip, and to allow our guides to focus their time and attention on critical aspects of a trip is that:
Please let us know of any special dietary needs well in advance. Special food requests made within two weeks of the trip launch date may not be able to be accommodated.
We bring a variety of snacks on every trip. As a general rule, snacks will be served mid-morning and mid-afternoon while traveling down river. If you would like to bring some of your own snacks, small, pre-packaged items are best. We can provide cold or dry storage. If you have special dietary needs, bringing some of your own snacks that work well for you is a great idea.
The elevation on the Snake River in Hells Canyon is only 1,500’ at the put-in and around 800’ at the take-out. This means the weather is typically much warmer than other parts of Idaho. This trip is excellent throughout the season, but the Snake River in Hells Canyon is an ideal choice for spring or fall vacations because of the mild climate and few other people.
Though the Snake River valley is low in elevation and does have a more mild climate than other Idaho rivers, the weather in the northwest is unpredictable. You will want to come prepared for cold/wet weather and hot/sunny weather – sometimes all in the same day! For up to date, current weather forecasts, go to our website: http://www.westernriver.com/hells-canyon/weather. Your trip will span miles of river, this forecast from the nearest major weather station may not be indicative of the entire region where your trip will take place. Weather in the canyon may vary greatly from the surrounding cities.
There are 2 options for meeting for the Snake River trip. You can fly into Boise by 4:00pm the day prior to your river trip and meet the complimentary shuttle service that will take you to Cambridge for your first night’s stay. At the end of your river trip, you can then fly out of Lewiston, Idaho from the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport (LWS). There is a complimentary shuttle from the Hells Canyon GrandHotel to the airport. Spokane, Washington (GEG) is located 2 hours north of Lewiston, Idaho and is also an option for flights after your river trip.
Transportation to the river on the day of your river trip from Cambridge, Idaho and the return to the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho on your last day is included in the base price of your trip.
You will meet at the Frontier Motel in Cambridge, Idaho the night prior to rafting for your orientation meeting. After your river trip, all guests are taken to the Hells Canyon Grand Hotel in Lewiston, Idaho.
This comprehensive PDF guides include river maps, overview, full itineraries, camping and weather information, details on physical requirements, packing lists and more.