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“OK, not great...Hell's Canyon trip with Beamer's”

Beamers Hells Canyon Tours
Reviewed 17 August 2014

My husband and I had talked about doing a Hell's Canyon trip for a very long time so were pretty excited to go. Our trip was on Friday, August 15, 204. We were told to be at the dock no later than 7:45 because the boat would leave promptly at 8:00 AM. When we arrived the boat was not there. We were told it had to be taken up to clean out the jet grates, due to debris in the river from a storm the previous day. The boat arrived around 8:20 and we loaded up. About 15-20 mins into the trip, the jet grates apparently got clogged again. The captain did his best to clear the jets but was not able to do so and had to limp the boat to shore and tie up. This is where our day started going down hill.

My husband and I were seated just behind the captain, in the front of the boat so we knew what was going on (my husband also used to be a boat mechanic and owned a jet boat). Most of the other 37 people on board had no idea why we had stopped. The captain, instead of explaining what the trouble was, just grabbed his phone, got off the boat and took off up to the road, leaving everyone to Mike, a brand new, very nice but uninformed deck hand, wondering what was going on and if we should (or could) all get off the boat. We felt the situation would have been made a lot better if Captain Gary had announced what the trouble was, offered everyone some sort of snack, said there was water in the back (which had never been mentioned) apologized (even though we get that the debris wasn't Beamer's fault) and that he would be back as soon as possible. Instead he just disappeared for about 45 mins while we all milled around and most, finally exited the boat. When Captain Gary returned he was carrying some sort of broom handle or stick and a piece of wire. It was then obvious (at least to us) that he had been searching for something with which to clean out the engine grates. While we completely understand that the debris in the water cannot be controlled and that jets do clog, it was unacceptable that he just left everyone hanging, wondering what was up and that there was nothing on the boat with which to clean the grates. Did someone drop the ball? We can't imagine this doesn't happen all the time. Anyway, after another 15-20 mins they were able to get the grates cleared and we were off again.

We made it to Heller's Bar where (based on previous reviews), we expected there would be some sort of snack offered or at least available to purchase. There was nothing but coffee and juice, and a lot of us were getting a little hungry after having had breakfast before 7:00 AM. By then it was probably 10:45 +/-. When my husband asked if there was anything to purchase or if there were snacks available, he was told there were not. Our feeling was that the crew could have easily offered to let us dig into our lunch bags where they knew there were granola bars and trail mix. Most people didn't eat all their lunch and saved the trail mix and the granola bars for later anyway.

Suggestion: A sandwich, chips and a cookie or small snack size candy bar is plenty for lunch. The trail mix and granola bars need to be given out in the morning. Due to the unscheduled stop, by the time we stopped for lunch it was 1:00 and many of us were famished.

The sack lunch was sufficient and the location was fine, except for the dock sinking in the middle and the ramp not stabilized (a safety hazard). It seems like some money needs to be spent at this location to make the dock and the ramp safer. We had a number of older folks on our boat.

Another side note, others have mentioned they couldn't hear when the captain was speaking, and we had the same problem. We were seated right behind him and had a terrible time hearing anything he said. Beamer's has commented that as response to the other comments that it's hard to hear over the jet boat engines but we're talking about not being able to hear when the boat is still and the engines are pretty quiet. This speaker system needs an overhaul in order to make the experience more enjoyable.

The rest of the day was OK although due to the earlier trouble, we were very rushed at the Kirkland Ranch (only about a 20 minute stop and it took 10 mins to get off the boat and up the hill). There was some narrative about the Nez Perce tribe and the geology on the way back but not nearly as much as we thought there would be and again, we were straining to try to understand what was being said anyway. We were a little surprised at how barren Hell's Canyon is. We did see about five Big Horn Sheep in one spot and a few deer but that was it. Honestly and of course this is just our opinion, we thought the scenery got a little boring after awhile and we looked forward to an occasional cabin, chair on the beach, anything other than the same, dry, barren scenery. Perhaps one should take the trip earlier in the season when it is much greener up there.

On the way back we had to stop for fuel where we'd had lunch. We were told we couldn't go up to use the restrooms because everything was locked up. This turned out not to be true as others came back and reported they were open. Given this information, I used the head on the boat which was OK, but had no wipes or any way to sanitize ones hands. Also during this fuel stop, the deck hand, Mike immediately lit up a cigarette as soon as he started fueling up the boat. While we knew that the situation wasn't as dangerous because they were using diesel, not everyone on the boat did and I hear people whispering about how he was putting us all in danger- just not very professional. If they need to smoke, they need to do it where the passengers can't see them and definitely away from the fueling area on the dock!

We finally arrived back at about 7:00 PM. We were all hungry again and more than ready to be off the boat. Again, as the title to my review says, the trip was OK, just not great. We feel like it could have been made a lot better if the captain and deck hand had been more professional and had a little more consideration for the passengers. The debris in the grate situation was not anyone's fault, but it certainly could have been handled a whole lot better. We once took an all day jet trip up the Rogue River and got off feeling like it was one of the most fun days we had ever experienced. We were looking forward to this one to Hell's Canyon coming out the same and it just didn't happen. If we ever do it again (which I doubt we will), we will try another company simply because of the way a bad situation was handled by Beamer's crew. Normally we would have tipped the crew but given the way this day went, there was no way we felt any tipping was deserved. Sorry Beamer's.

13  Thank TunaJunkieJohn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Jill K, Owner at Beamers Hells Canyon Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 19 August 2014

The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is 652,000 acres of mostly uninhabited diverse landscape. Lightning caused wild land fire for the Big Cougar Fire was first reported by the Bureau of Land Management on August 2, 2014 and consumed 65,000 acres before being contained. There are presently 5 other fires with varying degrees of acreage burned and containment scorching the landscape of Hell Canyon.

There are 3 free flowing rivers-Grande Ronde River, Salmon River and Imnaha River that confluence the Snake River.

The combination of a barren landscape and heavy rain which was received on August 13th and 14th made for easy distribution of sticks of all sizes including logs and other river debris to accumulate in the Snake River.

This information is readily available to any individual that would like to inform themselves through the websites of the US Forest Service and the Wallowa Whitman National Forest.

Our jet boats operate with 900 horsepower Cummins Marine diesel engines coupled up to two Hamilton Jet pumps. The water makes the power by drawing up from the bottom of the hull where the intake grates are located and propels it out the back pushing the vessel forward. When anything including sticks and other river debris are sucked up and can not pass through the grates they reduce the power of the vessel. Your captains main objective was to get your vessel up and running and was proactive to getting the vessel moving again which he did successfully. Beamers Hells Canyon Tours apologizes if you felt that the lack a lengthy description, the passing out of snacks and beverages and an apology was appropriate before he disembarked. Everything that is included in our tour is specifically detailed on our website including each lunch item in the sack lunch, what beverages are served and the fact that guests are welcome to bring their own personal size cooler onboard to supplement what we include with their own beverages and snacks or lunch of their choice.

It should be noted at this time, of the 37 passengers onboard your negative review is the only one received from your trip and while gratuities are totally at the customers discretion, your captain and his deckhand who is not uninformed and "brand new" ended their day with cut hands and knuckles, wet feet and soiled clothes, all elements of what can be expected to keep their vessel operating and as close to on schedule as possible so that passengers who are scheduled onboard with us, many who have travelled great distances to do so can experience their river trip. No tip? Shame on you. Beamers Hells Canyon Tours does not hide the fact that our tour is a remote wilderness experience. You are travelling where no roads go, where cell service is non existent and satellite phones are reliable only in certain locations, if the satellite is available at the time a call is placed. In a remote wilderness setting where practically anything can happen and with no communication... for some... this experience is too remote.

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Reviewed 15 August 2014

There were 28 of us on the US Mail boat tour. Captain Bill was great with his commentary and knowledge of the history of the area. He would stop and answer our questions. We saw Big Horn mountain sheep, deer and elk. The night at Copper Creek Resort was lots of fun. Jill was a wonderful cook and hostess. I recommend this trip.

Thank Dale G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Jill K, Owner at Beamers Hells Canyon Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 18 August 2014

Thank-you for your kind words, we sincerely appreciate you being our customer and look forward to welcoming you onboard with us again!

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Reviewed 26 July 2014

We arrived late, 8pm the night before, and were told by Quality Inn Clarkston that we could just show up for the Beamers tour at the dock - it isn't so. When we did,
1) the office was NOT open at 8AM to purchase tickets
2) there's no half day tour so it's like $240 per person, which only buys you two more hours over Snake River Adventures half day tour
3) The captain was unaccomodating almost to the point of rudeness, and would not help us obtain passage.

The plus side was a VERY accommodating employee, not the captain, wish I'd gotten his name. He drove us in his personal vehicle at his expense all the way to the other company offices, trying to work out a passage for us that day on other jet boat tours, even all the way down to Hells Gate park - bless that man. He gave his all in service, and would accept nothing for it.

I can't say much for the tour itself, since we weren't allowed on it. But my advice is to give this company a wide berth, and go with Snake River Adventures.

