Whitebird Summit Ranch
Bed and Breakfast

Grangeville, Idaho

Idaho Adventures

Snake River

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon the Deepest Gorge in North America

The spectacular scenery of this overlooked state can hold its own with anybody’s, and -- unlike in Yosemite or Zion -- you won’t have to elbow your way through crowds to see it.

For starters, Idaho contains the deepest river gorge in North America, the second-largest wilderness area in the Lower 48, more miles of rivers than any other state and a waterfall that’s 52 feet higher than Niagara. That would be Shoshone Falls east of the city of Twin Falls on the Snake River, which carves a smile across the arid southern third of the state.

This, the heart of Idaho, is not for everyone. But if you want to lose yourself – find yourself? – in a rare expanse of unspoiled wilderness, it’s just the right place.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area - Fast Facts

With a name like "Hells Canyon" we get a lot of questions about the National Recreation Area. How deep is the canyon? How big is the national recreation area? How rare is the plant I saw? Fast Facts about the area might help you answer some of those questions and help you better understand the uniqueness of Hells Canyon.

Deepest Gorge in North America

Hells Canyon, North America's deepest river gorge, encompasses a vast and remote region with dramatic changes in elevation, terrain, climate and vegetation. Carved by the great Snake River, Hells Canyon plunges more than a mile below Oregon's west rim, and 8,000 feet below snowcapped He Devil Peak of Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains. There are no roads across Hells Canyon's 10-mile wide expanse, and only three roads that lead to the Snake River between Hells Canyon Dam and the Oregon-Washington boundary.

Where is Hells Canyon?

There is no recognized geographic place called Hells Canyon. According to R.G. Bailey’s book, Hells Canyon, the canyon starts 90 miles south of Lewiston, Idaho and Extends 40 miles further south to appoint near Oxbow, Oregon. This is, of course, debatable.

How did it get its name?

According to Carrey, Conley, and Barton, in their book Snake River of Hells Canyon, most of the early explorers referred to the gorge as Box Canyon or Snake River Canyon. The first reference to Hells Canyon appears in an 1895 edition of McCurdy's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. In discussing the voyage of the steamboat, Norma, the author writes; “she then bound off, swinging into midstream, and like a racehorse, shot into Hells Canyon…” The name was used by the Mazama hiking club in their 1931 bulletin. Bailey’s book, Hells Canyon, was published in 1943. Senator Neuberger of Oregon used it in several publications in the 1930s.

How deep is the canyon?

He Devil Mountain is 9,393 feet above sea level. The canyon plunges 7,913 feet, and 1 ½ miles from its summit to the mouth of Granite Creek, 6 miles away, at 1,480 feet.

How long have people lived in Hells Canyon?

The earliest firm date comes from a rock shelter at Bernard Creek, 7,100 years ago. A Clovis point found near the south end of the canyon indicates the possibility of human occupation 15,000 years ago. These people left ample evidence of their passing including some magnificent rock art at places like Buffalo Eddy. Figures carved into the rock are called petroglyphs, and pictures painted on the rock are called pictographs. They are not a form of written language; their meanings are lost in time.

Distance along the canyon

Starting at Hells Gate State Park, it is:

3 miles to Asotin17 miles to Buffalo Eddy26 miles to Grande Ronde River33 miles to the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area northern boundary and the Oregon State line45 miles to Imnaha River53 miles to Dug Bar72 miles to Pittsburg Landing77 miles to Kirkwood Historic Ranch86 miles to the Sheep Creek Ranch88 miles to Rush Creek Rapids104 miles to Hells Canyon Dam

How was Hells Canyon formed?

Most of the older rocks we see in the canyon came from underwater volcanoes when Hells Canyon's terrain glued themselves to North America about 150 million years ago as a result of tectonic plate movement. Vast areas were later covered with successive lava flows, as recently as 6 million years ago. Uplifting from deep in the earth's core formed the Seven Devils and Eagle Cap Mountains, a process that continues today. The canyon itself is a result of both uplifting and erosion. There have been recent basalt flows and you will also see limestone formed on the ocean floor, ancient lavas, alluvial deposits, and the remains of primitive swamps that grew on the island surfaces.

What is a National Recreation Area?

A national recreation area is a special area designated by Congress for use and enjoyment by the public for recreation, with certain objectives. The 652,488 acre Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the USDA Forest Service, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The Wild and Scenic Snake River

How long is the Snake River?

