When you visit Hells Canyon on your next vacation, take some time to enjoy the natural history of the area. The canyon was formed over millions of years’ worth of geological shifts. But where did the name Hells Canyon come from? How and why was it given its name?
The area we now call Hells Canyon has been home to many indigenous groups for thousands of years. The Shoshone, Nez Perce, and Paiute nations were drawn to the area by its diverse wildlife and temperate winters. Petroglyphs (images carved into rock) and pictographs (images painted on rock) from early indigenous settlements have survived for several thousand years. However, their meanings are lost to time.
Three members of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition approached the Hells Canyon area in 1806 but turned back before they could see how deep the gorge was. In 1811, another group of white settlers encountered the canyon while trying to find a shortcut to the Columbia River. They, too, turned back due to its tricky terrain. In the 1860s, another slew of settlers arrived in search of gold—but found very little. Two decades later, the 1880s saw a flock of hopeful homesteaders who, unable to farm the land, also gave up.
A Fitting Name
By the 1890s, the area was known as Box Canyon or Snake River Canyon, named for the river we now use for Hells Canyon fishing and jet boat rides. The first instance of the name Hells Canyon appears in an 1895 publication called McCurdy’s Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Its author, Norma, describes a steamboat that “bound off, swinging into midstream, and like a racehorse, shot into Hells Canyon.” By the early 20th century, the name Hells Canyon had entered mainstream use. No apostrophe needed—Hells Canyon is the perfect name for this spot. It offers adventurous jet boating opportunities and diverse hiking terrain up and down the deepest river gorge in the country.
Hells Canyon is an ancient wonder and one that provides multiple opportunities for adventure. Many people in the past have approached the canyon and turned back due to unfamiliar terrain. River Adventures can guide you through that terrain for some Hells Canyon fishing or an exciting boat tour. Where did the name Hells Canyon come from? Simply put: it’s a challenge! Meet that challenge head-on with River Adventures on your side.
” It’s Name ”
River … Snake River !!
You give me that fever..
That fever for that Canyon..!!!
That Canyon you flow through that very few know of,, that Canyon you make so Beautiful..
It has a abundance of history and a few unsolved mysteries.. Like legends of unfound gold.. Unfound gold and the Massacre of over 30 Chinese souls..
It was in 1831 when Captain Benjamin Bonneville and his vagabond troop were sent to that Canyon to establish a military post and route.. Being the first explorers to visit such a place, they were in awe of it’s splendor and granduer and vast space ..
It was the tossing of a line that brought the ship Imnaha to the end of it’s time.. They came for Copper but left as paupers cause the Canyon didn’t give them their prize..
A lot can be said about the different homesteads.. Like that of Billy Rankin.. A teacher from Enterprise who came to seek his Copper prize.. Gave up his life for a fortune to seek.. But the fortune he found was not copper ..But the waters of Copper Creek..
As for many of the other homesteads.. They were ranches for thousands of domestic sheep.. But these days many are gone, museums or alone to never make a peep..
Kyle McGrady and the Florence were one of the first to start delivering the US Mail into that Canyon of thrist.. It’s been Over 100 years of rain snow and sleet since the days of Kyle ,,now the Kochs who have delivered the most each week..
They use to call it Box Canyon back in its day.. It wasn’t until a reporter from Boise joined a crew on a ship and headed down that river for a long and adventurous trip.. In the beginning the trip started off very calm and well .. Until they got to the Canyon and encountered giant rapids and swells!!
Later the reporter wrote about his journey that was not so well.. He said that Canyon shot them out like a Bat out of Hell..
Now you have heard Legend and Stories and from whence they came.. Maybe now you know how Hells Canyon got “It’s Name”..
Author .. Mr.Bill 😎