Rafting the Owyhee River in Eastern Oregon


Eastern Oregon is a land of sagebrush deserts and high snow-capped peaks. It’s a place where few live and cattle outnumber people. It’s also wild and has some of the most astounding wilderness in the American West. Rafting in eastern Oregon offers a wide variety of trips.

Most famous is the Snake River that forms the border between Oregon and Idaho as it carves its way through Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Trips run from early spring to late fall and always have plenty of water. The scenery is spectacular with snow-capped peaks towering over 5000’ above the river. Wildlife viewing in the spring is rich and you are likely to see black bear, big horn sheep, river otter and mule deer along with soaring eagles and hawks. There are excellent trails along the river and Indian rock art hidden in the cliffs. Fishing is superb. Trips last from three to six days, depending on the time of year.

Two lesser-known Oregon rivers are the Owyhee and Grande Ronde. Both offer superb wilderness rafting trips.

The Owyhee River, rarely visited, bridges the states of Nevada, Idaho and eastern Oregon and eventually joins the Snake River. It flows through dramatic desert canyons of towering cliffs. The Middle section offers challenging rapids from class III-V with a possible portage. The Lower Owyhee is an easy- to-intermediate rafting trip with class II to III rapids and bountiful wildlife viewing. Bird watching is particularly satisfying in the spring, from April to early June, the only time of year the Owyhee has enough water for floating. A Lower Owyhee rafting trip also boasts hot springs, old pioneer homesteads, Indian rock art and fantastic hiking. The entire Owyhee River, from its headwaters in Idaho to the confluence with the Snake River in Oregon, is a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River. If you’re looking for a remote river that few people raft, look no further.

Due north of the Owyhee, tucked away in the extreme northeast corner of Oregon, is the Grande Ronde river. A Grande Ronde rafting trip is the perfect introduction to river rafting and a great family rafting vacation or a superb trip for those who want to try inflatable kayaking for the first time. The Grande Ronde is a fast-flowing, gentle river that flows quickly, but gently and runs from late spring to mid-July. It winds its way through pine-forested mountains and rich green scenery. Recognizing the spectacular beauty and outstanding resource values of this river canyon, Congress has designated 44 miles of this river as “Wild and Scenic” ensuring that it will be protected for future generations.

Grande Ronde River

Hidden in the pine-clad mountains of northeast Oregon, the Grande Ronde is a gentle river with easy whitewater flowing through a verdant landscape. Perfect for families or those who want an easy introduction to rafting, the Grande Ronde flows from May to mid-July. Trips last from three to five days.

  • Trip Length: 3-5 Days
  • Minimum Age: 7
  • Season: June-July
  • Intensity Level: Mild-Moderate

Hells Canyon - Snake River

Cutting through the Oregon and Idaho border, the Snake River forms North America's deepest canyon. Hells Canyon is an impressive sight that is 2000 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. One of America's favorite rafting journeys for its huge rapids, warm water, beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife. On our trip we will combine the world-class rapids with hikes to historic homesteads, Indian rock art and more!

  • Trip Length: 3-6 Days
  • Minimum Age: 7
  • Season: May-October
  • Intensity Level: Moderate

Owyhee River

Flowing through the spectacular high desert scenery of eastern Oregon, a spring rafting trip on the Owyhee is brilliant with life. Flowers are blooming, birds are plentiful and the river is rushing. Few people run this river, so it offers unique opportunities for solitude and a true wilderness experience.

  • Trip Length: 4-7 Days
  • Minimum Age: 8-16
  • Season: April-May
  • Intensity Level: Moderate