Welcome To Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

With a name like Hells Canyon, you can be sure that boating through this natural wonder of America will be something special and the experience definitely lives up to this. For those interested in what this will be like, the following is a description of Hells Canyon, Snake River, Oregon that will provide all you need to know.


The gorge is located in the north east of Oregon on the Idaho border and forms part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It is around 10 miles wide and a remote wilderness that is largely inaccessible by car. While there are roads leading to the area, there are none that actually cross the canyon and this means that boating is one of the best ways to take in its natural beauty.

Deepest Gorge

Hells Canyon holds the record as the deepest gorge in North America and was carved out of the landscape by the mighty Snake River. The river is located on the canyon’s west rim and is almost 8,000 feet (1.5 miles) below the summit of He Devil Peak. The gorge runs for a distance of over 100 miles although the deepest section, where the river is situated at more than 1 mile below the rim is around 40 miles long.

The section of the Snake River that runs through the gorge is designated as both wild and scenic. This means there are lengths of impressive rapids and surging white water that provide some exciting action, as well as tranquil sections that provide more of an opportunity to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Common sections for boating include the length of wild water between Hells Canyon Dam and the Upper Pittsburg Landing area, and the more scenic stretch of water downstream of this landing. However, it is possible to enjoy boating on many parts of the Snake River where it runs through the gorge.


There are plenty of changes of terrain to see while traveling along the river, and some of the natural beauty to take in includes desert-like sandbars that border the lower stretches of the river. Passing through the deepest section of the gorge provides the chance to see some rugged peaks and impressive mountain scenery. Some of the famous points of interest along the way include Hat Point Lookout, Hells Canyon Overlook, Buckhorn Lookout, and Heavens Gate. There is also the opportunity to see some of the wildlife that call the area home, with animals that might come into view including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bobcats, elk, and bears.


Reserving a launch date is required during the primary season for the wild water section between Hells Canyon Dam and Upper Pittsburg Landing. The season runs from the Friday prior to Memorial Day through to September 10 and reservations for a permit can be applied for during the Four Rivers Lottery, which takes place from December 1 to January 31. Reservations are also required to get a permit during the primary season for scenic stretches starting at Upper Pittsburg Landing and Dug Bar although only for trips made on Friday through Sunday. At all other times, a self-issue permit is needed for boating and these can be obtained from permit stations located at points of entry to the river. Full details can be found on the USDA website.

The sheer scale and grandeur of Hells Canyon make a boat trip through it something that any outdoor enthusiast will enjoy. So take the chance to travel through the deepest gorge in North America and see some of the most impressive scenery in the USA.