Hells Canyon Large Group Site Beta and River Suggestions afterward - Mountain Buzz
 

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #1
 
Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 9
Hells Canyon Large Group Site Beta and River Suggestions afterward

We launch at Hells Canyon Dam on July 2nd and take out on July 7th at Pittsburg. We scored two permits for the same day. We have 30+ people between the two permits. Do y'all have suggestions for campsites that could hold us all? We plan on laying over one day (at least). Suggestions for good layover sites would be appreciated (hiking, lounging, fishing). General suggestions for an itinerary would be appreciated.

My family and I are also looking to do some 1-3 day oar-rig trip (Class 2-4) after the Canyon. Was thinking about the Lochsa. Any other suggestions?

Thanks folks, I can return the beta if y'all ever get to the Southeast.

Sean

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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #2
 
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 235
If you are planning 5 days to Pittsburgh landing you are going to have some short river days and/or 2 layover days. Map online read panes bottom to top: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/w...570&width=full

Here is my 2 cents, YMMV.

Day 1 - launch and camp, take a couple of oar strokes, and camp at either Warm Springs, Battle Creek, or Wild Sheep camp (and psych yourself out looking at the rapid all evening). total miles 2-4
Day 2 Run Wild sheep and Granite, take a peak in the Green Room (or run through it if flows are around 25k cfs) scout both if no-one on the trip has done 'em. Now make a decision, camp 1 night at Oregon Hole or Saddle creek, or also run the Bernards and waterspout. Then hope like Heck it is a non-motorized week and you have a shot at Pine Bar for a layover day (at any rate stop and jump off sturgeon Rock). If Pine bar is taken, go for a single day at Upper Quartz. miles 7 to Saddle Creek, 15 to Pine Bar.
Day 3/4 Run to Kirkwood Ranch. For sure layover spot. You have 4-5 camps and a flush toilet, museum, hiking up to the mansion, good fishing and swimming...just do it.
Day 4/5 whichever day you leave Kirkwood, either run out to Pittsburgh, or Stop at Corral Creek or Fish Trap Bar and have a 2 mile run-out the next day.

Just a word to the wise concerning critters you might not be used to coming from Tennessee. If anyone on the trip has a major spider phobia, have them stay out of the blackberry bushes. There are going to be rattlesnakes, just get used to that idea. Lastly, you are probably going to see black bears. Keep your food secured and some bear spray in camp... I have seen bears every single trip I have done on hells canyon (double digits) and never had an issue with one...rattlesnakes are a different story, but I digress.

Edit #3. Fishing.... The smallmouth bass fishing is going to be somewhere in the area between good and freaking unearthly. Tube baits, crawdad pattern grubs, crankbaits, just about freaking anything will work. It will be hard to catch anything else. There are sturgeon down there, read the regs though, catch and release only.

Edit #4 Its gonna be hot...but its a dry heat
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #3
 
Signal Mountain, Tennessee
Paddling Since: 1981
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 9
Outstanding Beta - Thanks!

Grifgav,

Thank you for the great information. More than I could have hoped and perfect for what we need.

Just to clarify, would all of these sites be big enough for about 30 people (many kids)?

I especially appreciate the fishing info. I have my fair share of experience with the smallmouth, so I really look forward to that.

Have you done the Lochsa? AWA describes a 20 mile Class 1-3 section we are thinking about doing afterward.

Thanks again,

Sean
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #4
 
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by seanr11 View Post
Grifgav,

Thank you for the great information. More than I could have hoped and perfect for what we need.

Just to clarify, would all of these sites be big enough for about 30 people (many kids)?

I especially appreciate the fishing info. I have my fair share of experience with the smallmouth, so I really look forward to that.

Have you done the Lochsa? AWA describes a 20 mile Class 1-3 section we are thinking about doing afterward.

Thanks again,

Sean

Yep, I specifically included only the large camps. A couple of them might be kind of snug with 30+ but I think you will be good to go. There are quite a few other camps that will take groups that big, you would just have to split your days up differently. The website I linked lists camp size.

I don't have much experience with the Lochsa, and none that time of year...mostly earlier season... might be kind of skinny by july.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #5
 
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 235
in your situation I am not sure I wouldn't just keep going past Pittsburgh and go all the way to heller bar instead of taking off, then putting back on somewhere else. The Snake below Pittsburgh landing doesn't require a lottery permit, so no issues there. It is class 1-3 (1-2 mostly) all the way on down to heller. You would probably have to skip at least one layover day to do it, but I am not sure, as I don't know how much time you have. It adds about 43 miles to the trip, and the last 15+ are very slow flows (with frequent upriver winds in the afternoon).

http://www.riverbrain.com/run/show/156#/rapids
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #6
 
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salmon, Idaho
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Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,057
if you are coming all that way you might consider doing a shorter hells canyon then jumping over the hill and doing a lower salmon. you drive right by the put in on your way out of Hells.

We do hells canyon almost every year with around 24 and have stayed at a lot of different camps and have never felt crowded. most camps will accommodate 30. We have had more swimmers in Waterspout than granite or wild sheep. just make sure you take some strokes river right because the current takes you into a big hole that is punchable but will flip you.

If you want Oregon hole you need to be on the water early or take 2 days to get there as the guided groups send a runner to grab it. we do hells in 3 days and spend first night at Oregon hole or one of the camps within a few miles below it. Second night we always shoot for the suicide point area.

If I was laying over I would choose to stay at camps with a good sturgeon hole and bring a rod.. They are a blast to catch and can be a show for the whole group.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #7
 
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by codycleve View Post
if you are coming all that way you might consider doing a shorter hells canyon then jumping over the hill and doing a lower salmon. you drive right by the put in on your way out of Hells.
Only downside I can see to that plan is that you are then paying for both the HCD to pittsburg shuttle AND the lower salmon shuttle, instead of just the HCD to heller bar shuttle. Otherwise CC is right, the lower salmon is a much better float than the pittsburg to heller bar float.

And yeah, the only swimmers I have ever had from my boat in hells canyon were at waterspout. My wife enjoyed cooling off a lot, getting swept under the boat in the middle of the rapid less so...
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #8
 
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 235
out of curiosity I looked at the shuttle rates. With Central Idaho shuttles (who I have used in the past), that would be $360 per vehicle ($200 HCD to PL, and $160 Hammer Creek to Heller Bar) for CC's plan, vs. $310 per vehicles going straight through. That isn't much of a difference and CC's plan gives you a chance to restock ice and stuff in Whitebird before you start the second leg, and the lower Salmon has better whitewater...I hereby endorse codycleve's suggestion.

Not to mention that the lower Salmon gets you beaches that you could camp 100 people on, which you don't get on the snake, or any other Idaho river for that matter. Predicted flow for his launch date on the lower is about 15K cfs...which takes slide into the "safe to run" zone.
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