The Snake River originates in Yellowstone National Park at 9,500 feet and winds through southern Idaho before turning north to form the boundary between Idaho and Oregon. It finally joins the Columbia River near Pasco, Washington at 340 feet in elevation 1036 miles from its source. According to Bill Gulick, in his book Snake River Country, the Snake drains 109,000 square miles and contributes 36 million acre feet of water to the Columbia River, ranking 6th in volume among the nation's rivers.

How did the river gets its name?

Indians living along the river in southern Idaho used a hand sign to identify themselves that resembled the movement of a snake. Although, it didn't mean ''snake', that name was given to this group of people, now known as the Shoshone. The river flowing through the Snake Indian's land was given the tribal name.

How deep is the river?

It varies from two to three feet, and in some areas it runs 105 feet deep, near Cache and Deep Creeks.

How much does the river drop?

The average fall per mile from Hells Canyon Dam to the Oregon state line is 8.7 feet.

How much of the river is Designated Wilderness?

The half mile wide designated river corridor is adjacent to the 213,906 acre Hells Canyon Wilderness over much of its length, but none of the corridor is wilderness.

Is the Snake River Protected Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act?

The 31.5 miles of river from Hells Canyon Dam to Upper Pittsburg Landing is designated "wild". The next 36 miles of river is "scenic from below Upper Pittsburg Landing to a point above Cache Creek Ranch. The balance of the river is designated "study river" to the Oregon-Washington border.
 
Pittsburg Landing near White Bird provides a boat launch ramp into Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America and access to the 652,488 acres of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. A campground, restrooms and trail head complete the site. The gravel road from Hwy. 95 to Pittsburg Landing is narrow and winding but is frequently maintained. It offers spectacular views into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The Snake River National Recreation Trail # 102 is 26 miles long going upriver, best in spring or fall, takes you up the river to the Historic Kirkwood Ranch after just 6 miles.
 
Hells Canyon is a jewel of the Snake River protected in 1975 when the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was established to stop the construction of new, destructive dams that would have flooded the canyon. At the same time, the river was designated as a Wild and Scenic River, with 32.3 miles from the dam, downstream, classified as a wild river. Another 34 miles below that is classified as scenic. This historic conservation victory was realized shortly after construction of the Hells Canyon Dam complex upstream of the put-in that was completed between 1959 and 1967 and blocks upstream migration for salmon and steelhead and other species. In addition to burying great whitewater beneath the stagnant waters of the reservoirs, these dams eliminated great fall chinnook runs upstream to Shoshone Falls, and into tributary streams like the Boise, Payette, Malheur and Owyhee. The impacts of the upstream dams on the river are evident by the lack of beaches and heavily armored banks characteristic of a sediment-starved river.

Hells Canyon is the nation's deepest river canyon averaging 5,500 feet below the rim for some 75 miles, and reaching depths of more than 8,000 feet below the Seven Devils Mountains on the Idaho side of the river. The result is a very scenic 3-4 day trip with a number of class II-III rapids and two class IVs. The Wild and Scenic Snake River Boater's Guide is available from the US Forest Service, giving detailed information on campsites, rapids, and regulations. A lottery permit season runs from late May to early-mid September. Before and after the lottery season, only a self issue permit is required and can be obtained for free at the launch site.

In addition to the whitewater and scenery the river has a rich human history. The Canyon is ancestral home of the Nez Perce people, and other tribes of the region were in and out of the canyon as well. White settlement occurred in the late 1800’s and early 1900s--sheep and cattle ranchers and prospectors tried to scrape out a living.

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Facts About Idaho

As the 13th largest state in the U.S., Idaho produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones. Some of these stones can be found nowhere else in the world, which is why our great state is known as The Gem State. The Snake River in Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America runs througout Idaho. The River of No Return the Salmon River also runs throughout Idaho.

State Flag and Seal

A silk flag with a blue field, 5 feet 6 inches high, 4 feet 4 inches on pike is bordered by gilt fringe 2 1/2 inches wide, with the State Seal of Idaho in the center. The words "State of Idaho" are embroidered in gold block letters two inches high on a red band below the Great Seal. It was adopted by the 1907 legislature. The state seal was designed by Emma Edwards Green.

