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 > Route to Hells Canyon, camping, jet boats

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Don & Carolyn

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Posted: 07/16/12 09:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We are coming from Salt Lake City. What is the best route to Hells Canyon? Are the roads accessible for a 5th wheel? We are concerned that they might be mountainous roads with hairpin curves.

I understand that there are jet boat rides in Hells Canyon. Where are these available?

Thanks, Don


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paulj

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Posted: 07/16/12 10:38pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The main access is from down river, Lewiston, ID. US95 passes through there. The main difficulty is that Lewiston is the lowest point in Idaho, so there is a grade down to it, where ever you come from.

You can also cross upstream from the canyon on the Ox Bow dam. There is also an overview with paved access from Forest Service Rd 39 (or is it 36?) on the Oregon side. All other overviews and river level access points involve gravel (and rougher) road travel.

Have you looked up the official Hells Canyon web site?

docj

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Posted: 07/16/12 11:30pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Coming down US95 into Clarkston/Lewiston isn't all that bad. The road is wide and the turns aren't too tight, you simply drop 2,000 feet in less than 5 miles. Use your exhaust or compression brake, shift into 3rd and come down slowly. Posted speeds for large vehicles are 35-45.

As for jet boat tours, we took an 11 hour ride all the way to Hells Canyon Dam. It wasn't cheap, but it was bucket list quality. Shorter rides are also possible. There are several tour operators--we used Snakedancer and think they are great.


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old guy

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Posted: 07/17/12 12:30am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

if it were me coming from SLC, I would stay on the freeway I84 until I got to Pendleton and turn and go to Walla Walla Wa and then on to Lewiston Id. I would not go to Lewiston on the Idaho side of the snake.

Don & Carolyn

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Posted: 07/17/12 06:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

How is the road going from Baker City to Copperfield?

It looks like there is a south entrance by Copperfield and a north entrance by Lewiston from looking at the map. We want to take the one that is easier to do with a 5th wheel.

Do you have a recommendation for a campground?

Thanks,
Don

paulj

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Posted: 07/17/12 09:24am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'm not sure what facilities there are (tours, etc) at the Copperfield/Ox Bow Dam end. The drive there is more mountainous. OR86 skirts the south flanks of the mountain range that occupies NE Oregon. You can also drive there on ID71 from US95 on the Idaho side. There's another dam below Oxbox, so you have to drive along the canyon to get to the Hells Canyon Creek Visitor Center. There's a boat launch below that dam, so clearly people do take trailers down there. Large construction trucks used the road when the dam was being built.

Lewiston is a good size town, technically a seaport since barges can be brought up the Columbia and Snake rivers. US12 is the major EW highway through there, US95 the major NS. For a while there was talk about taking oversized refinery loads up US12 to Missoula.

From the standpoint of maneuvering a large rig you shouldn't have problems. Whether you can handle grades and like driving along river banks is a different issue.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa-whitman/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5239113

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/payette/r........ing-cabins/recarea/?recid=26943&actid=34

Big Bar campground on the reservoir behind Hells Canyon Creek Dam. This may be the closest camping to the wild canyon on the upstream side.

http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/hellsgate.aspx
Idaho state park near Lewiston

* This post was last edited 07/17/12 10:21am by paulj *   View edit history

2gypsies

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Posted: 07/17/12 03:25pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We did the jet boat tour from Lewiston. The 1/2 day tour was plenty for us. There are plenty of RV parks there and in nearby Clarkston. We stayed at a great state park overlooking the river - Hells Gate, I believe. From Salt Lake City you could consider I-15 to I-84 thru Boise, ID and pick up ID55 at Eagle (Nampa area). Take Hwy 55 up thru McCall and pick up Hwy 95 which will take you to Lewiston. We've done that route often & it's definitely o.k. for RVs. Have a good trip!


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paulj

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Posted: 07/17/12 05:46pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Going ID55 and US95 is scenic and probably the most direct route.

Some people say that ID55 is dangerous, though when I dug into the claim, most of the danger is the Nampa area were it is a major thorough fare through agricultural land. North of Boise it is only dangerous if Boise residents are rushing to their vacation homes in McCall.

McCall has one of Idaho's premier state parks.

After New Meadows, US95 drops down to the lower Salmon River. This gives you a taste of nearby Hells Canyon without the expense of the boat. US95 then climbs the White Bird grade to Grangeville, before dropping gently to the Clearwater and Lewiston.

Going by way of I84 and Walla Walla would be ok, but I think you have to be in love with freeways to prefer that. You still have drop on US12 to Lewiston.

A good loop would be US12 of Lolo Pass, and US93 back over Lost Trail pass into Idaho. At Salmon you again follow the Salmon River.

Don & Carolyn

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Posted: 07/17/12 08:33pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

THANKS for all of the information you have given us. We made our reservations for Hells Gate campground and our reservations with Snakedancer for the boat ride. We are really excited! We appreciate all of the advice that you have given us. THANKS!

jocat54

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Posted: 07/19/12 08:45pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Have fun...just be aware while on the jet boat ride...you can get very wet if not paying attention. Saw some people get soaking wet.


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