WHITE BIRD – A goal more than 15 years in the making has finally come to fruition for Kurt Killgore and his father, Les and the late Heather Killgore.
Kurt grew up with his family in White Bird and Lewiston and worked with the family excavating business.
About 18 years ago, he moved from Lewiston back to White Bird, traveling for work to Lolo, Mont., and beyond.
“We decided to buy a Jet boat for fun on the weekends,” he said.
We had to draw a permit to run the boat on the Snake River, but, due to work, only had some weekends to spend on the river.
“My mom [Heather] had the idea to put up a little website – in the early days of being immersed in the technology of our times,” he laughed, “and offer some excursions.”
Right away, six people wanted to take the trip from Pittsburgh Landing to the dam. That number kept growing and soon the Killgores became more serious about the endeavors.
“We were in this great, remote area and all the pieces just fell together to be able to offer some great trips from Pittsburgh to Hells Canyon dam,” Kurt said. “This is the coolest, deepest part of the canyon in the Wild and Scenic River section, with the most white water.”
Kurt has always been the boat captain (Coast Guard certified every five years) with both of his parents being instrumental in the fore and background of what became Killgore Adventures that started with tours and fishing trips on the Snake and Salmon rivers.
“We go through two class 5 rapids, and multiple class 3 and 4,” he said. “It’s a thrill, an adventure, while still being with a company that has an excellent safety record.” After Kurt’s 20 years of experience, he has run the wild river section of the Snake River more than anyone else, he said.
Killgore Adventures has recently purchased and absorbed two Lewiston based businesses into their operation as well as a rafting permit on the Salmon River, giving them much more flexibility to serve Idaho County and the surrounding area with their recreational needs, and increasing job opportunity and service to the public.
“It also gives us much more room to be charitable within the communities,” he explained. “This now really puts Idaho County on the map when it comes to exploring Hells Canyon.”
“Our area is just so unique and there’s a lot of freedom compared to other areas,” Kurt continued. “A key in this business is to respect the impact on the natural resources.”
The most popular tour is the Wild River jet boat tour which travels 32 miles upriver in six hours and runs all the biggest rapids with four stops, lunch and drinks. Killgore Wild Scenic Tour is widely known as the number one Hells Canyon Tour, he said. The largest boat holds 43 passengers. Killgores provides fishing trips, as well.
Is the trip still fun for him after all these years?
“Definitely!” he smiled. Kurt is approaching 3,000 trips on the river section where he has traveled 72 days in a row numerous times.
He explained the tours are adventurous, safe and “anyone, any age, with any ability can participate, and that is probably what we are most proud of as a company.”
He is proud to be a fourth-generation Idahoan and said he looks forward to the future of Killgore Adventures.
That future includes the business no longer owning the motel portion in White Bird and moving the main office and additional businesses (auto body shop, convenience and souvenir store) to Twin Bridges. The Killgores have outgrown their previous location and, as they grow, they are looking forward to new relationships with local business (motels, restaurants, RV Parks, etc.)
“We are always surprised to find out how many Idaho County locals have never ventured to the Hells Canyon and have never seen the beauty and felt the adventure that lies right in their backyard,” Kurt added. “It is a really cool thing to share with your family when they come to town.”
Though Kurt’s mother, Heather, died in 2018, he and his dad are continuing to grow and evolve the family business and to carry out the plans the three of them made so long ago that started with the purchase of a boat for personal fun.
“Mom would be proud of where we are headed, and we’re excited to offer this to our community and its visitors,” Kurt said.