The Snake River

Hells Canyon The Snake River is Idaho's largest river, and two runs Hells Canyon and Milner offer whitewater boaters the biggest water in Idaho.

Hells Canyon is one of the deepest river gorges in the world. While not as dramatic as the Grand Canyon, Hells Canyon is actually deeper, with an average depth of 5,500 feet.

In the 1950's, more than 100 miles of the Canyon was buried beneath the slack waters of Brownlee, Oxbow, and Hells Canyon reservoirs. Today, two of the six major rapids that once graced the river remain, Wild Sheep and Granite Creek, both Class IV rapids.
Jet boat in Hells Canyon The put-in for the Hells Canyon run is just below Hells Canyon dam, on the Idaho-Oregon border, and the take-out is either at Pittsburgh Landing (32 miles downstream) or Heller Bar (83 miles downstream).

At the put-in, the Snake River contains more water than the Colorado in Grand Canyon. Releases from Hells Canyon Dam fluctuate from 5,000 cfs to over 50,000 cfs. At the higher flows, Wild Sheep and Granite Creek rapids can flip even the largest rafts.

The Snake River in Hells Canyon is a National Wild and Scenic River, and like so many of Idaho's famous whitewater rivers, there is more than thrilling rapids here. Observant floaters can hope to see Indian petroglyphs, historic homesteads, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mountain lions and bears.

Permits are required from Hells Canyon Dam to Rush Creek, 16 miles downstream, for the summer months.

Kayak on Milner Run

The Class V Milner Run is for experts only. This 1.3 miles of frothing, furious, almost unrunnable whitewater has violent, overwhelming power that makes this the toughest run in the West.

Milner Run

The Milner is only runnable in certain years and sometimes for only a few weeks when snowmelt fills upsteam Snake River reservoirs. For the rest of the year, this stretch of the Snake can be reduced to a mere trickle by agricultural diversions.

Kayak at end of Milner Run

There are only a few kayakers in the West who dare run the Milner. For our program, "The Whitewater State," we prevailed upon Rob Lesser and Pat Harper to take the plunge, not once, but twice, for our television cameras.


 

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