  • Population: 1,567,582 (2010 Census)
  • Land Area: 83,557 square miles
  • Capital City: Boise
  • Date of Statehood: July 3rd, 1890
  • Highest Elevation: 12,662 ft. (Mt. Borah)
  • Lowest Elevation: 738 ft. (Lewiston, ID)
  • Water Area: 823 square miles
  • River Miles: 3,100 miles (more than any other state)
  • State Flower: The Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii)

The syringa was designated the state flower of Idaho by the legislature in 1931. It is a branching shrub up to 12 feet tall with clusters of white, fragrant flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer. The blossoms are similar to the mock orange, have four petals, and the flowers grow at the ends of short, leafy branches

State Tree: The Western White Pine (Pinus Monticola pinaceae)

Our state tree is probably most notable since the largest remaining stand of this timber in the United States grows in the northern part of Idaho. Tall and slender, the Western White Pine is native to forests of the Pacific Northwest from British Columbia to Montana and as far south as central California. It has blue-green needles, slender cones and can grow to 100 ft. It has many other fine qualities such as straight grain and soft, even texture. The Western White Pine was named Idaho’s state tree in 1935.

State Bird: The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia arctcia)

The mountain bluebird was adopted as the state bird for Idaho by the state legislature in 1931. The Bluebird is about seven inches long, has an azure blue coat, and a blue vest with white under-feathers. The mother bird wears a quiet blue-gray dress and usually lays six or seven blue-white eggs. The Bluebird’s nest is usually built in a hollow tree or in a crevice. The Bluebird is very neat about its home and carries all refuse some distance from the nest
 
State Horse: Appaloosa

The Appaloosa was the first horse breed to be acquired by the Nez Perce tribe around the 1700’s leading to the tribe developing into excellent horsemen and breeders. Settlers began to refer to their horses as “a Palouse horse” in reference to the Palouse River in north Central Idaho. The term evolved from that to “Palousey”, “Appalousey” and finally “Appaloosa”. An Appaloosa Horse Club was chartered in 1938 and has become one of the leading equine breed registries in the world. The Appaloosa was named Idaho’s state horse in 1975 because of its importance to Idaho history
 
State Fruit: Wild Huckleberry
Fish: Cutthroat Trout
Gem: Star Garnet
Dance: Square Dance
Motto: “Esto Perpetua” meaning “It is perpetual.”

Major Industries

Manufacturing, Health Care, Tourism, Agriculture, Food Processing, Timber, Mining 

12 Largest Cities (2010 Census)

1. Boise: 205,671
2. Nampa: 81,557
3. Meridian: 75,092
4. Idaho Falls: 56,813
5. Pocatello: 54,255
6. Caldwell: 46,237
7. Coeur d'Alene: 44,137
8. Twin Falls: 44,125
9. Lewiston: 31,894
10. Post Falls: 27,574
11. Rexburg: 25,484
12. Moscow: 23,800

Ask someone from another part of the country what pops into their mind when they think of Idaho, and you might get a blank stare or a one-word answer: potatoes.

Which may explain why Idaho is not on many travel bucket lists. Honey, forget Bora Bora; let’s go to a potato farm!

It doesn’t help that unlike most of its neighbors in the American West, Idaho lacks a defining feature. Idaho is the only Western state without a major national park. It can lay claim to a sliver of Yellowstone, but 96% of that park is in neighboring Wyoming.

Thanks to many Americans’ tenuous grasp of geography, Idaho also often gets confused with Iowa, 1,300 miles away in the Midwest.

But don’t let Idaho’s image problem discourage you from planning a visit. The spectacular scenery of this overlooked state can hold its own with anybody’s, and -- unlike in Yosemite or Zion -- you won’t have to elbow your way through crowds to see it.

For starters, Idaho contains the deepest river gorge in North America, the second-largest wilderness area in the Lower 48, more miles of rivers than any other state and a waterfall that’s 52 feet higher than Niagara. That would be Shoshone Falls east of the city of Twin Falls on the Snake River, which carves a smile across the arid southern third of the state.

Idaho also has a colorful history of stubborn individualism, from Ernest Hemingway to “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Hemingway, the state’s most celebrated resident, wrote part of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in Sun Valley. Daredevil Evel Knievel tried, and failed, in 1974 to leap across Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. And Napoleon rocked his geeky dance moves in the Mormon farming towns of the state’s southeast corner.

But the best reason to visit Idaho is the pristine beauty of its mountainous midsection and forested panhandle.

Start in the summertime in Boise – a handsome city with a compact, lively downtown – and drive northeast to Stanley, a frontier outpost in a gorgeous mountain valley flanked by the jagged Sawtooth Range and the middle fork of the Salmon River.

From there, you can hike to alpine lakes, cast for trout in meadow streams, raft down the Salmon or drive an hour south to the more refined resort-town charms of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Or for a real adventure, pack a tent and head deeper into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, a vast swath of rugged forest that’s home to bears, moose, mountain lions and wolverines.

