Trip Number: 13073A
Staff: Gary Kanterman
- Ride a jetboat 21 miles up a spectacular canyon on the Snake River to/from
- Perform trail work, hike, fish, view bighorn sheep and wildflowers in
America’s deepest gorge
- Eat wonderful meals prepared by an experienced backwoods cook
- All on-trip meals and snacks
- Supervision and training in trail maintenance
This trip provides a unique opportunity to experience true wilderness without
the usual exertion to get there. Transportation to/from the our camping area
will be via jetboat, covering 21 miles on the Snake River.
The trip is run in the spring, prior to the start of the crowded rafting season,
so we will experience the remote Snake River Valley only filled with the sounds
of flowing water and wind. Wildflowers abound here in Idaho, and spawning steelhead
trout can been seen, too. This is the ideal time of the year to perform trail
maintenance and to scout the rocky bluffs in search of pictographs or wildlife.
Created by the Snake River, Hells Canyon is the deepest river-carved gorge in
North America -- 7,913 feet deep as measured from He Devil Mountain (elev. 9,393
ft), the highest peak in the Seven Devil Mountain Range. Hells Canyon National
Recreation Area covers more than 650,000 acres, of which 215,000 are designated
wilderness. In 1975, some 67 miles of Snake River were included in the National
Wild and Scenic River System. The 31.5-mile section upriver from Pittsburg Landings
is designated as wild, which is defined as "free of impoundments and generally
accessible only by trail," and represents "vestiges of primitive America."
We will base our camp at Bernard Creek. Our boat will originate from Pittsburg
Photo: Jon Wilson
The Sierra Club has run service trips to the Seven Devils area for more than
25 years. A Forest Service wilderness management specialist will supervise our
work and accompany us throughout the working portion of the trip. These service
trips provide the Forest Service with an opportunity to accomplish essential
maintenance projects that -- given budget cuts and decreased staffing -- would
not otherwise be possible. As such, the trips have become integral to Forest
Service plans for backcountry maintenance.
We are planning to do trail work including brushing, rock-work and tread-work
along the Snake River Trail up to six miles out from our campsite.
Day 1: The trip begins with an orientation at Pittsburg Landing
on the morning of the first day. After orientation, a boat will take us through
21 miles of impressively rugged canyon scenery, including whitewater rapids
and steep canyon walls on our way to our camp. Once there, we will set up our
campsite and evaluate our work projects.
Days 2-6: Tentatively, we will plan to work four days with
one day off in the middle of the week. On each workday, we will put in a full
morning and work most of the afternoon. At the end of the workday, participants
not assigned to that day's cook crew are at leisure to fish, hike, rest, or
pursue other interests. Cook duties and other camp chores will be shared by
all on a rotating basis.
The day off provides a chance to read, write, relax, dry out, fish, explore
the hills and nearby trails, snooze, and play. Fishing is very popular on the
Snake River. If you plan to fish, be sure you have an Idaho fishing license.
They can be purchased at sporting goods stores in Idaho, or online from the
Idaho Department of Fish and Game: https://id.outdoorcentral.us/id/License/Welcome.
Day 7: On Saturday we will eat breakfast, break camp, load
up the boat, and return to Pittsburg Landing.
Photo: Jon Wilson
When the roads are clear, Pittsburg Landing is about a 1.5-hr drive from Riggins,
Idaho. If the roads are not clear, allow an extra hour or two.
While it is your responsibility to arrange transportation to the trailhead,
the leader will distribute a participant roster well in advance so that participants
can coordinate travel plans from the airport to Pittsburg Landing. The nearest
major airports are in Boise, Idaho to the southeast, and Spokane, Washington
to the northwest.
