Hells Canyon and the Nez Perce

Oct 04, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

On this first morning of our voyage we awoke in Clarkston, Washington, awaiting the arrival of the local jet boats to take us on the day’s activities. The river was calm and the air crisp, the morning birds circled around during our breakfast. Once we were aboard the jet boats our captains told us about the area as the boats sliced through the water upriver.

The sights were amazing. Before us lay the deepest canyon in America with its high basalt walls. The rolling golden hills opened in front of us as we cruised upriver into Hells Canyon. Our guides pointed out beautiful landscapes and volcanic formations. River rafters floated downstream and sports-fishers cast their lures showcasing the local culture of the area. One of our first stops was at a set of petroglyphs and pictographs dated around 3,000 years old. We also stopped to view bald eagles, golden eagles, mule deer, and the real showstoppers: big horned sheep. It was exciting to see such abundant wildlife in such a gorgeous place.

For lunch we stopped at Garden Creek Ranch, a beautiful site owned by the nature conservancy where we had a delicious buffet lunch. Our second stop, cache creek ranch, was another scenic site with abundant fruit trees. At both these locations deer and turkeys ran about in the fruit orchards as we picked our desserts from the trees. It was a delightful day to remember on the Snake river.

When we returned to the ship we had a special guest: JR Spencer, a Nez Perce tribal member and storyteller. He shared with us many stories about the lands we’ll travel in during our trip, leaving us with a very special perspective for our voyage. It was a great start to a great trip!

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About the Author

Steve Backus


Born in the mountains of East Tennessee, it was easy for Steve to fall in love with the wonderful natural environment that surrounded him. What started as a childhood passion to scan the creeks and ponds for all they would reveal evolved into a studied desire to understand the environments around us.

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