Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
The Oregon side of Hells Canyon has a total of 15 campgrounds that are located in four distinct and separate areas. The Imnaha River area supports a total of seven facilities. Five of the eight campgrounds are fee facilities and usually have a campground host during the heavy summer use period. The Imnaha River is a designated Wild and Scenic River and is considered critical habitat for the Chinook Salmon (listed) and the Bull Trout (considered for listing). Strengths of the area are its beauty, its opportunities for recreation (fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, hunting, and sightseeing), and secluded tranquility.
The 46 Road or Wellamotkin area supports two developed facilities, while Hat Point has two and the North Pine area three. The 46 Road or Wellamotkin Drive areas are located north and west of Enterprise and offers some spectacular views of Hells Canyon. Two developed facilities are located along the rim area within timbered groves. The area is fairly rustic in nature with all access via dirt and gravel roads. Recreation activities consist of driving for pleasure, sightseeing, camping, photography, mountain biking, and big game hunting. Strengths of the area are its openness, lack of regulated settings, and grand vistas of the canyon.
The Hat Point complex begins at the town of Imnaha and terminates at Hat Point Lookout where two developed facilities are available. A variety of experiences are available along the 26-mile trip.
Saddle Creek Campground has been redesignated and construction was completed in the summer of 1994. Strengths of the area are its vistas, the completion of new facilities, and its fame as an international attraction.
The North Pine area is comprised of three sites, two located in an alpine zone and associated with a lake (the only lake in the NRA on the Oregon side), and the other facility located along the Scenic Byway. Lake Fork is a hosted campground and fees are collected. Strengths can be characterized by good access, a loop opportunity for pleasure driving, and good trail access.
With the exception of the newly developed Pittsburg Campground, the Idaho side of the NRA's remaining three campgrounds are small, and facilities are generally low standard and outdated. The unit is in the process of replacing facilities, but is still several years away from a total upgrade. None of these campgrounds are fee sites, mainly due to their size, and the lack of available water for development. The Black Lake Campground is a four-hour drive from Riggins. Use in these high elevation sites is relatively light, with the exception of holiday weekends. Most use is associated with wilderness users at the beginning or end of their visit to Hells Canyon Wilderness.
One of the most popular uses revolves around visitors seeking views and photo opportunities of Hells Canyon. There is a considerable amount of day use at Heavens Gate, Low Saddle, and Sawpit Saddle Viewpoints. It is not uncommon to record up to 200 visitors per day at Heavens Gate.
The Hells Canyon Overlook project Phase I is complete and offers paved fully accessible access to visitors. Strengths of the projects enable visitors to have a better understanding of Hells Canyon, its history, archaeology, geology, and management.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication