Pro Tip: Spring Multi-Day Trips in Oregon
We have an impressive snowpack in Oregon this year and I'm getting ready for some unique multi-day trips this spring. Instead of picking a particular river, consider picking a time frame and then go where the river flow and weather conditions are best. Here are some ideas if you want to get off the beaten path and do something unique.
The Illinois River is my favorite trip. If you've never done it and the conditions are right this should be your first option. If you've done it before and the conditions are great you'll probably want to go back. It's almost 32 miles and can be done in 2 days but you really should take your time and do a 3 or 4 day trip.
If you don't mind hiking in and studying maps out then consider overnight kayaking trips on tributaries of the Illinois River. Rough and Ready Creek, Josephine Creek, Silver Creek, and Indigo Creek are wonderful 1-3 day trips. The nearby Lower Gorges of the Chetco are nice 2-3 day spring trip too.
The Imnaha begins in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and flows 73 miles north to the Snake River. There's a challenging 38 mile upper run from Indian Crossing to Imnaha, but most people do the 24 mile Class III/IV lower gorges from Imnaha to the Snake River. For the lower gorges there are different logistics options:
1. You can drive dirt roads along the first 20 miles of the Imnana and leave a car at Cow Creek. Drive back and put-in at the town of Imnaha or somewhere between Imnaha and Cow Creek. Paddle back to Cow Creek and then go 4.5 miles past Cow Creek to the Snake River. You can then walk the trail 4.5 miles back to where you left a car at Cow Creek.
2. Another option is to start in the town of Imnaha or Cow Creek and paddle down to the Snake River. Once you reach the Snake it's about 23 miles through scenic Hell's Canyon to Heller Bar. The shuttle for this option is long.
The Middle Owyhee is a 37-mile trip that is typically done in 3-4 days. It's mostly Class I and II but there are a handful of tough Class IV rapids and the Class V+ Widomaker which is commonly portaged. Some Class IV paddlers prefer this section of the Owyhee over the Lower Owyhee.
Recommended Flow: 1,200 to 3,000 at Rome
More Information: Whitewater Guidebook Middle Owyhee River Description
The upper sections of the Owyhee River in Idaho and Nevada are some of the most remote and uniquely beautiful rivers in the west. You can do trips of 4-8 days on Deep Creek, East Fork of the Owyhee, or the South Fork of the Owyhee. Even though the whitewater is generally Class II/III these sections do have Class IV rapids and portages. Paddling any section of the Upper Owyhee requires strong wilderness and whitewater skills.
Most of these put-ins require high clearance 4wd vehicles. Call Barker River Expeditions at (208) 836-5551 for shuttles.
North Fork of the John Day
The North Fork of the John Day begins in the forested Blue Mountains and ends in the Central Oregon desert. There is a classic 44 mile stretch from Dale to Monument that can be done in 3-4 days.
There is also a wilderness stretch from Granite Creek to Monument that begins at 5000 feet so it's better done in late spring when snow has melted and temperatures are warmer.
Donner und Blitzen River
This rarely run river flows through the Steen Mountains in Southeast Oregon and only has enough water to paddle a few days of the year. This 17 mile run can be done in a day but would make a really nice overnight trip too. The BLM gate on the way to put-in can be closed so call the Burns office of the BLM to see if the gate is open or if you can get a key.
Recommended Flow: 600 to 800 cfs at Frenchglen
More Information: Whitewater Guidebook Donner und Blitzen River Description
As always please suggest other interesting ideas in the comments below!