Friday morning 7/17 and another travel day rolled around and because our travel day was only 80 miles we were doing our best impression of a couple of turtles so we wouldn’t roll into our next campground to early.
Our travel day had us heading south on highway 95 almost the entire way and 95 is one of the main highways through Idaho so it was all pretty nice two lane roads with some nice scenery. As we reached our destination in White Bird we did hit some steeper grades, our last was a 6 & 7% downhill grade for 7 miles but the engine brakes on our rig handles that stuff like a dream. The exhaust brakes on our last motorhome worked fine but the 2 stage engine brakes on our new rig just seems to be so much more effortless.
We chose Swift Water RV Park as our home for the short 3 day stay in White Bird. It’s a very small park with only water & electric at the sites and a dump station but gave us a spot that faced the Salmon River and it was a great place to stage for our Jet boat ride (our main reason for visiting the area).
The population of White Bird is only 92 so as you can imagine there isn’t much there. The main draw is the river or running the backroads in the surrounding mountains. There isn’t even a gas station so if you head to White Bird go prepared.
After getting set up in our new home we jumped in the Jeep and took a driving tour of the area. Because it took us about, ohhhhh, 3 minutes to drive through town we decided to drive out old highway 95. It’s an old two lane road with many switchbacks that runs between the new highway 95 and White Bird. (If you happen to be traveling through on motorcycles it would be a nice side trip and worth the while and it wouldn’t set you back very much time wise).
After reaching new highway 95 we drive down to the White Bird Battle overlook and spent some time reading the various information scattered around.
We love places that tells a story and allows us to look out over the very area it took place on and this was one of them. Well worth the stop.
After the Battlefield we decided to drive the road over the mountain that we would be driving Saturday morning to our boat ride. We heard the drive was very scenic and we figured because it was getting late in the day we just might run across some wildlife roaming around. The road is 17 miles and took us roughly an hour to drive each direction.
The only wildlife we saw were deer but that’s ok, we enjoyed the outing and hardly saw a soul. After our drive we headed home, sat out in our little yard and stared at the river a while before calling it a night.
Saturday morning we were up early and ready for a fun day on the water and started our 17 mile drive over the mountain about 8:30. It’s a nice drive so there was no reason to leave any later and rush it.
Once at the Pittsburg Landing boat ramp we milled around and then gathered with others that would be on our boat.
There are a number of ways to do a Jet Boat to experience the Hells Canyon on the Snake River but we chose an outfit called Killgore Adventures because of its location and reputation. Here is a link if you’re interested http://killgoreadventures.com/
The boat we took was a 36’ long 12’ wide Bentz that was pushed along by 3 315 Yanmar diesel engines producing 945HP. Arrrrrrrrr !!!
The boat loaded and departed at 10am and the 64 mile round trip up and back was 6 hours total and took us through the Wild River section and the Natural Preserve area’s deepest and most rugged part of Hells Canyon with the biggest whitewater rapids in the canyon and all the way to the Hells Canyon Dam and visitor center where we ate lunch provided by Killgore.
The ride up the canyon was pretty mellow but once lunch was over and we headed back down the ride took on a different feel.
We went through 1 class 5 rapid, a couple class 4 and a number of class 3’s. It was the first time for either of us going through a class 5 and certainly left us wanting for more. Probably the most invigorating was going over the Green Room on the Granite Creek Rapid.
It was a nice ride and the few stops at historical and scenic sites was a nice touch. We even stopped off at one of the white sand beaches where a few people went swimming while other’s enjoyed the surrounding scenery or just waded in the water.
And we did get a look at a few Mountain Goats.
We have taken a few Jet Boat rides in our time, all on the Rogue River in Oregon so that’s all we have to compare to. And we certainly do not want to take away from the enjoyment we had actually seeing one of the most recognized sections of water in the USA but it really didn’t live up to our expectations thrill wise.
We will share a few tips on what we would do differently if we were to come back and do the trip again. #1 we would do it on a weekday. Because it is a permitted section of river the amount of rafts allowed is limited but I’m sure it’s busier on weekends and the Jet Boat has to slow down as it comes across each raft.
#2 we would not sit in the center row of seats. We chose the center row because they faced forward and the seats along the side of the boat required you to sit facing towards the center of the boat unless you turned your upper body to face forward. And I wasn’t sure with my injured ribs that I could twist for that long of a time without being in pain. Because the boat has a topper our views were very restricted compared to other Jet Boat rides we have taken in boats with no topper. We would probably sit in the very rear seats which have no cover, but only one row fits the bill so odds would be thin. OR we would sit in the very front seat. The middle is the WORST place to be to take pictures or video which is why we have very few pictures of the ride. And I took 30 clips on my GoPro but only 2 short chips are even worth watching, disappointing.
#3 we would try to find when the highest volume of water would be flowing through the canyon creating bigger rapids.
At $175 per person you want to do anything you can to create the biggest bang for the buck.
After out Jet Boat ride we took our time going back over the mountain and then stopped at a local restaurant (the only one I think LOL!!) in White Bird and had dinner before heading home for the evening.
We have long since left White Bird but we will have one more update to do about the area and our tour up the Salmon River out of Riggins. We got a little behind on updates because we have been staying pretty busy AND there has basically been no internet while in White Bird. So stay tuned and we will be caught up soon.