Accommodations and Food
Come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Food weight and
quantity must be carefully calculated and all waste carried out at the end of
the trip. Our meals will satisfy both appetite and be a social gathering after
a day's work or play in the wilderness. The menu will be a healthy, nutritious,
high-energy, backcountry cuisine. Meals will be vegetarian friendly. We will
have a group commissary with everyone taking turns in meal preparation and clean-up
afterwards. Before applying for the trip, folks with food allergies and/or strong
preferences must contact the leader and cook to see if reasonable accommodations
would be possible within the limits of backcountry cuisine. The first meal will
be dinner on day one while the last meal will be lunch on day seven. Each person
will be sleeping in the tent that he/she brings on the trip. Due to the delicate
riparian zone that we will be working and camping in, all human waste will be
The work on this trip will be strenuous and we may be hiking up to 12 miles
(round-trip) to/from our worksite. So you’ll need to be in good physical
condition. Minor, controllable medical conditions, however, should not keep
you from having a full, enjoyable experience. The work will involve lots of
bending and some lifting. If you have a history of back problems, this may not
be the trip for you.
If you have severe a poison ivy allergy, you should avoid this trip. It is impossible
to avoid poison ivy in this riparian habitat. With that in mind, you should
bring two complete sets of clothes: one for work (a long-sleeved shirt, long
pants, socks, gloves, etc.), and a set to wear around camp that is "poison
Equipment and Clothing
Photo: Jon Wilson
Trip members will bring their own backpack, tent, and personal gear. A backpack
is preferable to a duffle bag to carry one’s gear for the short walk from
the river to the campsite. The Forest Service will provide the work tools. The
Sierra Club will provide cooking equipment, but you will need a hard plastic
container with a lid for lunch as well as cutlery, and two one-quart water bottles.
You will also need a water-filtering system since we will be getting our drinking
water from nearby Creek.
In April, warm, clear, dry days are typical, but rain or even snow may occur
at this time of the year. On clear days, temperatures are often in the 60s to
70s, although tempertures on cloudy, wet days may be in the mid-30s to low-40s.
A good rain parka and rain pants are a requirement -- ponchos are not adequate.
Participants must have three-season clothing and a warm (preferably synthetic)
sleeping bag, as a spring snowstorm might bring nighttime lows in the upper
20s. A complete packing list will be sent to registered participants.
- Hells Canyon National Recreational Area (HCNRA) map available from
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area POB 832 Riggins, ID 83549
- USGS Map "Heaven’s Gate" quadrangle map , available
- The Northwest Interpretive Association (nonprofit) carries maps and
books on the area. They can be reached at: http://www.discovernw.org/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=SFNT
- Snake River Guide.
- United States Department of Agriculture, Wild and Scenic River Guide.
- Barstead, Fred, Hiking Hells Canyon and Idaho's Seven Devils Mountains.
- Carrey, Johnny; John Carrey, and Cort Conley, Snake River of Hells Canyon.
- Jordan, Grace, Home Below Hells Canyon.
- Tucker, Gerald, The Story of Hells Canyon.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages
grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater
understanding, advocacy, and participation in the goals of the Club.
Budget cuts have decreased Forest Service Maintenance staffs, and as a result,
some of the area's trails have become overgrown and fallen into disrepair. Previously,
the area was maintained by seasonal employees, these positions have been eliminated.
Protection and enhancement of native species habitat is a major issue, too.
The health of bighorn sheep and mountain goats require isolation from domestic
sheep. For this reason, the grazing of domestic sheep in the river valley was
discontinued in the early 1990s. Additionally, sturgeon, salmon, and steelhead
trout populations are endangered by Snake River dams and by non-native fish.
Potential breaching of the Snake River dams has been considered at the federal
level. Control of noxious, exotic plant species requires a yearly spring campaign
in Hell Canyon.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Gary Kanterman has participated and led outdoor trips (as a volunteer and professional guide) for over 25 years. He has extensive experience hiking/backpacking, paddling and skiing in the backcountry in numerous locations around the US, Canada and Europe. Recently he has discovered the rewards of volunteer service trips. Clearly completing the work project and keeping everyone safe are important goals of any service trip. But equally as important to Gary is for all the participants to: have fun, enjoy the comaraderie of the group and experience the beauty and excitement of being out in nature.
Michal Phillips loves the outdoors and loves to cook for hungry service trip participants. She is a Cooking Channel aficionado, who first learned to cook in a vegetarian restaurant in Berkeley in the 1970s. She has a wide range of international, healthful, and delicious specialties. She is an avid SCUBA Diver, cyclist and runner.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips