Floating the John Day River

June 03, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This was my first float trip, and I had no idea what to expect.  Kurt just kept saying it was going to be "easy", yet I was a little suspicious.  Okay, I’ll just admit it -- I flat out didn’t believe him. How can floating down a river for 70 miles with all of our gear be easy? I find it challenging to DRIVE 70 miles at times, let alone propel myself with oars.  And, to be fair, I’ve been told on several notable occasions that a trip was going to be “easy”, when in fact it ended up being “incredibly difficult”. 

I am happy to report that I was wrong.  He was right -- it was easy*, and so much more. The whole experience was gorgeous, peaceful, life-affirming, and just downright amazing.  Aside from a brief incident with a ground squirrel (actually a rat) in the tent (actually not in the tent), the whole thing went off without a hitch. 

We put in on Friday afternoon with about 5 or 6 other rafters. We were both pretty concerned when we saw several groups loading their boats in Clarno with garbage liners for dry bags, carrying two teeny tiny little poodles—we were sure there would be madness and mayhem along the riverbank, with each of us jockeying for limited float and/or camp space.  However, we all spread out along the way, and by the second day we only saw a couple of rafts. 

By the third day, we were totally alone.  I’ve never actually experienced isolation like that—not only was the lack of rafters remarkable, but the total lack of human influence was really shocking to me.  There were no roads, no buildings, no garbage, no noise.  I’ve never seen such a long stretch of pristine wilderness in my life—it was incredible. I don’t feel like I can combine the right words to do justice to the experience. 

These photos just barely scratch the surface of the beauty of the place.  All I can say is that you have to see it for yourself (or at least browse the entire album)!

* I didn’t actually row the boat for more than an hour, total, so you might want to ask Kurt about the level of perceived effort. 

 

Day 1:  

The boat that didn't make it over the rapids. First camp--the only time we were cold! Fire face.

Day 2:

Columnar basalt formations 2nd camp 2nd camp, Big-horn sheep country

Day 3:

  Columnar basalt formations "Lazuli", the raft Spotted sandpiper   Cliff swallow nests "Lazuli", the raft 3rd camp 3rd camp

Days 4 and 5:

Chukar! Hoot owl rock, with kestrel behind Hoot owl rock Kurt and Lazuli 4th camp Heading home.

 



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