This, the heart of Idaho, is not for everyone. But if you want to lose yourself – find yourself? – in a rare expanse of unspoiled wilderness, it’s just the right place.

Email Terri for more information

Dare to Go

By Brandon Griggs, CNN

Ask someone from another part of the country what pops into their mind when they think of Idaho, and you might get a blank stare or a one-word answer: potatoes.

Which may explain why Idaho is not on many travel bucket lists. Honey, forget Bora Bora; let’s go to a potato farm!

It doesn’t help that unlike most of its neighbors in the American West, Idaho lacks a defining feature. Idaho is the only Western state without a major national park. It can lay claim to a sliver of Yellowstone, but 96% of that park is in neighboring Wyoming.

Thanks to many Americans’ tenuous grasp of geography, Idaho also often gets confused with Iowa, 1,300 miles away in the Midwest.

But don’t let Idaho’s image problem discourage you from planning a visit. The spectacular scenery of this overlooked state can hold its own with anybody’s, and -- unlike in Yosemite or Zion -- you won’t have to elbow your way through crowds to see it.

For starters, Idaho contains the deepest river gorge in North America, the second-largest wilderness area in the Lower 48, more miles of rivers than any other state and a waterfall that’s 52 feet higher than Niagara. That would be Shoshone Falls east of the city of Twin Falls on the Snake River, which carves a smile across the arid southern third of the state.

Idaho also has a colorful history of stubborn individualism, from Ernest Hemingway to “Napoleon Dynamite.”

Hemingway, the state’s most celebrated resident, wrote part of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in Sun Valley. Daredevil Evel Knievel tried, and failed, in 1974 to leap across Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. And Napoleon rocked his geeky dance moves in the Mormon farming towns of the state’s southeast corner.

But the best reason to visit Idaho is the pristine beauty of its mountainous midsection and forested panhandle.

Start in the summertime in Boise – a handsome city with a compact, lively downtown – and drive northeast to Stanley, a frontier outpost in a gorgeous mountain valley flanked by the jagged Sawtooth Range and the middle fork of the Salmon River.

From there, you can hike to alpine lakes, cast for trout in meadow streams, raft down the Salmon or drive an hour south to the more refined resort-town charms of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Or for a real adventure, pack a tent and head deeper into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, a vast swath of rugged forest that’s home to bears, moose, mountain lions and wolverines.

This, the heart of Idaho, is not for everyone. But if you want to lose yourself – find yourself? – in a rare expanse of unspoiled wilderness, it’s just the right place.

Email Terri for more information

Geocaching

Geocaching is the real-world treasure hunt that's happening right now, all around you.

There are 2,401,771 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.
 
Ready for a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt on your next hike, road trip or walking tour in North Central Idaho? So are we, let's go geocaching!!

Geocaches are containers, hidden in the wild (and sometimes not so wild) places on our planet, that you find using a GPS device or smartphone. They can stand alone or they can be part of a multi-cache scavenger hunt based on historical, wildlife or cultural themes, like 'Signal The Frog' near Orofino. Caches are great for getting kids into the outdoors and for letting roadtrippers stretch their legs a bit.

Traditional caches are containers with a log book so that Finders can sign in after they've found the cache, like [:http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=3f066945-10f7-4eac-8116-a99694aa2ad1] 'Up The Creek' near Grangeville[link]. Some caches also include items for trade; I once traded a stick pin for the neato green duck you see in upper left hand corner of this post. There are webcam caches to take your picture with and virtual caches, that are places you check-in to. Some caches have a Travel Bug attached to a trade item in the cache which can be tracked online. A note here: It is considered good manners to trade your Travel Bug back to another cache in a timely manner.

To find a geocache, you'll need its waypoint which is typically made of coordinates associated with longitude, latitude and occasionally altitude. Most caches list their waypoint on sites like Geocaching.com but, you know the saying half the fun is getting there? Some caches will require you to solve a puzzle before you get the waypoint info, like 'Bridge Creek Campground' near Elk City. Either way, follow your GPS to the waypoint and you'll find your geocache!

You can learn more about Geocaching at both Geocaching.com and Waymarking.com.

If you're ready to add a geocache hunt to your next North Central Idaho outing, you can find a list of caches near your destination or along your route by using this Google Map of North Central Idaho Geocaches. You can also preview the list of caches close to North Central Idaho towns at the end of this post, or you bookmark or download the pdf.

For Geocaching close to Grangeville Idaho http://bit.ly/Geo83530

Email Terri for more information