Wild and Scenic Snake River - River Use and Etiquette

Your Snake River trip can very enjoyable for yourself as well as others if you make an effort to follow a few "river-friendly" practices and rules of etiquette.

Whitewater Safety

Please Read: Guidelines for Float/Powerboat Interactions on the Snake River

Ramp Etiquette

  • Be organized before you get to the ramp so your group can launch or take out quickly. Don't set up or take down your float equipment, or load and unload gear from your powerboat on a ramp if other space is available. And please, do not eat lunch on the ramp!
  • To expedite float launches, electricity is available at Hells Canyon Creek so that power blowers can be used for inflating boats.
  • Powerboaters share all launch/landing sites with floaters, and they must use the ramps to reach the water.
  • Respect the rights of all other river users. A little courtesy goes a long way!

Rules Of The Road

  • Be aware of dangerous situations and avoid putting yourself or another person in jeopardy.
  • Powerboaters and floaters share the Wild and Scenic Snake River in Hells Canyon. The river experience will be more enjoyable for everyone if all river users treat each other with courtesy and respect.
  • As a general rule, craft moving downstream have the right-of-way, however, they don't have the right to intentionally block navigation. Craft moving upstream through rapids should eddy-out when possible and let the downstream craft pass.
  • An exception occurs when a boat has either committed to or entered a rapid, from upstream or downstream. In this situation, all other craft should wait until the boat is clear before proceeding.
  • Floaters, be aware that powerboats can only travel in narrow channels in some sections of the river. When you see a powerboat coming, pull to one side of the channel, if possible, and let it by.
  • Jet boats draw less water at higher speeds when the boat is on plane, and they can't always slow down due to shallow water. Floaters, give the powerboat the deep channel if you have a choice.
  • Powerboaters must slow to a "no wake" speed at docks and boat landing facilities. Be cautious and courteous when passing other boats, especially when they are moored along shore. Slow down if possible, and give them a wide berth.

Mooring Boats

River flows vary, and can change rapidly, because of power generation through Hells Canyon Dam. Your boat could be left high and dry or filled with water within an hour if moored to the shore. To avoid these situations, jetboats or similar craft should be moored away from the bank with the bow toward the river and the stern toward the bank. If the river falls and your boat is grounded, this will aid in getting it free. When the river rises, so will the bow of the boat. If the heavier stern is toward the river, the boat may sink before there is enough bouyancy to float the weight of the entire boat.

Minimum Impact River Camping


  • Due to the rugged terrain in Hells Canyon, and the effects of upstream dams, campsites are limited in number, especially in the wild section of the river. Campsites in this section, between Hells Canyon Dam and Upper Pittsburg Landing, may have special camping requirements. Be sure to check for current regulations on campsites prior to your trip. Some popular campsites have limited overnight stay lengths. A list of these sites is on the back of the river permit.
  • Overnight camping is prohibited at Hells Canyon Creek Recreation Site and Cache Creek Administrative Site. South of Hells Canyon Dam, there are a number of campgrounds available along Hells Canyon Reservoir.
  • Camping is also prohibited at the Pittsburg Landing boat launch area. The-28 unit Pittsburg Campground is approximately 1/4 mile from the river. Six tent sites on the river are also available at Upper Pittsburgh Landing.
  • Most campsites are on grassy benches. There are very few sandy beaches along the Snake River above its confluence with the Salmon River. High water in the spring erodes the sand but doesn't replace it. Most of the sediment that would naturally contribute to the beach rebuilding process is now deposited in slack water behind upstream dams. The beaches that remain are very fragile.
  • Please stay on trails as much as possible to reduce your impact. Also, be aware that many campsites are on alluvial fans (relatively flat areas made of rock and silt that builds up at the mouths of creeks). These areas are subject to flash flooding during periods of heavy rainfall and/or snowmelt (especially during late winter or spring). Use caution when camping in these areas under these conditions.
  • Obtain water from side streams rather than the Snake River, however microogranisms like Giardia may be present in these streams. To be safe, boil, filter or chemically treat all drinking, cooking and dish washing water.

