On a previous trip to Oregon, I had learned about the Owyhee River. It’s only runnable for a few weeks each spring. The river sounded wonderful and I made a plan to return one day.
There are three sections to the Owyhee. The Upper and Middle Sections are very remote and have some great whitewater sections. The Lower Owyhee is easily accessible, tamer, and the scenery is less dramatic.
There are only about 3 companies that ever run the Upper and Middle Sections. Wilderness River Outfitters has been doing it for years. They offered a trip on the Upper or Middle and they also had an option to do the entire Upper and Middle back-to-back. We opted to do the combination trip for 13 days. We started in Idaho and ended up near Rome, Oregon.
We’ve done a lot of river trips all over the world. But we’ve never done one this long and in such a remote area. The scenery is fabulous and is national park quality. The canyon has stupendous rock formations and felt like a cross between Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Wilderness River Outfitters is the perfect company for this trip. They know the river very well and they are very conscious about safety. The guides are all friendly, kind and helpful. Oh, and they’re great cooks, too! The quality of all the gear was outstanding.
If you go on the Owyhee you should be aware of a couple of things. Since the river can only be run in the spring, the weather can vary greatly. Some days were sunny and warm and others were rainy and cold. Use the drysuits offered by the company and you’ll be much more comfortable.
Also, there is a physical component of this trip that we’ve not dealt with on other rivers. Due to the remoteness and infrequent use of the river, there aren’t established trails and portage routes. Depending on water levels, there are at least 2 significant portages around unrunnable rapids. With no established trails, it means helping to haul a bunch of gear over huge boulders or while clinging to mountain slopes—sometimes for a lengthy distance.
Wilderness River Outfitters does other trips in some pretty remarkable places. They do a couple of trips in Alaska, a couple in Montana, and an annual trip on the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. They also do standard trips for the entire summer on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and the main Salmon in Idaho.
We really enjoyed this company and we’re currently looking at some of their other remote trips for the future. We hope to see Seth and his crew again sometime soon!