4  Thank Strider97116
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Jill K, Owner at Beamers Hells Canyon Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 28 July 2014

There are several factors that contribute to Beamers Hells Canyon Tours being unable to accommodate guests who arrive at our tour departure dock without advance reservations. The most current up to date information including general information, fare prices, tours ect can be found on our website where it states "While you may occasionally be able to join a tour on short notice, space is limited. We cannot accommodate walk-on guests at our tour departure dock without an existing reservation." We are sorry that a local hotel gave your incorrect information on our behalf and feel that it is very unfair of you to give our company the lowest rating possible. Especially when one of our employees did make every attempt to assist you with a Hells Canyon tour options with another vendor. Thank-you for helping us let other guests know that Beamers Hells Canyon Tours can not accommodate guests without existing reservations showing up at our tour departure dock expecting to board.

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Reviewed 19 June 2014

This was our second Hells Canyon trip, and we found that the trip was fun, but the previous trip with another outfitter was superior.

I did not realize that I had made our group reservations for a day in which it would not be possible to go beyond Kirkwood Ranch, due to use restrictions that limited the jet boats to that site and the rest of the lower river. I should have researched this matter in greater detail, but it would have been good to have a heads-up that this was a limited-access outing.

The views were wonderful, and we did see some bighorns and a coyote, plus several eagles.

What made this trip less pleasant than our first outing was the lunch. We had brought some snacks of our own, but not full lunches, expecting something comparable to the lunch from the other outfitter. Moral: bring your own lunch so it will be exactly as you want it, and include the beverages you want, too. The lemonade and ice tea was an okay option, but I really wanted some bottled water (easier to carry and hold, both at lunch and on the bouncy boat), and a soft drink. I normally prefer iced tea, but this day, it wasn't hitting the spot. The turkey sandwich was unremarkable, and was consumed out of desperation more than anything else. There was a granola bar, a package of nuts, and a bag of chips.

Normally, apparently, lunch takes place at Copper Bar, but there was a plumbing issue. The boat had delivered a part to repair said plumbing in the bath house, delaying us about 8 minutes in departure in the morning.

Lunch was consumed at Kirkwood instead, a longer wait. I was very uncomfortable by the time we received our lunches, even though I had dipped into our snacks a couple of times. When I am running on empty, I need a more substantial meal. I should have packed such a meal. By an accidental oversight, no trash bag was brought up from the boat to the picnic table by the ranch house, so we all toted our lunch trash around for a brief look at the Ranch. At least it seemed brief to me. I didn't need to see every inch, as we'd had the pleasure of a prior visit a decade ago, but I would have liked to look around a little more. It would have been nice to shorten some of the descriptions while idling on the river, trading them for time at Kirkwood.

The boat didn't want to start its second engine properly, so Captain Bill and deckhand Brendan had to do a quick fix to get everything as it should be.

We stopped at a marina to dump the holding tank, and this gave us a wonderful opportunity to get a little bit of souvenir shopping done and get some more to eat.

Our family group was all older adults, but the Trip Advisor choices don't encompass that possibility in this review.

This is not a suitable trip if you have a significant disability that impairs your balance or ability to get around. There are many stairs, and disembarking at Kirkwood is through the bow exit of the jet boat, climbing a short flight of stairs to the point of the bow, then descending three steps to the ground on a stairway that is folded on the bow for dockless situations. It's all very ingenious and a great solution, but it was a little precarious for me.

5  Thank patroo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Jill K, Owner at Beamers Hells Canyon Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 20 June 2014

Beamers Hells Canyon Tours has no control over the non-motorized use days in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. When you click on the general information tab of our website you will find information about fares, what to bring, making reservations and special considerations where we provide information about your feedback. When you click the All Day Tour tab we describe our lunch in detail...self serve coffee, tea-ice tea, lemonade and fruit punch at of our climate controlled riverfront Heller Bar Lodge. Your sack lunch includes deli sandwich with condiments, potato chips, pack of trail mix and pack of granola bars, ice tea and lemonade are served at our Copper Creek Lodge. Guests are more than welcome to bring their own personal size beverage cooler and snacks if they have heartier appetites or personal dietary restrictions. As for historic Kirkwood Ranch, this facility is owned and maintained by the US Forest Service. They do not provide a dock for private or commercial vessels so we must disembark at this location from the bow of our tour boats. Both our Heller Bar and Copper Creek Lodge are accessible to the physically challenged. Generally speaking when guests who are physically challenged call to make their reservation, or come into our main office, as long as they let us know of their special needs we make every effort to inform them of what to expect.

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Reviewed 17 June 2014

Wow. What can I say? This was an unforgettable trip! Captain Bill Campbell was exceptionally knowledgeable about the river, the geology, the Nez Perse tribe, Lewis & Clark, and all the wonderful history of the canyon. I would go again just to try to retain some of the amazing history & stories that Captain Bill had to share. this was a 4 star trip. I will go again! Must add that there was an elderly woman who required some assistance at the stops, the Captain & crew (Mike) were very professional and gave her all the help she needed to enjoy the cruise. A bucket list trip!

Thank Nancy D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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