The notable transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau once wrote the following: “We need the tonic of wildness. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

Truly, the wilderness is a necessity in the never-ending hullabaloo of our modern world. Nature itself has a distinct ability to reflects a fresh perspective than upon the nature of humanity and the brilliance of a creative, unfathomable life. Unlike a mirror that reflects oneself knowingly, the wildness reflects freedom, peace, and fundamental preservation of the unknown.

One such location is a less-known destination found within the majestic Pacific Northwest. This place is called Hells Canyon. The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is over 600,000 acres with over 200,000 of it being entirely wilderness—not a wasteland, but a distinctly remote local of cultural and historical importance. This area is spread across parts of Idaho and Oregon and is stocked full of native plants, water life, tiny creatures, and larger mammals. Let’s take a closer look at the assortment of wildlife you’ll see in Hells Canyon on your visit.

The Unique Beauty of Hells Canyon

Fortunately, due to humane efforts to conserve what is innately beautiful and instinctually wild, a variety of areas across the world and especially the United States are left simply as they are—untouched by economic development and the heavy hand of humanity. The remaining wilderness cannot be destroyed, only devoid of people unless for exploration and recreation.

Since Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the best things to see in the Pacific Northwest, you need to understand what exactly makes this gorgeous corner of Northwest Oregon so uniquely special to experience. Just by its mere name, you can most likely assume that the area is not a friendly place. You’re right to assume that Hells Canyon is not a place for wimps, but its distinctive remoteness and array of treacherous terrain are able to be carefully navigated and explored.

From rim to river, the gorge is thousands of feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. The canyon floor of the gorge is more desert-like in nature, while its more elevated areas and alpine-like lakes are vibrant and absolutely serene. Hence, the type of wildlife you see and encounter within its acreage is dependent upon where you are and the way you are traveling throughout the area—whether that’s by boat, by car, or on foot by trail. Because of the extreme variations of elevation, there is a plethora of wildlife that live in one of the most varied habitats in the entire nation.

Vegetation and Plants Existing in Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon’s vegetation and flora can offer visitors a view of the past and a vision of the future. As an area that’s abundant with wild roots, medicinal herbs, berry bushes, and even fruit trees, the thousands of native vascular plants and micro-organisms strewn around are crystal clear. Such diversity of wildlife is an integral component of the comprehensive wilderness experience.

This variety is a hodgepodge of native flora which was introduced from European colonization in the contemporary past. The land’s soil is also diverse and contains basaltic soil that stems from the Columbia River, ash from a volcanic eruption long ago, and river sands and gravels that were deposited from historically large floods over 15,000 years ago.

Furthermore, vegetation and plant life in Hells Canyon are highly influenced by the range of climate. As a part of the Pacific Northwest, this area is influenced by the Pacific maritime air that’s cool and moist from late Fall to early Spring. In conjunction with this air, Hells Canyon is located within the High Desert region, which is remarkably affected by the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountain Range. This barrier provides for hot, dry summers and colder winters depending on elevation levels of a particular location.

These distinctions in elevation provide for the medley of plant communities and species to be grown close together. The Idaho-side of the Hells Canyon wilderness is comparatively smaller and sparse in vegetation, but on the other side is the grasslands and groves of Eastern Oregon, with a native ecosystem that allows traditional species such as sagebrush, Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine to stand out. In the spring and summertime, the dramatic landscape will include beautiful wildflowers such as larkspur and glacier lilies.

Mammals and Flying Creatures Found Within Hells Canyon

Various trails offer the most incredible of views of wildlife and wildflower scenery, as well as welcomed scenes of shady forests. Whichever trail you’re on, remember that wilderness elements are alive and well—it’s ruggedly called Hells Canyon for a reason—so keep a careful eye out for rattlesnakes, black widows, poison ivy, or other dangerous plants or animals.

Out of all the spectacular wildlife you’ll see in Hells Canyon, mammals may be the most exciting sightings around. Specific species of interest that people enjoy viewing are chukar, bighorn sheep, mule deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, and mountain goats. Other mammals that live exclusively within the wilderness include raccoons, black bears, cougars, bobcats, wolves, and other smaller mammals such as chipmunks or squirrels. Such non-game wildlife is meant to be awe-strikingly observed.

For bird-lovers, be sure to bring your binoculars. Common sightings include hummingbirds, bald eagles, woodpeckers, goshawks, nighthawks, owls, warblers, and Canadian geese. Booms, whistles, chirps, and songs are bound to be heard amongst the sounds of nature and creatures. All animal sightings will depend on the trail location, elevation, and the current season of the year.

Fish Species and Water Life in the Rivers

Several mighty rivers can be found within Hells Canyon, all containing diverse wildlife. For the anglers among us, the Snake River Basin and Columbia River Basin of the Hells Canyon area produce a wide assortment of fish species you can have the pleasure to reel in with a proper fishing license or on a guided fishing tour. From bass to chinook salmon to sturgeon to steelhead, these tremendous waters can make your fishing dreams a reality.

Here at River Adventures, we provide jet-boat-guided tours for the best fishing in Idaho. Our experienced team knows the best spots on the Snake River and provides tour participants with quality equipment to grab a great catch of sturgeon, bass, or catfish. During salmon and steelhead fishing season, we also offer guided sport fishing trips out on the Salmon River beyond Hells Canyon. To experience all the scenery and world-famous wildlife this area can offer, book a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness fishing trip with us today.

Wildlife You’ll See in Hells Canyon