Part 27: Salmon River Mountain, ID to Grande Ronde, OR


Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

We spent the night at a remote camp at the crest of the mountain.  The camp was not too far from Bergdorf (which is north of McCall, ID).  The trip from the camp site to McCall was trivial as the road turned into asphalt just a few miles into the journey.  From McCall, we set our sights on Hells Canyon via the Kleinschmidt Grade.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

As we were breaking camp in the morning, I spotted this skull sitting on a stump.  I think this is an elk skull.

Near our camp was this demonstration of what happens when you have a chain saw and too much time on your hands.  This is a hillbilly see-saw.

Our camp was next to a nice little meadow with a small creek.  On the hills beyond we could see the effects of a recent fire and the work of bark beetles.

Further south toward McCall the area showed the effects of a fire.  This area was re-seeding itself and recovering nicely.

The higher peaks north of McCall were comprised of large outcroppings of exposed rock.

McCall, ID is a tourist town next to Payette Lake.  When we passed the lake, there were plenty of boats and jet skis out playing.

We traveled on the highway from McCall to the Council area then headed back into the mountains toward the OX-Seven Devils Ranch.  We came over the ridge to Cuprum, ID and then continued west toward the Hells Canyon and the Snake River.  On the way we passed this decrepit structure which used to be a large hay barn.  Now it is just firewood.

We were flagged down by a biker who was lost.  He was on an expedition bike and was joining another 60 buddies at Black Lake.  We met many bikes on the narrow road including these two who wanted a photo opportunity.  They had come up the Kleinschmidt Grade from Hells Canyon.  The smoke from nearby fires made visibility limited.

At the crest of the Seven Devils Range, the terrain went from pine trees to grassland.  Our path would take us down the face of the mountain.

The eastern slope of Hells Canyon was quite steep and so was the road.  Happily it was in pretty good shape and had periodic turnouts. As we got deeper into the canyon, the smoke got thicker.

The grade was slow going but eventually provided us with a smoke-occluded view of the Snake River.

Many of the side canyons were steep and resulted in debris fans that reached the main river channel.  These fans resulted in "bars" that are used by river rafters as landing sites.

The bar at the base of the Kleinschmidt Grade had been developed by Idaho Power as a recreation site providing boat docks and camp sites.  We elected for a remote location so we headed north toward the dam.

Big Bar was a place that we had stayed before.  This area was used in the late 1800s as an orchard to provide fruit for the Seven Devils mining district.  The orchard was abandoned when the dam was constructed and the reservoir was filled behind it.  The site was hot (we were only at 1800 feet altitude), so we had aspirations of going for a swim.  Those hopes were dashed when we saw the huge bloom of algae in the water.  The water looked like green stew, complete with chunks, so we passed on the swim.  Because of the standing water, the site was a bit buggy, but the camper helped save us from being consumed.  Next morning the smoke had cleared a bit and allowed a view of the opposite side of the canyon.  The walls were tall and steep and the terrain proved a tough obstacle for early travelers.

Across the river from our camp the intense folding suffered during the uplift was visible.  Note the folds and twists in bedding.

A bit further to the north, more evidence of a tortured past.

Our camp was only 8 miles from the Hells Canyon Dam so we went to check it out.  The smoke got thicker as we went downstream.  Note the nice green color of the water.

The road went over the top of the dam and it allowed us to see some of the infrastructure below.  The photo above shows a portion of the tail-race of the dam below the generators.

The top of the dam provided an unobstructed view of the smokey canyon downstream.

As we cleared the far side of the dam, the generators became visible

The cranes on rails are there to service the generators.  The dam is an impressive structure, but not as tall as some of the western dams like Hoover or Glen Canyon.

These fishermen had taken the stairs from the top of the dam down to the tail race to try their luck at the mouth of a side stream.

The bypass for the dam was built in a tunnel through the cliff walls.

North of us a tourist jet boat was returning from a run downriver.

Several companies run jet boat tours.  These tours travel downstream through a number of rapids and then return to the starting point.

There is a small visitor's center at the mouth of Hells Canyon, so we stopped to check it out.  Even the small side canyons were steep and challenging.

We completed our visitor's center stop and headed upstream to Ox Bow and saw these water skiers enjoying the algae-laden lake.

Ox Bow was the junction with the main highway.  The river widens there and Idaho Power has a large campsite and RV area.

We traveled west on the asphalt through Halfway and Baker City, OR.  Along the way we saw conclusive evidence that old tires never die, they just become weights for silage pit tarps.

Our objective was to get away from the heat of lower altitudes.  We selected a camp at Grande Ronde Lake at about 7300 feet.  It met our objective because we had to break out the coats to ward off the chill.  The campsite was small but adequate and we discovered that one of our camp mates had a winter home in Baja.  Another was from Vista, CA.  Small world.

Hells Canyon, the Snake River and the surrounding mountains are impressive and worth a visit if you are in the area.  But beware, the roads in the back country are steep and narrow and can be impassable when wet.  It will be much warmer on the river than in the surrounding peaks so bring appropriate clothing.

Next, we continue west toward Sisters, OR and a visit with our friends Ben and Krista.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2014, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.