Waste Disposal

  • Solid human waste carry out systems are required for all boaters year round. Contact one of the Snake River information/reservation numbers for additional information and locations of disposal facilities.
  • At camp, set up your toilet facilities in a location that is screened from view and at least 100 feet from water.
  • Several forest fires have been started by well-meaning campers burning toilet paper - don't do it!
  • Be sure that soap and water are available so that hands can be washed after using the toilets. Serious disease problems among river users have been traced to poor personal hygiene and food handling.
  • Bathe well away from the river, using a bucket. Biodegradable soaps should always be used, but even they don't belong in the river.
  • Carry and use a tarp as a kitchen floor. Set up your table and stove on top of this tarp so food scraps and other small trash will fall on the tarp rather than disappearing in the sand. When you clean up, pour everything from the tarp into your trash bag.
  • Wash dishes well away from camp where inadvertent spills won't attract flies. Strain food particles from dishwater and disperse the waste water on the ground at least 100 feet away from the river and from camp. Do not dig waste pits.
  • Food scraps and other waste left at campsites make pests out of skunks, bears and other wildlife. Please keep wildlife wild! Do not intentionally feed wildlife and pack out all garbage.

Trash: Pack It Out

  • River users are responsible for carrying out all trash and garbage. There are no facilities for garbage pick-up at the launching/landing sites, or anywhere else in the river corridor.
  • For trash, use bailing buckets or other containers lined with garbage bags at the campsite
  • Everything should be compacted and packed out. Recycle whenever possible. Repackage food into reusable containers. Use knots instead of twist ties to close plastic bags.
  • Keep trash bags handy during the day for empty beverage cans and litter. Consider separating organic waste from trash so it can be taken home and composted.
  • Never sink cans or bottles in the river.
  • Cigarette butts don't belong on the ground or in the river. If you smoke, put cigarette butts in your pocket or trash bag and pack them out.
  • Before leaving camp, make a final check for small trash such as cigarette butts and twist ties.
  • Remember, all trash must be carried out with you. No trash is to be buried. Burning and burying are ineffective and inappropriate disposal methods. Leave no trace of your stay, and strive to leave each camp in better shape than you found it.


A firepan must be used for all campfires in the river corridor year round; open fires are prohibited. From June 1 to September 30 no wood fires are allowed, even in firepans. Ashes are to be packed out of the canyon and properly disposed of.

Permissible heat sources are:

  1. Enclosed wood stoves: The stoves must be enclosed on all six sides with one-quarter inch or smaller screening covering the chimney opening.
  2. Gas stoves: Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, including space heating devices.
  3. Firepans: From June 1 to September 30, firepans may be used with charcoal only. October 1 to May 31, wood or charcoal may be used in the fire pan. Partially-consumed charcoal briquettes must be packed out.

A firepan is any type of durable metal container which has sides high enough to contain the charcoal and all of the ashes. For instance, a barbecue with a grill could be used as a fire pan. Ashes and charcoal are to be carried out with you. Please, don't bury charcoal-it lasts for years in the soil.

Fire blackens rocks and sand. Firepans keep the area clean and help prevent the numerous fire scars found at popular sites. They also assure a dead-out fire. Most campsites are located on grassy benches and in the hot, dry months of summer, a stray spark can send fire racing up the hillside.

In the harsh environment of Hells Canyon, trees and shrubs only thrive close to water in the same location where most people choose to camp. Removal of wood from these areas for campfires degrades wildlife habitat and scenery. To protect these resources, it is illegal to cut live, dead or downed trees or other vegetation, or to collect driftwood to burn, within 1/4 mile of the river. River users who plan to burn wood in a firepan during the open burning season, must carry wood in with them.


Discharging a firearm within or near an occupied area, such as a campsite, is prohibited.

Do not discharge firearms across the river or shoot at objects floating in the river.

Indiscriminate use of firearms by a few individuals can cause many people to become concerned. The discharge of firearms within 150 yards of a campsite or occupied area, or in a manner that exposes people or property to injury or damage, is prohibited.